Four Sociology Seniors Successfully Defend their Honors Theses

Over the last two weeks, sociology seniors have been busy finishing their original research projects for their Capstone and honors requirements. Four students in the Department of Sociology successfully defended their department honors theses. These students include Lauren Howell, Sam Massey, Elizabeth Moeller, and Mané Ortega Poblete. Sociology faculty were very impressed with their research efforts and their presentations. Below are the various titles, abstracts, and readers for these honors theses. Thanks to the faculty, students, and our Honors Coordinator, Dr. Ellen Lamont, for their hard work and dedication to sociology!

"Beyond the Schoolyard: Applying the Constellation Theory to the Life Histories of Community Rampage Shooters”

Honors Student: Lauren Howell

Thesis Chair: Dr. Kelly Thames

Second Reader: Dr. Elizabeth Trudeau

Throughout our society, rampage shootings are a popular topic for debate, and popular narratives surrounding rampage shooting events include that social marginalization and a negative mental health are prominent factors within the lives of the shooters, and that rampage
shooting events can be easily prevented within the communities of the shooter. However, what if this is not the case? Six rampage shooting cases that were unprecedented at the time of their enactment were analyzed through content analysis in order to establish a viewpoint of the shooter’s interactions with the factors of Katherine Newman’s Constellation Theory. It was found that while each of the shooters had a history with mental illness, they each had a different perception of their marginalization from the social setting, and only one had a relationship with the popular definition of social marginalization used today. This variation in the perceptualized feelings of marginalization is manifested and amplified through a history of mental illness, and impacts how the shooting event is carried out.  Therefore, when comparing the relationships of the shooters and their understood positions within the social setting, the mainstream definition of social marginalization is not helpful. Instead, the differentiation between perceived feelings of marginalization is evident in how the shooting events are carried out. It was also found that six of the seven shooters analyzed experienced masculinity challenges throughout their lives, and were seeking a masculine exit through their rampage shooting events. Through challenging the popular definition of social marginalization and looking at how all of the Constellation Theory factors interact with and exacerbate one another, more can be understood about why, exactly, rampage shootings are carried out and can account for the differentiations within them. 

"Online Sex Work: Bound by Pleasure and Danger." Sam Massey

Honors Student: Sam Massey

Thesis Chair:  Dr. Ellen Lamont

Second Reader:  Elizabeth Trudeau

This study explores the tensions between pleasure and danger within online sex work. Drawing on 10 in-depth interviews with women performing online sex work, this study illuminates how online sex workers create success and pleasure while reducing dangers and risks. Financial success is intricately linked to pleasure and danger because varying levels of success shape emotional, physical, and financial risks. Despite these challenges, participants report a high level of job satisfaction, attributing this to creative freedom, financial independence, and supportive networks within the online sex work community. However, the findings also highlight the role of platform policies and legal frameworks, such as FOSTA/SESTA, in negatively shaping the online context and sex worker experience. The evidence suggests that while digital spaces facilitate new forms of agency and empowerment for sex workers, they also necessitate ongoing negotiation with the dangers and risks associated with digital gig economy and online sex work.

"Not Excited to be a Teacher: How Teachers Navigate Their Roles in Contrasting LGBTQ Policy Contexts."Elizabeth Moeller

Honors Student: Elizabeth Moeller

Thesis Chair: Dr. Ellen Lamont

Second Reader:  Dr. Johnnie Lotesta

Previous studies have centered around the experiences of gender and sexual non-conforming students living under anti-LGBTQ+ policies, not acknowledging teachers’ experiences as executors. Drawing on ten in-depth interviews with teachers from Texas and California, I am asking how teachers navigate the implementation of LGBTQ+ policies and the social environments produced by the policies, and how teachers feel their jobs and emotional well-being are affected. The ten teachers have experienced policy changes that entitle the administration and parents to push back against them. Policy changes and interactions with adults lead teachers in both states to change how they do their jobs. Finally, due to these things, teachers in Texas are becoming overwhelmed and on the brink of burning out, whereas those in California are happy and empowered. This research adds to street-level bureaucracy literature by showing how teachers, as street-level bureaucrats, are experiencing emotional turmoil due to political and social constraints that force them to change their behaviors. This research fills in the gaps in existing literature on the effects of restrictive LGBTQ+ policies by telling teachers’ stories. Additionally, it strengthens our understanding of how parental rights laws and heteronormativity are connected and work together to impact teachers.

"Tying to Get By: Gendered Networks of Undocumented Migrant Mothers." Mane Ortega Poblete

Honors Student: Mané Ortega Poblete

Thesis Chair: Dr. Jon Gordon

Second Reader: Dr. Ellen Lamont

This study examines the gendered dimensions of social tying among undocumented migrants in the United States. Social tying refers to the process by which migrants forge ties in the receiving country. Most migrant network scholarship indicates that migrant stability requires social capital embedded in pre-existing co-ethnic ties. A few scholars illustrate the process and outcomes of social tying among migrant men, but we know little about how and why migrant women engage in social tying. Drawing on ethnographic observation and semi-structured interviews, I trace the formation of undocumented migrant mothers’ ties post-arrival and compare how they use post-arrival and pre-existing ties to navigate their day-to-day lives as mothers and laborers. My data suggest that migrant mothers, whose networks are composed primarily of strong ties, remain vulnerable to exploitation by family members, and the weak ties that they form post-arrival provide access to childcare, housing, and employment. I argue that ruptured pre-existing ties catalyze social tying among migrant women who, in turn, use weak ties to navigate the gendered exigencies faced by most working mothers. Leveraging in situ accounts of how migrants build and use social ties post-arrival, this case challenges the presumption that migrant women rely on pre-existing networks, and it advances a gender-centric approach to the study of social tying.

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Published: Apr 22, 2024 10:56am