Sociology Student Research - Kendall College of Arts and Sciences

Sociology Student Research

Research shapes students into critical and analytical thinkers. TU’s Department of Sociology offers endless possibilities for students to step outside their world and research the unknown. From examining the lives of undocumented immigrants and delving into other misconceptions, our students ask the tough questions to discover meaningful truths about their subjects and themselves.


This year, seven students presented papers at the TU Research Colloquium: Daniela Rosales, Hannah Vissers, Colleen Yoder, Anna Rouw, Maureen Haynes (pictured left to right), Abbey Marino and Megan Lowry (not pictured).

Maureen Haynes: Struggle Silently with a Smile: The Experience of Oklahoma Public School Teachers

This study used in-depth interviews to gather the personal narratives and experiences of Oklahoma public school teachers about their day-to-day lives and struggles in and out of the classroom. Previous research suggests that teachers’ talk about their identity is central to the beliefs and practices that guide their engagement in and out of the classroom. Thus the interviews with teachers were transcribed and analyzed for common themes. Findings include a number of these, including the construction of the school power structure as either a roadblock or facilitator, the portrayal of teaching as a collaborative and professional environment, great strife around need for resources, genuine care shown for students, and feelings of lack of respect and representation. The teachers interviewed experienced their jobs not just as professional but also personal, making the pervasive issues in Oklahoma all the more affecting. Thus this research helps us to understand the complex identities that teachers construct in their narratives around the problems and triumphs they have faced in their chosen profession. Amidst a budget and policy crisis in public education in Oklahoma, this research provides a much-needed discussion of public school teachers in Oklahoma as individuals with their own revealing experiences.

Colleen Yoder: Reaching and Serving Underserved Populations in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Through five in-depth interviews, personal narratives were gathered in an attempt to better understand the issues individuals face when their job is to reach and serve underserved populations in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This method of research allowed me to obtain my interviewees’ work experiences from their perspective. The use of in-depth interviewing allowed me to capture each individual’s thoughts and feelings accurately. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed for themes. After combing through the transcripts four themes were found that were present throughout all of the interviews. These findings include a) identity as a helper, b) anti-immigrant rhetoric, c) job frustration, and d) language barrier. The importance of this research is that it asks a question that few others ask. Many research projects attempt to ascertain the barriers between underserved populations and resources, but few flip that question. It is important to recognize the frustrations and barriers that individuals face in reaching and serving underserved populations. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, this is a particularly important question, as there are a multitude of underserved populations that seem to continuously suffer.

Anna Rouw: Experiences of Tattoo Artists

This study uses qualitative methods, including five in-depth interviews, to gather the personal narratives of local tattoo artists regarding their experiences within the profession. The interviews lasted approximately one-hour each and were transcribed and analyzed for themes. These themes include 1) Changing social perceptions of tattoos, 2) Tattooing as a profession, 3) Tattooing as an art form, 4) Tension within the tattoo community, and 5) Tattooing as meaningful work. Theme 1 analyzes the growing social acceptance of tattoos as no longer taboo or unprofessional. Theme 2 analyzes the increased legitimacy of the tattooing profession, as demonstrated through state licensing, training practices, and increased income. Theme 3 analyzes the self-perception of tattoo artists as fine artists, as demonstrated through portfolios and emphasis on artistry skills. Theme 4 analyzes a tension within the tattooing field, typically between older and younger tattoo artists, regarding the self-perception of the profession. While the younger tattoo artists consider their work closer in nature to fine art, the older tattoo artists view their work as a provided service. And finally Theme 5 explores the meaningfulness of tattooing as a form of therapy for clients, an outlet for self-expression, and what tattoo artists were “meant to do.” These findings are important in helping to understand the complexities of this profession. Tattooing is an especially interesting profession because it has undergone dramatic changes in legality and social perception.

Megan Lowry: The Impact of Service Dogs on their Handlers

The purpose of this research was to study the impact of service dogs on their handlers. I used in-depth interviews to gather the personal narratives of four disabled American veterans and one search and rescue volunteer. I was interested in hearing the details of their need for a service dog, including their reasons for choosing certain breeds; type of service(s) provided by the dog; aids, wellness pre- and post-service dog; and assistance they received. I wanted to see if these accounts would reveal factors that led men and women to decide to use a service dog or to use technological and medicinal aids. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed for themes; the findings were:

  • The Bond that Heals: Service Dogs and their Handlers All five interviews showed how the handlers have healed in various ways and how each dog takes great care of the handler.
  • Mental Health: Stress Management, Eating Disorder, Reduction of PTSD Symptoms, and Minimal Emotional Numbing
  • Physical Health of the Handler Each handler expressed that their physical health has been positively impacted by their dogs.
  • Outlook on Life with a Service Dog: New Found Confidence The interviewees shared a new-found confidence in that they have found new ways of coping; all are happier with their lives than they were before getting a service dog.
  • How Training Affected Interpersonal and Inter-relational Skills This particular theme was apparent in all the interviews but was implicit rather than explicit.

Hannah Vissers & Daniela Rosales: Experiences of Undocumented Latinx Immigrants and Adult Children of Undocumented Latinx Immigrants

Latinx immigrants are often the targets of anti-immigration rhetoric and legislation in the US. However, while their economic impact is often debated in legislative committees, their actual experiences and stories go unheard. The goal of this research project was to gain a better understanding of the experiences of Latinx immigrants. We conducted and transcribed ten in-depth interviews, 45-90 minutes each, with eleven Mexican and Venezuelan immigrants living in Tulsa. Their documentation statuses varied from undocumented, DACAmented, permanent residents, and naturalized citizens. All interviewees’ names and other sensitive information were replaced with pseudonyms in the transcripts for the participants’ protection. Interview questions focused on the reasons for migration, the journey to the US, experiences living in the US, and thoughts and experiences related to the current political climate.

After analyzing the transcripts, we identified four main themes. The first is “the importance of connections”. We found that connections, both social and practical, were integral parts of the immigrants’ journey to and subsequent life in the United States. The second theme, “the political is personal”, addresses the very direct and deeply personal impact that political events and legislative decisions have on Latinx immigrants’ daily lives. The third theme is “fear and uncertainty: normalized and omnipresent”. This theme explores the deeply-rooted fear that surrounds even the most mundane parts of everyday life for undocumented immigrants and their families. The fourth and final theme is “a model non-citizen,” in which we dissect the duality of being a good person while technically violating the law.

Abbey Marino: Social Entrepreneurship in the Age of Globalization

Urban development specialists cite social entrepreneurship as one of the most sustainable ways to encourage local involvement in the economy, efficiently allocate resources, and engage individuals with their communities. The Mine, a fellowship powered by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, The Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation and the University of Oklahoma Ronnie K. Irani Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth, serves as a catalyst for social innovation in Tulsa. As a Mine fellow, I have been working with the entrepreneur of Jujuu, a curated gift box service that connects locally-produced, socially responsible makers with consumers in order to create a community of meaningful consumerism.