Written by Jauza Khaleel ’18
Over Spring Break, six SOAN majors accompanied professor Ryan Sheppard to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to present research at the Midwest Sociological Society’s annual conference. Students presented research completed in SOAN 371 research class and touched on a breadth of topics related to St. Olaf student athletes and their use of the Piper Center. From time constraints faced by student athletes to perceived team cohesion among student-athletes, the SOAN students presented four different papers at the conference. In addition to presenting their research, students also attended paper sessions and panel discussions presented by sociologists in a variety of professions.
The theme for this year’s conference was “Globalization, Promises, Possibilities, and Pitfalls.” The papers presented and workshops covered areas of migration, health care, racism, urban development, sexual assault, and human rights. One of my favorite sessions was a session on “Globalization, Inequalities, and the Struggles of Africa and African Diaspora.” Tola Pearce, Professor at University of Missouri, shared her research in Nigeria focusing on bio politics in neoliberal programing in the Global South. Through her ethnographic style research, she looked at the challenges faced by female food venders in Southern Nigeria that has led to many other social problems among these food vendors.
Another session discussed disrupting white racism on college and university campuses through strategies of resistance. Drawing on empirical research, journalistic accounts, and testimonies, panelists addressed campus racial climates, white racist practices, and student-led protests common at historically and predominantly white colleges and universities. Panelists included professors of Sociology from University of Louisville, University of Missouri, Augustana College, and Florida Gulf Coast University. While they were not able to offer absolute solutions to solve institutional racism faced by students, faculty, and staff, they shared some best practices from their universities, and some of the successful ways students have been able to make impactful change on their colleges or universities.
In addition to the intellectual and formal sessions attended, the group enjoyed group meals, entertaining trivia sessions, and quality SOAN bonding time! It was definitely a very rewarding time for the students, and gave students greater insight into the realities of becoming a sociologist and the vast array of places their major could take them.
The group also met with two SOAN alumni who are currently working in Wisconsin, Katherine Fitzgerald ’15 and Nathan Hartwig ‘15, for dinner on Friday night. They shared their experience as SOAN majors at St. Olaf College, as well as gave some very insightful advice about ways we can use our SOAN major off The Hill. Katherine and Nathan also talked a little bit about what they have been doing since graduation over some very amazing Thai food.
On behalf of all the students who attended the conference, I want to thank Professor Ryan Sheppard for all her hard work in making this amazing opportunity possible! We cannot thank you enough for your dedication and effort. This definitely was a very enriching experience.