Bradley research well represented at MSS conference

April 11, 2012

By Brigitte Graf ‘13

Bradley professors and students alike presented research projects last month at the 75th annual Midwest Sociological Society conference in Minneapolis, attended by hundreds of professors and researchers in the field of sociology.

The MSS conference offered students and faculty a chance to introduce their respective work to the wider sociology community. Among those at the conference were Bradley’s Dr. Darcy Leach and Dr. Lori Wiebold from the Department of Sociology and student Jamie Hammond presenting research conducted over the course of the semester. Also presenting from the sociology department Dr. Lizabeth Crawford who talked about the effectiveness of alcohol-free programs on drinking behaviors and beliefs.

Dr. Leach discussed her research on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Her project so far has been focused on creating a database from information available online about the different Occupy sites and constructing an index of leftist subcultures in each city.

“This is proclaimed to be a ‘leaderless’ movement,” Dr. Leach said. “Specifically what we are looking at is the decision making process.”

Sophomores Sean Yerkey, sociology major from Colona, and Jessica Morris, elementary education major from Omaha, Neb., assisted Dr. Leach in her research this semester.

“They did a lot of the work putting together the databases, looking at all the websites, helping me to figure out how to build the index…they were really involved in just talking through everything,” Dr. Leach said. “This is the first time I’ve worked with undergraduates on my research…and so far they’ve done really well.”

Hammond, a junior studying sociology from Peoria, presented her report of preliminary findings on ethnomethodology in college forensic teams with Dr. Wiebold occasionally guiding her research. The idea that triggered the project, as well as the majority of the work that went into the overall presentation, was the result of Hammond observing Bradley’s Speech Team, of which she is also a member.

“I was sitting in a Sociology 100 class when I started to become interested in a type of sociology called symbolic interaction,” Hammond said. “So I went to Dr. Wiebold’s office during her office hours and asked if there was any research already done on the speech community.”

Dr. Wiebold encouraged Hammond to look into the topic and to conduct the research on her own. With Dr. Wiebold as her mentor, Hammond began formal interviews in the spring, collected the necessary data and submitted her initial findings during her presentation at the MSS conference.

“[Hammond] did the research all on her own,” Dr. Wiebold said. “I knew she had a really good sociological eye. I guided in terms of some of the methods and tips on how to present, but it was very much her work.”

Hammond was one of a handful of undergraduate students to present at the conference.

“It was mainly professors, researchers in the field and graduate students presenting,” she said. “The fact that I got to go to this conference this early in my career, that’s not something I would have gotten anywhere else. If it weren’t for the culture of Bradley that allows for this sort of thing, I would have never had this opportunity.”

Hammond and Dr. Wiebold are planning to continue the research project and Dr. Leach is seeking funding to hire student assistants for her continuing research on the Occupy movement over the summer.