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2021 Honors Graduates

Katie Beekman

Hometown: East Lansing, Michigan

Majors/Minors: Sociology and American Culture

Faculty Mentor: Nadine Hubbs and Terence McGinn

Thesis Title: “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?”: The Lack of Female Airplay on Country Music Radio and its Effects on Female Listeners’ Tastes

Abstract: It’s no secret that women don’t get played on country radio. Female country artists averaged only 10.3 percent of radio spins per year over the last decade. Oftentimes radio programmers blame this gap on the belief that “women don’t like listening to other women,” but there is little evidence to support this. In the late 1990s, women received 33 percent of the airplay on country radio and were highly visible in country music. This thesis investigates how female listeners’ tastes may have changed since the decline in female airplay after 2000. This study involves 17 in-depth interviews and eight focus groups with female country radio listeners. The results show generational and gendered differences in listeners’ tastes, including differences in their preferences, explanations of country radio’s gender gap, and listening habits. These differences reflect the varying levels of female airplay on country radio during listeners’ socializations to the genre. Additionally, this study introduces a new model of the development of taste that combines the Bourdieusian model and action-based approach and emphasizes the role of radio. Finally, this study suggests that listeners’ exposure to a wider variety of artists on country radio is key to an inclusive future for country music.

Skills Developed in the Sociology Honors Program: 
I have learned so much about qualitative research including how to recruit participants, conduct interviews, and analyze data.

Future Plans: This fall I will be pursuing an MPhil in Sociology at the University of Cambridge.
   

Isabel Boyer

Hometown: Washington, DC

Majors/Minors: Sociology Major, Physics Minor 

Faculty Mentor: Jeffrey Morenoff and Daniel Ellman

Thesis Title: Gender Disparities in Juvenile Delinquency Court Hearing Outcomes

Abstract: The topic of gender and juvenile court outcomes is understudied in current literature, partially due to the fact that girls make up only around a third of children involved in juvenile delinquency. Existing literature focuses mostly on gendered causes of delinquency and gender responsive treatment options, so this study sought to provide information on the potential effect of gender in juvenile delinquency hearings, narrowing an analysis of gender and delinquency to the process of a child’s court hearing. The study involved extensive observation of virtual juvenile court hearings, as well as interviews with several court practitioners who operated in the context of the same hearings. Results indicate that, contrary to theories that cite leniency towards female juvenile offenders by juvenile courts, this leniency is contingent on girls becoming involved in the juvenile justice system for relatively small offenses, which has the overall result of unnecessary sanction of girls in the system in some circumstances.

Skills Developed in the Sociology Honors Program: 
How to carry out a study that I designed to complement existing literature on a topic. Also, how to reconcile good advice with what I think I need to do.

Future Plans: This summer I will start a two-year position as a paralegal at Children's Rights, an organization that files class action suits on behalf of children in foster care and juvenile justice systems all over the country. I plan on attending law school right after I stop working at Children's Rights, then I want to work as a public defense attorney or a civil rights attorney.
   

Bri Jackson

Hometown: Seneca, South Carolina

Majors/Minors: Sociology

Faculty Mentor: Sarah Zelner

Thesis Title: Paying for the Suburban Lifestyle: Experiences of Eviction in Macomb County, Michigan

Abstract: Eviction has not yet been studied in the context of suburban poverty. Suburban poverty is on the rise in the United States and no study exists to examine the impact this has on eviction specifically. Warren, MI has the ninth highest eviction rate in the country, making it a perfect case study to explore the effects of suburban poverty on eviction. This thesis examines the experience of eviction in Macomb County, Michigan, and more closely, the city of Warren. Unique qualitative interviews of key informants, and tenants who have experienced eviction are analyzed alongside quantitative data from Eviction Lab to better understand the experience of eviction for Macomb County residents. Tenants noted a desire for suburban life while lamenting high costs of living, racism, maintenance issues, and problems with landlord communication. Tenants who identified as female or belonged to a minority racial group were more likely to experience an eviction and more negative consequences after their forced move. The rise in suburban poverty did not correlate with a rise in resources for tenants in poverty, making the consequences of suburban eviction arguably worse than urban eviction.  

Skills Developed in the Sociology Honors Program: The honors program helped me to bring a critical eye to my own work and also helped me to better take into consideration the feedback of others. I didn't always agree with my advisors, but I learned a ton and was able to apply the feedback in ways that benefitted my work.

Future Plans: 
I am attending the University of Michigan School of Social Work in the fall for the MicroMasters program.
   

Sara Jex

Hometown: Fort Gratiot, MI

Majors/Minors: Sociology Major (Law, Justice, and Social Change subplan) and Political Science Major

Faculty Mentor: Alexandra Murphy

Thesis Title: Going the Social Distance: The COVID-19 Pandemic, Space, and Student Social Connection

Abstract: This research asks how space shapes students’ social connection, and how the COVID-19 pandemic affected this relationship. In drawing on interviews and journals from 19 University of Michigan undergraduate students, this study finds that before COVID-19, proximity to campus and boundless access to nearby third places and living arrangements enabled social connection despite symbolic class, race, and other barriers. The pandemic narrowed the scope of spatial propinquity, collapsed symbolic boundaries between places, and altered the rules for social interaction. On one hand, these spatial changes exacerbated social conflict and cultivated social burnout. On the other, they prompted students to reexamine their valued social connections and created a welcomed barrier of separation from social exclusion. This research expands our understanding of how social connection is experienced, defined, and fostered during a historical moment that uniquely upended our taken-for-granted assumptions.

Skills Developed in the Sociology Honors Program:
 This program taught me how to independently set short- and long-term goals, exchange constructive feedback, and prioritize mental health while staying on-task. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to work with an inspiring cohort of peers and apply the sociological theory, analytical skills, and research methods I've learned to this thesis.

Future Plans: I'm moving to Washington D.C. to work at a nonprofit legal advocacy organization that pursues high-impact litigation to protect the environment, pursue racial justice, open the courtroom doors to all, and fight economic injustice. After a few years, I may return to school to further pursue Sociology, Urban Planning, or Public Policy—or a combination of these disciplines!
   

Elle Jimenez

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Majors/Minors: Sociology Major (sub-plan in Law, Justice, and Social Change), Writing Minor

Faculty Mentor: Alford Young, Jr.

Thesis Title: Dismal Discrepancies: An Exploration of the Correlation Between Social Disadvantage and Knowledge of and Access to Mental Health Treatment 

Abstract: Mental illness is a considerable problem in America, but because there are numerous barriers to care, many people do not seek treatment. Using survey data from 148 adults residing in the state of Michigan, this study examines people’s knowledge of and access to mental health treatment in their communities. We know that there are inequalities in access to mental health care, but this study demonstrates that there are also inequalities in awareness of care.1 The data suggest that race and class play an important role in the understanding of community resources. Additionally, respondents alluded that some people may avoid treatment due to concerns about stigma. The results from this study suggest that a lack of access and knowledge, as well as the stigmatization of mental illness serve as barriers to treatment, and that race and class advantages enable people to circumvent such barriers to care. This study does not flag with precision how community members feel, but rather uncovers what factors are meaningful in how small community residents think about mental health and mental health resources in an attempt to gain a more comprehensive understanding of why such sizable inequalities exist.

Skills Developed in the Sociology Honors Program: 
Through my experience in the Honors Program in Sociology, I've learned to find meaning in the process. Even if you don’t find the most groundbreaking data, the research and time-management skills I learned in creating a project and sticking with it for a year and a half, as well what I learned from the stories others trusted me to tell were well worth it.

Future Plans: I will be attending Georgetown Law in the Fall.
   

Anju Jindal-Talib 

Hometown: Detroit, MI

Majors/Minors: Sociology (Law, Justice, & Social Change), American Culture

Faculty Mentor: Alford Young Jr.

Thesis Title: Identity Development of Mixed Students and The Role of Cultural and Ethnic Student Organizations in Higher Education

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to evaluate how mixed college students develop their identity. This study also evaluates the experiences of mixed students in cultural or ethnic student organizations and how it impacts their first-year experience, self-identification, and identity development. Previous research indicates that student organizations play a large role in student development in higher education settings. However, this research has mainly focused on monoracial white or minority students and conceptualized racial identity as static and constant. Thus, the experiences of navigating these organizations from the perspective of multiracial, biracial, or multiethnic students has been largely unexplored. This study utilizes a qualitative approach and employs interview and survey data from mixed college undergraduates at a predominantly white institution in the Midwest. Responses were coded and analyzed to reveal trends about how mixed students develop their identity. Findings suggest that mixed students join student organizations to foster a sense of community, explore their identity, but also that mixed students face microaggressions and other challenges when attempting to integrate into these organizations are other subculture spaces on campus. These findings will hopefully add to the growing, but very limited, literature on biracial, multiracial, and multiethnic individuals in higher education spaces.

Skills Developed in the Sociology Honors Program: 
I improved my writing skills and developed a lot of self-discipline.

Future Plans: I will be taking a gap year working at a legal firm and continuing to do research. I plan to apply to law school toward the end of the year.
   

Philip Kersch

Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI

Majors/Minors: Sociology (Law, Justice, & Social Change sub-major), Minor in Music

Faculty Mentor: Sandra Levitsky

Thesis Title: Student Trust and Use of Sexual Misconduct Policies

Abstract: My project is an addition to the literature of trust and the topic of sexual misconduct on college campuses. Research on sexual assault predominately exists at the individual level, where the macro-institutional level is ignored when examining the scope of sexual misconduct. Administering a survey with a sample size of 60 University of Michigan undergraduates, I look to understand how the needs of a student body and the priorities and responsibilities of an educational institution can coincide to achieve certain levels of community trust. Specifically, how can colleges and universities ensure that students are taking advantage of the resources provided, and how do students determine if their needs are being met by the campus administration? Data shows that over time, students lose trust with the University and become less likely to trust the school as a mechanism for resolution. Students feel generally comfortable with current sexual misconduct resources available and a majority of students feel confident defining and identifying acts of sexual misconduct. Similarly, although a majority of students are satisfied with their extra-curricular experiences, this satisfaction is the only part of the student identity that has not experienced a significant loss of trust.

Skills Developed in the Sociology Honors Program: 
I learned how to communicate results from research by focusing on telling a story through the presented argument and data.

Future Plans: After graduating, I will be teaching for a year in New York City through Americorps - City Year. I plan on attending law school the year after.
   

Samuel Maves

Angell Award winner for this year's best Honors Thesis!

Hometown: Lansing, Michigan

Majors/Minors: Sociology; Biology, Health, and Society

Faculty Mentor: Alford Young Jr.

Thesis Title: Interdistrict Choice Beyond the Classroom: Transfer Student Challenges in Selecting and Attending Suburban Schools of Choice 

Abstract: Interdistrict transfer is the largest form of school choice in the United States, yet little is understood about how students experience these programs on an individual level. This thesis uses two sets of semi-structured interviews of recent Michigan high school graduates to investigate how families make decisions about school choice in a regional context and subsequently what challenges central city transfer students face in suburban educational environments. The first subject group consists of former students from a central city community who transferred to suburban public schools through Michigan’s interdistrict Schools of Choice program. The second group consists of former students who remained in the central city district through high school. Based on my results, I argue that we must add complexity to our understanding of interdistrict choice in three specific ways. First, we must acknowledge and analyze the dynamic agency that students share with parents in making decisions about where to attend school. Second, central city transfer students in suburban interdistrict choice programs encounter significant social and emotional challenges as a result of their transfer. Finally, where the needs of transfer students diverge from the needs of residential students on the basis of racial, socioeconomic, and geographic differences, I find that transfer students receive inadequate institutional support from their chosen suburban schools.

Skills Developed in the Sociology Honors Program: 
This process really taught me how to engage with people in a way that connected their lived experiences with larger social phenomena. During a pandemic that deprived us all of meaningful social connection, it was so wonderful to get share intimate and purposeful moments with strangers through my interview-based research. Watching people start to see their own personal stories through the framework of the structures and systems that affected them was definitely one of the most memorable parts of this project for me.

Future Plans: This summer, I am going to take lots of time to spend with my loved ones whose presence I have sorely missed during this pandemic. During this period, I will also read many good books, cook lots of good food, and continue my job search for research positions before applying to graduate programs at some point in the future.
   

Zuzu Weinger

Hometown: Franklin, Michigan

Majors/Minors: Sociology, Environment

Faculty Mentor: Fatma Müge Göçek

Thesis Title: Trans people in DSM and music: Comparing DSM misrepresentation and trans artists’ experiences of being trans

Abstract: The creation of the DSM has led to a skewed perception of being transgender as pain and suffering with the current diagnosis defining transness as enormous pain to justify medical transition needs for transgender people to see themselves as their true selves. I am looking at the question: How has the DSM defined transgender people over time and how do these definitions of transness differ from trans peoples lived experiences through song? Using qualitative coding and analysis, a few conclusions appear. My argument is that DSMs diagnoses of trans people has improved over time due to changes in perception of trans people, however, DSM perpetuates the gender binary, gatekeeping, and blame trans people for their problems. Transgender people shouldn’t need justification through pain for their medical choices. Using song lyrics by transgender people I show that trans people are not just going through pain to be transgender, but happiness and joy in transness. Being trans can be an experience of freedom to trans people and allows us to exist on our own terms, not on terms defined by non-trans people who cannot understand what it is like to be trans. 

Skills Developed in the Sociology Honors Program: 
During my thesis journey I developed my qualitative coding and analysis.

Future Plans: I'm going to relax, spend quality time with my cat and family, make art, get a part time job, and play video games.