The Sociology Department provides a challenging and engaging environment for students entering into our Graduate program. Entering cohorts typically range from 5-12 students per year.
This year we welcome five new students to our program.
Madison Danton has a B.A. in Psychology with a Sociology minor from the San Diego State University and is completing a M.A. in Social Psychology from the University of Nevada, Reno. He is interested in: demographic predictors of political attitudes and behavior, LGB political experience, influence of religion on understandings of political issues, social identity approach, and statistical methods.
I have a BA in history and sociology with a minor in women’s studies from St. Joseph’s College. My undergraduate thesis focused on the effectiveness of the social features in the popular first person shooter video game Overwatch. I am interested in studying culture, especially pop culture, gender, race/ethnicity, and intersectionality. I think pop culture is a useful tool for analyzing social issues and norms.
Chase Lonas received his BA in Middle East Studies/Arabic from Brigham Young University. His undergraduate studies allowed him to study in Jordan, which greatly influenced his research interests in culture, narrative, religion, nationalism, and political sociology.
Cassie Quattropani is a 24-year old Connecticut native. She is a graduate of Saint Anselm College (c/o 2017), majoring in sociology. Broadly, her research interests are in the area of gender inequality. Opposingly, her personal interests are much more specific, and include spending too much money at Barnes and Noble, livestreaming April the Giraffe, and waiting for new music from Taylor Swift. She looks forward to continuing her academic career in sociology at UConn, and figuring out the next steps as they come.
I am from Kolkata, India. I have been a student of English literature in BA, MA and MPhil. In 2018, I submitted my doctoral thesis on social media surveillance and privacy at the School of Media, Communication and Culture, Jadavpur University. At present I teach English literature at an undergraduate college in Kolkata. I usually teach John Milton, Literature of the English Revolution, Postcolonial Literature and Critical Theory. I’m also interested in Digital Humanities, Media Studies and Cultural studies.
However, my passion for interdisciplinary research has driven me to pursue another doctoral program. It is my privilege and honor that the Department of Sociology has accepted me as a student. I look forward to having intense academic and cultural interaction and collaboration with the professors and students at the University of Connecticut.
Beyond academic engagements, I read a lot of crime fiction. PD James and Raymond Chandler are my favourite authors. I am also interested in film criticism and vocal music.
Bandana Purkayastha is Professor of Sociology and Asian & Asian American Studies. She served as Head, Sociology, at the University of Connecticut (UCONN) from 2011-2016 Leadership. Her current research interests focus on human rights/human security, migration and migrants, intersectionality, and violence. Her earlier research on ethnicity, racism, gender, violence and peace has been published in many countries.
Bandana Purkayastha was awarded the 2018 Sociologists for Women in Society’s Feminist Mentoring award. The mentoring award was established in 1990 to honor an SWS member who is an outstanding feminist mentor. In establishing the award, SWS recognized that feminist mentoring is an important and concrete way to encourage feminist scholarship.
In 2019 Professor Purkayastha was awarded The biennial Research Excellence Award. UCONN College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Research awards recognize national and international prominence in research. The recipients of Excellence in Research awards are honored for a research program that has gained national and international distinction and impact in their field of study. For more please see https://clas.uconn.edu/faculty-staff/excellence-awards/
Bandana Purkayastha is also a member of the International Sociological Association, Executive Committee. International Sociological Association is an organization of sociologists with members from 126 countries. Bandana Purkayastha was elected to the 16 person executive committee which oversees the general operations of the organization along with the officers.
While researching the cultural processes of inequality in community organizations, sociologist Andrea Voyer found that manners and etiquette often are noted in racial, ethnic, class and gender exclusion.
In studying a parent-teacher group in a public school, for example, white and wealthy PTA parents rejected the efforts of volunteers of poor and Latinx parents who they considered “rude.” And within an elite black church, more affluent church members determined that lower-income newcomers were “not the right kind of people” for the church based on their use of language and more casual dress sitting in the pew.
Such examples led Voyer to a new area of study.
“I realized that expectation of manners made it acceptable to judge and exclude in ways that were reproducing social inequality,” says Voyer, a research professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and an associate senior lecturer in sociology at Stockholm University. “As a result of that research I decided to study etiquette itself.”
Voyer is studying “Emily Post’s Etiquette,” the book written by the doyenne of manners first published in 1922 and currently in its nineteenth printing with the most recent update, “Emily Post’s Etiquette: Manners for Today,” published in 2017. The 19 editions include more than 7 million words and 90,000 pages of text. The research is supported by a two-year grant from the National Science Foundation.
Voyer is taking an innovative approach to the study of etiquette by utilizing the emerging research approach known as computational sociology, which uses computer science to study the social world. Computational sociology can take two major forms — big data analysis, which follows established models of social network structure and analysis by gathering as much information as possible; or a data science approach, which focuses on content analysis. Voyer is using the content analysis approach.
“By adopting a study of multiple editions of the same book what I get to do is look at exactly what changed, from edition to edition,” she says. “The benefit is that the research is almost like a panel study. Each time a new edition is written, it’s written in some relationship to the book that came before. When I see a change across editions, I can identify it much more easily but I can also try to find out where it came from.”
Voyer will have access to the archives of The Emily Post Institute, which the writer established in 1946 and has continued to publish new editions of the book by Post’s family since her death in 1960. Correspondence between Post and her publisher could provide insight on changes from edition to edition, Voyer says. The Institute has a website with etiquette information and programs for business, weddings and children. It also publishes etiquette columns and created the “Awesome Etiquette” podcast.
“The language [in the book] has changed, the structure of the book has changed but in addition to that the underlying ideas of manners have shifted as well,” Voyer says. “The biggest, most obvious example of that is that in the early books Emily Post begins with a discussion of what she considers a reference group that she calls ‘Best Society.’ The point of the book is to describe what the best people do so other people can learn and emulate that. Over the years what you see is the emergence instead of this idea that manners are for everyone and you don’t have to have some reference group that is the social elite of society; that there is this common sense courtesy and kindness. You see this happening over the course of the different editions of the book.”
In noting some of the changes in language over the years, for example, Voyer says in the 1922 edition of “Etiquette,” verb words used to discuss manners are the more rigid “can” and “ask,” while in 2011 the verbs change to the more flexible “allowed” and “permitted.” The guidelines for smoking for “gentlemen” and “ladies” in locations such as “ballroom,” “table” and “drawing room” appear throughout the first edition of the book, along with indications for the time and place for smoking. In more recent editions, there are more definite circumstances in which smoking is allowed or permitted.
Voyer says using this approach to research in social sciences was not an option during her training as a scholar so she has attended seminars to learn how to utilize the methodology to both explore new areas of research and transfer knowledge to graduate students assisting her with her research.
“One of the great things I’m excited about with this research is providing the opportunity for students to get trained in this approach and gain facility in computational sociology,” she says. “It’s my hope that there will be students who will want to do substantive work with their own questions.”
Clubs: NRHH (National Residence Hall Honorary), LSAMP Scholar, McNair Fellow
Scholarships: Leadership Scholarship
Q:Why did you choose to study (this major/minor)?
A:I started off in biology, but I ended up switching because I realized I had always been struggling with science classes and I was excelling at everything else. I switched the beginning of my junior year. It was pretty scary because I thought it was late in the game, but it all worked out pretty well. When I was in SSS (Student Support Services), the summer before freshman year, I was taking a sociology and an English class, so it’s actually ironic that I ended up with this as my major and my minor. I was always interested in sociology and I always liked reading. I’m taking my LSATs in July, so hopefully by next year I can be in law school.
Q:Tell us more about your SSS experience.
A: SSS is UConn’s support system which is aimed towards first generation students and students of low income to help them settle into the college experience. It provided me with the confidence that I could do well in academic settings because I got recognized as an outstanding student in both of my classes. That really meant a lot to me, because it made me feel like I’m supposed to be here and I am a good student. It also gave me a good circle of friends that I still talk to to this day, and I’ll probably still talk to them after we graduate.
Q:Who is your favorite professor and/or class? Why?
A:My favorite professor has to be Associate Professor in Residence of Sociology Phoebe Godfrey. She’s my favorite professor because she structured class differently in the sense that I felt like I could participate more. We did journal entries and scanned them, so I was could draw and things like that. It motivated me to be more honest with myself and with the readings, and allowed me to engage more with what I was learning.
She’s also my favorite because she motivates me and gives me guidance. I go to her when I have problems. She helped me figure out so many career questions. She’s trying to help me publish a book now that I ended up presenting as a project for her class, so it’s just very different.
Q:You’re publishing a book?
A:I presented a book in class instead of writing an essay. She knows I’m really into art and I really like drawing. She gave me that option and I took it, because I thought it was better than writing a 20-page paper! I presented it, and she told me she was really interested in helping me publish it. It’s a children’s book that I watercolored and then related back to our class. It was in a class called Energy, Environment, and Society. So, I had to relate it back to how children’s relationship with the environment is very different because of our school system, in terms of how students aren’t allowed to engage with things outside, we’re very strict with it, and it forces us into a box.
Q:In what other ways was that class different?
A:It felt really freeing in a sense. At first, I was kinda lost because I didn’t know what I was going to be graded on. I guess that’s one thing students always focus on cause you’re forced to focus on the grade that you’re getting but this allowed us to engage more with what we were reading. I felt more like a student that way because I wasn’t stressed about whether or not I’m in the A or B range.
Q:What did you accomplish during your college experience that you’re most proud of?
A: A sense of agency and autonomy. My parents were really strict when I was home. I’m the oldest in my family so I had a lot of responsibilities at home. Here I was allowed to explore things I really wanted to get into. I didn’t have a strict guideline as to how to do things. I was allowed to explore in terms of my friends, things I never had the chance to get into in high school in terms of classes, and myself.
Q:How has UConn prepared you for your future career?
A:It allowed me to fail, in my first half with biology. That really opened up doors for me to not be scared of failure and not have that weight on my shoulders. It’s allowed me to learn from my experiences and keep pushing forward because I can’t be stagnant.
Q:How has UConn shaped you as a person?
A:It shaped me positively, overall. I’ve always had a pretty stable circle of friends and I’ve always been able to find professionals here who want to guide me like my Student Support Services advisor, Phoebe, and other professors. They’ve always been really open and honest with me with guidance so it’s provided me with a base of really great people to help me succeed. Without them I would still be myself but I wouldn’t be as centered.
Q:If you could summarize your experience at UConn in three words, what would they be?
A:Interesting, centering, and challenging
Q:What advice would you give to a student just starting out at UConn?
A:I would say to trust their gut. That’s something I really had trouble with in the beginning. At the end of the day, no matter if your family is pushing you toward a certain career path or you feel pressure from outside circumstances, trust yourself. I’m a first generation American and student, so I really felt like I had to live up to not only my own expectations but everyone else’s. It really came down to just trusting myself and my own instincts. If something’s not working out for you, trust yourself and make the change that you have to make.
I would say to other students, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. For some reason I was really hesitant with that. I guess it has to do more with my own expectations for myself to be able to figure things out for myself and that’s not always the case, people are there to help you. Don’t be hard-headed; I was really hard-headed!
Q:What has your experience been as a first-generation college student and American?
A: While being a first-generation student and American is challenging, it means being provided with opportunities that previous generations in my family haven’t been. I try and remember who my family has helped me be and who I am meant to be to keep pushing forward. They’ve helped keep me grounded and focused with their support and have been integral to my college experience. Being one of the first means to try and honor the sacrifices that my parents made for me to be here while also living up to my own expectations. I know I won’t be one of the last.
The University of Connecticut Department of Public Policy is proud to present, in partnership with Connecticut’s public sector and nonprofit associations, Correlates, Causes and Solutions for Firearm Violence in America. The goal of the conference is to address three themes:
Community and Social Movement Organizing: How do activists understand the causes of and solutions to gun violence? What are the different approaches that activists take and how does their social location (e.g., urban/suburban; survivors) influence their strategies? What explains the approaches activists take in seeking institutional, cultural, and political change designed to reduce gun violence?
Community-Level Factors in Gun Violence: For example, how does income inequality relate to firearm violence? Do communities with higher gun ownership rates have higher firearm casualties? How do individual-level factors combine with community-level factors to influence gun violence?
Policies and Prevention Strategies: The evaluation of public policies or other prevention strategies aimed at reducing the number of gun injuries in the United States. This might include gun injuries, gun homicides, and/ or gun-related suicides.
For more information regarding the conference please click here for the conference website.
Bandana Purkayastha is a professor of sociology and Asian & Asian American Studies, and former head of the Department of Sociology. She is the American Sociological Association’s national representative to the International Sociological Association. Her current research interests focus on human rights/human security, migration, intersectionality, and transnationalism. She recently published an article in the journal Current Sociology focusing on ‘Migration, Migrants, and Human Security.’ She discussed these issues with UConn Today.
Q. Migration has been in the news with immigration, particularly in the United States, but it has been global as well. Why did you start to look at this issue? A. While I have worked on migrants and migration for many years, I started looking more specifically at this issue of migrants and human security at the end of 2015. The New York Times had a series of stories on refugees including that very iconic picture of the young Syrian boy who had drowned and washed up on the shores of Turkey. That photograph went around the world. It made me think about my own research, and whether it was capturing all these different kinds of migration together. So I began to think about a continuum of migrants who are subject to transnational, national, and local policies and practices, whose position within these structures affects the conditions of insecurity they encounter during and after they move.
Q. Early on, you talk about the structural impediments to migration that are a key to understanding what is going on. What are those impediments? A. The structural impediments to moving are most often political, but they include a mix of political, economic, and social impediments. For instance, what kind of rules and policies exist to sort out who can move and under what conditions? A key issue of migration is: do people have the resources to move? Many people don’t. Some people end up moving close by because that’s how far they can get. People may try to move further away; which, depending on where they were in the first place, could mean crossing an international border. After people have moved, there are a whole lot of impediments to their settling down and accessing resources for living. A number of questions arise when we think about human security. Where and how do migrants get their food? Their shelter? What about their health? Their physical safety from violence? Their ability to exercise rights? Are the people in the area where they settle willing to accept them? These questions apply to all migrants, whether or not they were forced to move.
These forced migrants are put into actual camps, detention centers, or camp-like situations. They live in spaces where nothing in life can be taken for granted.
Q. You outline a number of issues with forced migration. What are they?
A. The conditions that affect the forced migrants are basically the same issues that other types of migrants face, of housing, health, safety, food, water, and safety from violence. Forced migrants are fleeing from something. It could be major environmental-related disasters like a tsunami, severe desertification, or some kind of chemical pollution of a river or the land. Or they could be moving to escape wars and conflicts. Some people – mostly young women, girls, and boys – are trafficked to other countries. When they move, the question is: Are they allowed to move freely? If they are anywhere near international boundaries, the answer is: No. They are often repressed and pushed back. People are not willing to accept them. These forced migrants are put into actual camps, detention centers, or camp-like situations. They live in spaces where nothing in life can be taken for granted. In some extreme cases, you’ve had examples of people trying to leave by boat. We’ve certainly seen this outflow from the Middle East and North Africa towards Europe. According to the 2017 UN reports, many of these forced migrants end up in camps in countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. What we’re beginning to see is a pattern of nation states trying to exert their power to repel migrants over the three-mile maritime boundaries that are within the jurisdiction of nation states, as well as the seas beyond that limit.
Q. That is, of course, a political issue too. A. It is a political issue. We’re seeing a lot more assertiveness for repelling people from reaching the actual land shores of countries. There is also an associated issue of bringing the issues of migrants under more broadly defined criminal justice systems. On the one hand, there’s been a real upsurge in crimes such as smuggling, and trafficking of human beings; these have become profitable industries. On the other hand, we are also seeing problematic ways in which nation states are dealing with these migrants. There have been well publicized news articles about Australia paying smugglers – the same smugglers who are bringing people by boats – to take them back. Smuggling and trafficking are also evident on the land routes. Pakistan happens to be one of the top 10 countries that hosts forced migrants, especially from Afghanistan. Bangladesh and India have now gotten forced migrants from Myanmar. In every country around the world, some people are raising questions about national security. At the same time, the questions about ensuring the human security of these migrants often remain unanswered, or partially answered. So migrants struggle to survive.
Q. You describe what you call the ‘glocal’ terrains: globalization and how it affected local concerns, which includes human rights issues. A. The term glocal is used to describe how the local and global forces interact with each other. On the one hand, we have all of these conventions about human rights, which are supposed to ensure that every human being, irrespective of political status, has the right to political, civil, social, and economic rights. On the other hand, the reality is whether or not people can access these rights really gets played out on the ground, through everyday encounters with institutions and people. Human rights don’t have enough political teeth if a country is not willing to comply with them; and many countries, to greater or lesser extents, don’t comply. I’m going to use an analogy because I think it illustrates this phenomenon. Prior to and during the civil rights movement [in the U.S.] when the buses were segregated, there were no lines drawn on the bus that said African Americans had to sit here, or there. But that line was actually imposed very strictly by the people on the bus, and this imposition was supported by the state’s institutions. In exactly the same way, if you have a group of people who might theoretically be due all kinds of rights, including the right to food, shelter, safety from violence, and so on, they will not be able to access these rights as long as other people and institutional arrangements make it impossible for them to do so. When we study human rights and mostly examine the laws at the national level, we do not adequately analyze the migrant’s experience on the ground. I think the struggles of forced migrants, more than anybody else, really show us the limits of these rights, when there are inadequate mechanisms to ensure access to these rights.
Q. Many people who talk about immigration think migrants are coming to the United States. But you are looking a fairly unique situations such as the migration of people of Japanese origin from Brazil, forced migration in Pakistan, and people going to South Africa. What would you say about people changing their thinking that this is a global concern? A. Migration is a global phenomenon. There are many streams of migration going on in different parts of the world. We don’t see it in the local news, so it is not visible to us. According to the most recent UN report, international migration reached 258 million in 2017. Over 60 percent of international migrants, those who are not part of the forced migration stream, live in Asia or Europe. North America is host to the third largest number of international migrants. That said, among the list of countries, the United States is home to the largest number of international migrants. The authors in the special issue of Current Sociology discuss the human security of different types of migrants in a number of countries, including the U.S.
Q. What are your thoughts on how some of these issues can be addressed better? A. In order to improve the situation, we have to consider political solutions. I think the way the situation can be improved is to humanize, and not dehumanize, the people who are on the move. There is always a genuine concern for national security, and I’m not undermining that. However, we’re in this moment where many people are saying, because there’s a concern for national security, we can dehumanize everyone. Right now we are moving increasingly to the situation that immigration and immigrants and criminal justice and criminal activities are becoming part of the same operation. We need to look, through a human rights perspective, at the fact that a large number of immigrants actually are due their human rights. Some have fled horrible conditions; others come here for work. Are they able to access rights substantively? We are not taking a good, hard look at what happens to them after they arrive. Are we meeting our own aspirations to be a place where human rights principles and practices are honored?
Caner Hazar and Jordan Rees, graduate students from Department of Sociology, were each awarded a 2018 Wood/Raith Living Trust summer fellowship!
The Wood/Raith Living Trust is named for Audrey Wood (UCONN class of ‘47) and Edeltraut Raith. Both Wood and Raith earned their Masters in Library Science from the University of Southern California and spent their careers as librarians with the San Francisco Public Library system. They generously gifted the University of Connecticut funds for the study of gender identity under the Wood/Raith Living Trust.
This summer Wood/Raith Living Trust started the initiative with graduate fellowships to support work focused on gender identity. We received 38 submissions across 14 programs/departments. The top 12 candidates across 9 departments/programs were offered awards of $4,000 each. The award winners will appear on the websitehttps://woodraithgender.uconn.edu/.
Roseanne Njiru has been awarded a highly competitive 6 months fellowship to the University of Cambridge, UK. This fellowship allows her time to write up her research. She will be located at the Center for African Studies.
Farhan Navid Yousaf has invited by the UN to share his expertise on trafficking at a conference in South Korea on victim-centered approaches to trafficking.
He has also been contacted by the US Department of State to contribute to the US-Trafficking in Persons report (country report on Pakistan).
Joonghyun Kwak has accepted a two-year postdoctoral position in the Department of Sociology at Ohio State University.
He will be working with Professors Craig Jenkins and Kazimierz Slomczynki on the “Survey Data Recycling” project which builds theory-informed “big data” for the social sciences. The project involves harmonizing survey and non-survey data sources used in comparative cross-national research and devising methodological tools for analyzing multi-dimensional data structures. The SDR project is funded by the National Science Foundation in collaboration with Ohio State University and the Polish Academy of Sciences.
Todd Vachon has accepted a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Rutgers University in the School of Management and Labor Relations, Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations. Rutgers’ SMLR is a national and international leader in the study of the world of work, building effective and sustainable organizations, and the changing employment relationship.
In recognition of the pivotal role that mentors play in supporting undergraduate research and creative activity, the Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to announce the recipents of the 2018 Mentorship Excellence Awards. These awards recognize two faculty members – one in a STEM field, and one in a non-STEM field – and one graduate student who exemplify the ways in which outstanding mentors challenge and support their students, enabling them to take intellectual risks and achieve milestones they might not have initially envisioned being able to reach.
The 2018 Mentorship Excellence Awards were presented to Andrea Voyer, Nicholas Eddy, and Laura Mickelsen during the Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition on Friday, April 13, 2018.
Andrea Voyer, Assistant Professor, Sociology
Professor Voyer’s award was presented by Savannah-Nicole Villalba ’18 (CLAS). The following text is excerpted from Savannah-Nicole’s presentation remarks.
I had Dr. Voyer for one of the required classes for our major, social theory. Dr. Voyer gracefully worked us through the dense theories of 19th century sociologists. It was my first time engaging with sociological theory, and many of us were struggling to understand the concepts. Dr. Voyer was patient with us as we tried to make connections to the material. She was encouraging so that we weren’t afraid of being wrong, and was personable in a way that encouraged students to work harder.
This mentality was one that she brought with her when we began the IDEA Grant application process. When we started discussing the possibility of applying, she did not bring me in to work on something she was interested in. In our first meeting, she asked me what I was passionate about and I could tell she genuinely cared. Dr. Voyer was the first person to believe in my passions and to tell me that my research questions were valid. We spent months working on the application process, and when the grant was approved, I knew it would not have been possible without her guidance.
With her own incredible research and personal life, she has always been accessible to discuss the newest challenge I faced. Instead of just providing answers, she would offer suggestions on ways to problem solve to reach reasonable solutions. Even though Dr. Voyer has been away this school year, she has helped me apply (and be accepted) to graduate school, supported (and protected) me at my first research conference, and has shown me what an academic mentor should be.
The following students in Sociology have been elected to Phi Beta Kappa this year. Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest and most widely recognized honors society, celebrating achievement in the liberal arts and sciences.