Students Help Make Sociology Symposium a Success

Lillian Whelan ’23 had already presented her political science thesis, “The Impact of Partisan Control and Religion on Sexual Education in the U.S.,” in front of her classmates.

But when she presented at The (up)Roaring 2020s: Sociology’s Responsibility in Addressing Social Problems conference, there was a special guest in the crowd.

“I looked out into the audience, and I saw President Darren Reisberg,” she said. “I got a little nervous, but he brought up some really good points at the end.”

Whelan didn’t just present at the conference – she, Mickaela Gulla ’23 and Julia Kane ’23 – helped the conference come together.

“I had experience running events and was looking for an internship,” said Whelan. “I reached out to Dr. Elena Chernyak and asked if I could help out.”

And Chernyak, associate professor and chair of the Department of Sociology, Criminology and Human Services, was glad they were ready to assist.

“Planning and running an event like this has a dozen moving parts. So the assistance was greatly appreciated. But more importantly, it allowed me to help students try out - and in some cases, sharpen - their skillset and provide the kind of real-world experience that will come in handy, no matter what field they go into in their future careers.”

Dr. Elena Chernyak

Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology, Criminology and Human Services

Both work-study students, Gulla and Kane, relished the opportunity and quickly jumped in on the planning. In the fall, Whelan helped compile a data pool of department heads, graduate students, alumni, and others interested in attending or submitting abstracts. “We didn’t just reach out to sociology departments,” she said. “We were looking for proposals from all the social sciences.”

Proposals came in from as far away as the University of Tennessee Knoxville, New England College and George Washington University, as well as Kingsborough Community College, SUNY Brockport, SUNY Buffalo, Medaille University, Rochester Institute of Technology and Syracuse University, on diverse topics such as labor organizing, COVID-19, social work, reproductive freedom and solitary confinement. Alumnus Dan Pezzetta ‘21 returned to present his talk, “The Fight For Disability Rights in the Past And Present: Why We Cannot Forget the Past While Preserving Our Rights in the Present.”

They got to put their artistic side to work too. Gulla designed the notebooks and pens, while Kane and Whelan made the folders, name tags and signage.

Gulla also presented the research she did with Chernyak, “Where Do You Live? The Effect of Areas of Residence on Intimate Partner Violence.”

“I’ve never done a presentation in a professional academic setting. There was more pressure, but the questions and the feedback were more interesting.”

Mickaela Gulla '23

In addition to presenting, the students also ran the registration table and photographed the event, which was attended by more than 60 people. Initial feedback, according to Chernyak, was highly positive, with participants remarking on how well the event was organized.

“A lot of people were involved in putting it together,” said Gulla. “It was a lot of work getting everyone on the same page, but it came together in the end!”

Read more about the Symposium

April 19, 2023
Spotlight, Student Spotlight

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