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Graduate Students on the Job Market

DANIELLE CZARNECKI - Modern Crosses: How Christian Women Navigate Maternal Desire, Religion, and Assisted Reproductive Technologies 


  • Renee Anspach and Karin Martin,Co-Chairs
  • Genevieve Zubrzycki
  • Elizabeth Roberts (Anthropology)
    My dissertation examines how religion shapes women's experiences with infertility in the U.S., a country with an unregulated in vitro fertilization (IVF) industry and uniquely high levels of religiosity among developed countries. I conducted a total of 80 interviews with Catholic and Protestant infertile women in order to better understand how women pursuing motherhood navigate cultural messages about gender, technology, and religion when making decisions about using assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). While conservative Protestants and the Catholic Church have been vocal about protecting the embryo in their opposition to abortion and stem cell research, their positions regarding ARTs diverge. Protestant denominations generally support the use of IVF and have largely remained silent about ethical or moral concerns. Catholicism, on the other hand, is the most restrictive world religion in its position on ARTs. I examine how Christian women navigate the moral dilemmas that emerge when the pursuit of biological parenthood leads to encounters with technologies that threaten what they consider to be sacred—the human embryo.

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HEIDI M. GANSEN: Building Blocks of Difference: How Inequalities are (Re)Produced through Disciplinary Practices and Interactions in Preschool

Karin A. Martin (Chair)
Elizabeth A. Armstrong
Fatma Müge Göçek
Sheryl Olson (Clinical Psychology)

Heidi Gansen is a qualitative sociologist who studies sociology of education, social inequality, gender and sexuality, and childhood. She is interested in questions of how inequalities are produced and reproduced through institutional practices in schools. Heidi’s dissertation uses data from ethnographic observations in three preschools (nine classrooms total), and 39 interviews with preschool educators, to examine how inequalities are constructed and perpetuated through disciplinary practices and interactions. Through examining how students’ identities shape teachers’ disciplinary responses to less consequential behaviors such as disobedient and disruptive behaviors, she demonstrates how seemingly unintentional and implicit biases work on-the-ground, and across different preschool classroom contexts, through teachers’ disciplinary practices and interactions with students in preschool. She finds that teachers’ expectations for behavior and disciplinary practices reify one another in ways that translate to gender, race, and social class disparities in children’s disciplinary outcomes in early schooling. She also examines the gender gap in preschool disciplinary outcomes, analyzing whether preschool is a feminized space that advantages girls, while disadvantaging boys. She finds that preschool is a disjointed bridge to elementary school for boys, in which’ boys’ perceived behavioral “needs” are accommodated, while girls receive increased disciplinary intervention for their behaviors. Her data suggests that teachers’ disciplinary practices and interactions with children in preschool, cultivate forms of gendered cultural capital and a gendered student role (or habitus) for boys, that may be at odds with the learning environments and expectations placed on boys in primary and secondary years of schooling. Heidi also examines the gendered sexual socialization children receive from teacher’s practices and reproduce through peer interactions (Sociology of Education). She finds heteronormativity permeates teachers’ approaches to sexual socialization in preschool classrooms, affecting teachers’ responses to children’s behaviors such as heterosexual romantic play (kissing and relationships), bodily displays, and bodily consent. Additionally, these data suggest that young children are learning in preschool that boys have gendered power over girls’ bodies. Heidi’s dissertation work contributes to extant research by identifying how institutional and interactional disciplinary practices in preschool, operate as mechanisms through which schools begin to construct and perpetuate inequalities, specifically those pertaining to gender, social class, sexuality, and race.

Heidi has published on how heteronormativity is constructed in preschool classrooms (Sociology of Education), and on qualitative methods with young children (Sociological Studies of Children and Youth). Heidi also received the 2017 David Lee Stevenson Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Award from the Sociology of Education Section of the American Sociological Association, for a paper from her dissertation entitled, “Reproducing (and Disrupting) Heteronormativity: Gendered Sexual Socialization in Preschool Classrooms” (Sociology of Education, July 2017). Heidi has additional interests, and experience, teaching courses on the sociology of deviance, sexualities, and criminology.

CHARITY HOFFMAN - The 21st Century Mother: How New Moms Navigate Work, Family, and the Struggle to Have it All


Karin Martin and Katie Richards-Schuster (Social Work), Co-Chairs
Fatma Gocek
Mary Ruffolo (Social Work)

This dissertation examines the experiences of first-time mothers’ transition to motherhood. Based on interviews with 46 first-time mothers, I explore three aspects of the transition to motherhood in the 21st century: parental leave, engagement with technology, and the unique challenges facing low-income mothers. My central research questions were: (1) What structural challenges confront 21st century American women when they become mothers? and (2) What factors may exacerbate or mediate these challenges? These questions are addressed in three distinct papers.

The first article explores how, in the absence of a federally mandated parental leave policy, American women’s occupational group shapes their access to parental leave. I argue that disparities in access to formal benefits, including job security and paid or unpaid time off, are exacerbated by inequitable access to informal benefits, such as flexible hours and accommodations offered by “understanding” bosses. Furthermore, I find these differences are reinforced by women’s ability to leverage cultural capital and knowledge to access these informal benefits.

In the second article, I explore women’s use of social media and technology across the transition to motherhood. I argue that technology can be both an asset and a liability-- helping women stay more connected to social, cultural and material resources on the one hand, but heightening anxiety, fear, and a sense of competition on the other. I conclude that, despite technology’s potential to extend social support and connectedness for new mothers, it may also bring an additional source of invisible labor for women.

In the third article, I examine structural factors that may create invisible hardships for low-income first-time mothers. I also explore divergent logics of parenting for lower- and higher-income women, in an effort to explain why, in spite of these hardships, low income mothers often describe the transition to motherhood as less disruptive than more financially secure mothers do. I argue that for middle-class women, the transition to motherhood imposes chaos onto lives that are otherwise relatively controlled, while for low-income mothers, it may impose some regularity onto lives that are otherwise marked by instability.

In each of these studies, I explore how structural factors such as occupational group, class status, and access to technology, may shape the very personal and individual experience of the transition to motherhood.

HUIYUN KIM - Housing Insecurity and Low-Income Housing Policies in the United States


  • Sarah Burgard and Kristin Seefeldt (Co-Chairs)
  • Rachel Best
  • Richard Tolman
  • Lan Deng
    Description of Dissertation chapters: My dissertation project examining the role of housing assistance programs in reducing housing insecurity and implementation and policy design of low-income housing programs followed naturally from this early work. Using multiple methods, I have examined the intersection of low-income housing programs and housing insecurity among the poor, taking for example an econometric approach to program evaluation and a qualitative approach to examining decision making in program implementation.
    My first dissertation chapter addresses the role of housing assistance programs in reducing housing insecurity in the years immediately following the Great Recession. My second dissertation chapter interrogates local implementation of the federal Housing Choice Voucher (formerly known as the Section 8 voucher) program in relation to the federal initiative to end homelessness. I document the dominant patterns in the local preference systems in the Detroit metropolitan area, examine the mechanisms that have created the most common form of local preference system, and estimate this form’s impacts across income levels among those eligible for housing assistance. My third dissertation chapter examines the politics of admission policies in federal low-income housing programs: how QHWRA led to major change in tenant eligibility and preference in low-income housing assistance programs.

MIN HEE KIM - Causes and Consequences of Geographic Disparities in Home and Community Based Services

  • Sarah Burgard and Ruth Dunkle (Co-Chairs)
  • Sandy Levitsky
  • Emily Nicklett
  • Philippa Clarke

Place—in both the micro sense of a site of care such as a private home or skilled nursing facility and the macro sense of a broad geographic area—is the locus of social interactions for aging populations and a key determinant of services received. My research takes this as a launching point as it focuses on three areas: (1) understanding the dynamics of inequality and resource distribution in health and social services for older adults, (2) investigating how spatial distributions of health and social services influence service delivery and quality care, and (3) identifying mechanisms through which macro and mezzo level structural factors (such as race and social and built environments) shape physical and mental health in later life.

My dissertation bridges two areas of scholarship: research examining how multi-dimensional environments affect older adults’ healthy and productive aging and research asking how current public policy can best serve the complex health care needs of seniors, especially those living in communities with sparse resources, as the population grows. It examines policy that affects health and social service delivery to seniors, with particular attention to the geographic variations in resources and the impact of this variation. The first paper in my dissertation demonstrates an unequal distribution of a range of institutional and non-institutional health and social services for older adults and persons with disability in the state of Michigan. The other two identify service distributional factors and mechanisms that explain the chance of hospitalization and worsening cognition in older adults who receive home care funded by the state. The population that receives care paid for by public money has increased over the last two decades as the central and state governments have shifted toward home and community-based care over nursing homes. This situation calls for an in-depth evaluation of community resources and their influence on service delivery and health outcomes.

DANA KORNBERG - Reclaiming Waste, Remaking Communities: Persistence and Change in Delhi's Informal Garbage Economy


  • George Steinmetz (chair)
  • Greta Krippner (member)
  • Frederick Wherry (member)
  • Arun Agrawal (cognate)

Kornberg specializes in urban and economic sociology, using case studies to generate and refine theories of socio-economic transformation. Her dissertation project is an ethnographic examination of contemporary urban infrastructure in Delhi, India that explains an empirical puzzle: how have informal garbage collector-recyclers managed to persist despite competition from newly expanded, mechanized municipal garbage services? Responding to this question offers an opportunity to engage with the broader problem of why informal economies - defined by their absence of substantial recourse through state law - have endured so substantially in twenty-first century cities. Reclaiming Waste, Remaking Communities considers how everyday, informal economic transactions reveal and comprise wider patterns of structural economic transformation. The project begins by untangling the complicated knot of urban governance institutions in practice, analyzing the the production of a boundary between state and non-state economic actors. It proceeds by detailing the urban re-making of established social hierarchies, which are rooted in village-city relations, caste, and community. The research finds that particular economic materials and practices act as sources of durability for this informal economic domain, allowing it to persevere even when confronted by formal state-sponsored competitors.


In addition to the dissertation research, Kornberg has also conducted research in the Michigan cities of Detroit and Flint, analyzing the politics of water infrastructures.

CHRISTOPHER NEAR - Bridging the Income-Parenting Gap: Three Papers on the Interrelationships of Household Income, Parenting Resources, and Child Outcomes

  • Professor Sarah A. Burgard (co-chair)
  • Professor Yu Xie (co-chair)
  • Professor Pamela E. Davis-Kean
  • Professor Elizabeth A. Armstrong

Past research has shown child cognitive and behavioral outcomes to be related to family income and a wide variety of other resources available to parents, but there is little consensus on how and why these resources and child outcomes are associated in the short and long term. I posit that high income provides access to many different “parenting resources” that influence child outcomes—time to spend with the child in discussion, organized activities, or school events; material resources to purchase stimulating toys and maintain a safe home environment; low family conflict and distress, perhaps resulting in more warmth; and financial resources to purchase high quality childcare from trained providers in safe and stimulating settings. In my dissertation I will complete three studies that explore the relationships between (1) parents’ levels of income, their access to parenting resources when their children are young, and their children’s cognitive skills and behavioral problems as tweens and teens; (2) changes in family income and subsequent changes in parenting resources and children’s outcomes; and (3) high quality non-parental childcare and children’s and teens’ outcomes.

RICHARD RODEMS - From Poverty to Material Hardship: Economic Precarity in the United States

• Sandra Danziger (Social Work and Public Policy)
• Greta Krippner (Sociology)
• Fabian Pfeffer, co-chair (Sociology)
• H. Luke Shaefer, co-chair (Social Work and Public Policy)

Richard Rodems is a doctoral candidate in the Joint Program in Social Work and Sociology. His research is centered around three lines of inquiry: 1) understanding how changes in political economy—specifically the increasing precarity of low-wage work, the simultaneous retrenchment and expansion of the welfare state, and the increased availability of consumer credit—affect the ability to households to avoid concrete material hardships such as food insecurity, eviction, and utility shutoffs; 2) how social policy, in particular social safety net programs, serve as systems of stratification despite their purported redistributive aims; 3) how common quantitative measures of poverty and material wellbeing both constrain and enable social action to address the problems their measure. His dissertation uses the Survey of Income and Program participation to understand the dynamics of material hardship in the United States. His research makes theoretical and empirical contributions to scholarly debates over the measurement of poverty, mechanisms of stratification, and the consequences of an increasingly marketized economy.


MATTHEW B. SULLIVAN - The Rise of Deliberative Democratic Forms of Public Engagement in United States Science Policy


  • Professor Sandy Levitsky
  • Professor Renee Anspach
  • Professor Jason Owen-Smith
  • Professor Shobita Parthasarathy (Ford School of Public Policy)

My dissertation research intersects fields of political sociology and science and technology studies (STS). Using interviews, documentary data, and computational methods I am studying the rise of deliberative democratic forms of public engagement in United States science policy.

My pedagogical experience is somewhat broader than my research would suggest. I have taught several undergraduate courses including: introduction to sociology, introduction to theory, medical sociology, and sociology of science. I have also designed and taught a new course for our department aimed at pre-med students seeking to fulfill their MCAT sociology requirement. Finally, I designed and taught the course component for the Sociological Opportunities in Undergraduate Leadership (SOUL), our effort to serve the needs of first-generation college students. I am currently designing the second iteration of SOUL which I will teach in Fall 2017 and Winter 2018.