Cornell students make their mark at ISA meeting

Cornell College students have a long history of earning recognition at the Iowa Sociological Association (ISA) annual meeting, and this year was no different.The ISA focuses on undergraduate research and recognizes the best conference papers in four categories. This year, Alex DeSena ’17 earned the Stephen Wieting award for the best paper integrating theory for her paper “‘A Lot of it is Showing We Walk the Walk’: Strategies of Queer Inclusivity in Christian Congregations.”

Professor of Sociology Erin Davis, Alex DeSena '17, ssociate Professor of Sociology Tori Barnes-Brus (right to left)
Professor of Sociology Erin Davis, Alex DeSena ’17, Associate Professor of Sociology Tori Barnes-Brus (left to right)

“I wanted to participate in the ISA because it’s a great opportunity to practice presenting my sociological research in a professional, yet, supportive setting,” DeSena said. “In addition, the ISA is a great opportunity to get feedback on research from peers at different institutions. Presenting at the ISA has given me more confidence in my sociological research and public speaking skills, which I can apply to my career. In addition, my experience at the ISA has encouraged me to submit my research paper for publishing in an undergraduate journal.”

DeSena’s paper began during the inaugural year of the Cornell Summer Research Institute in 2015, continued through her sociology capstone course, and culminated in an individual research block. DeSena also won the Mary Alice Erikson award for best first-year-sophomore paper for her quantitative work on heteronormativity and religion in 2015.

Cornell students have earned nine awards over the last 10 years, including the 2016 Ward Reynoldson award for best criminal justice paper by Conor Moore ’18, Jani Mustaffa ’17, Madison Serrett ’17, and Jessie Freeman ’17 for their work “Mental Health and the Criminal Justice System: A Bipartisan Report by Mental Health America & the Heritage Foundation.” It was produced during their class Deviance and Social Control.

“The ISA gives students a chance to share their research, develop presentation skills, and meet other sociology students,” said Cornell Professor of Sociology Tori Barnes-Brus ’97. “Our students are always so excited to see their research alongside the work of undergraduates from other schools. They recognize how our intense methods course really enables them to do primary research and they’re proud of those accomplishments.”

This year 14 Cornell students and three faculty members attended the annual meeting at Loras College, held in April.

This year 14 Cornell students and three faculty members attended the annual ISA meeting.

Cornell students joined students from the University of Dubuque, Central College, Luther College, Loras College, Drake University, and Clinton Community College in presenting and hearing research on topics such as gender and work, LGBTQ social capital and wellbeing, immigration and education, and racial inequality in the criminal justice system.

This year four Cornell students presented papers produced in their class Research Design and Data Analysis and three presented research from the sociology capstone course. Attendees also heard from keynote speaker Professor Kristen Lavelle from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, who gave a talk based on her book “Whitewashing the South: White Memories of Segregation and Civil Rights.”  

Next spring Cornell College will host the Iowa Sociological Association meetings under the leadership of ISA co-presidents Barnes-Brus and Cornell Professor of Sociology Erin Davis. Cornell last hosted the conference in 2009.