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Faculty and Advisor Spotlight: Virginia Riel

headshot of Virginia Riel

As one of Virginia Riel’s advisees, it’s such a great chance for me to interview her and talk with her about both sociology and advising. From a pretty young age, Riel was already curious about the social world and the intersection of individual life with social forces. After getting her bachelor’s degree in sociology as well as American studies at UNC Chapel Hill, Riel came to NC State for her master’s and Ph.D. Once she discovered sociology in undergrad, the entire program of study at NC State really interested and attracted her. She graduated with a Ph.D. in sociology in the spring of 2020. She is grateful for the opportunity to teach and serve as an advisor in our department, and she enjoys the NC State community.

As a lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Riel has taught SOC 202 Principles of Sociology, SOC 203 Current Social Problems, and SOC 414 Social Class. SOC 414 is highly relevant to many of her research topics and it studies how social class relates to social inequality, social experiences, life chances, and mobility, specifically in different contexts like education and employment.

As a sociologist, a lot of Riel’s research has been in the context of education and she started her research programming by studying students’ experiences in school, specifically looking at tracking and microaggressions. Recently, her work has expanded to studying school choices among families. Some of her research focuses on how recruitment decisions influence families’ access to charter schools, such as the involvement expectations that schools set for families and how that shapes which families are attracted by class. Her recent publication in Sociological Forum examines how siting decisions also shape access to charter schools. She is interested in school choice in general, including how parents intervene in education and make decisions about schools in the context of the pandemic.

Riel loves working with students and is really grateful for the opportunity to serve as an advisor. She considers advising as an opportunity to provide information so that students can make the best decisions about their academic plans and futures.  Avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach, she considers each advisee as an individual with unique circumstances, and enjoys getting to know each of them.  She wants students to know that she is here to help them every step of the way during their journey at NC State.

“Of course I want students to be on track so they can complete their degrees, but it’s also important to enjoy your time at NC State. And so balancing those things tends to be important,” Riel says.

Besides her work, Riel also likes spending time with family, walking, doing yoga, and reading current literature. She views reading as a method to figure out new ways to approach her teaching and advising that would best suit and best meet what students need.

Lastly, I would like to share Riel’s suggestions to sociology students: Take courses that you’re interested in and really explore those, take the time if possible to get to know your instructors, and get to know your material in a way that applies to your daily life. She really encourages students to look for sociology in everyday life, because it is everywhere!

This post was written by Yuanyuan Li, a Department of Sociology and Anthropology Student Ambassador who is majoring in sociology.

headshot of Yuanyuan Li