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Student Honors Papers

The Student Honors Papers collection represents exemplary work in anthropology and sociology at Illinois Wesleyan University. The Ames Library is proud to archive these and other honors projects in Digital Commons @ IWU, the University's online archive of student, faculty and staff scholarship and creative activity.

Adoption is a popular way for individuals to grow their idealized family form. I studied adoption to more broadly see how families are making decisions and managing emotions on parenting, before even having a child in their home. Sociological research on the adoption process and experiences of adoptive parents offers an explanation of these relationships while also considering outside social factors. Using in-depth qualitative interviews with 15 adoptive parents, I investigated the adoption process as a whole and examined why older children struggle in finding a forever home. My findings suggest that individuals who struggle with infertility are likely to adopt but preferred to adopt younger children. This reveals that parenting is often situated around being present for all for a child’s “firsts” and developmental stages. Adoptive parents also expressed a need for support before, during, and after the adoption process. This shows us the importance of continued education, community, resources for adoptive families throughout their child’s life. Studying adoptive parents’ experiences not only help us better understand the adoption process, it also reveals important insights about parenting more broadly, like how families are defined and created.

Mental health continues to be a major issue in contemporary society. Aspects of stress and coping are studied by a range of disciplines. The present research adopts a framework from the perspective of the sociology of emotions, using perception and emotion norms. Utilizing quantitative survey methods, the study collects data concerning stress, coping behavior, and perception of coping in different social contexts from two small Midwestern college student populations. The data were analyzed using a 2x2 anova statistical test and a Pearson’s correlation. Despite findings concerning connections between coping behaviors that were insignificant, results from two vignettes delving into perceptions of coping responses to different stressors highlighted the importance of emotion norms in the context of stress and coping. Rather than a simple cost-benefit analysis, insight into the complexity of normative behavior and perception is revealed when aspects of identity and culture are applied. By understanding how emotion norms function in stress and coping behavior, literature surrounding mental health can better discern how these mechanisms exist and work within broader society.

Based on an online survey of 30 parents of public high school students, this paper analyzes how parents form opinions around sexuality in high schools. I focus on the relationship between personal opinion and the perceptions of others as well as normative and non-normative understandings of gender and sexuality. I found parents to be accepting of LGBTQ+ inclusion policies overall, especially those with LGBTQ+ children. Despite this overall support, parents are more accepting of romantic literature that contains normative relationships rather than queer relationships. I suggest that hegemonic culture supporting heterosexuality influences the opinions of parents and often causes them to see other parents as less accepting of LGBTQ+ inclusion initiatives than themselves. The results point to the importance of dismantling heteronormativity in order to create space for queer individuals in the education system.

Corporate social responsibility is a diverse and ever-changing field that presents refreshed opportunities for corporations to effectively utilize their expansive social capital networks, employees, expertise, and economic capital to benefit the communities they serve (Gond, Kang, and Moon 2011). I measure the effectiveness of local CSR efforts by utilizing expert interviews with representatives from corporations and local non-profit community organizations. An examination of who benefits from these complex, and often mutually exclusive, relationships between corporations and organizations suggests that current approaches to corporate social responsibility may not be ideal. The current focus of corporations is typically on providing financial capital for organizations, when in fact, a focus on human capital (i.e. volunteerism) is found to be more effective.

The Cordilleran rice terraces of Northern Luzon, Philippines, are a testament to Filipino ingenuity and remain an important social-ecological system within highland indigenous communities. Ifugao, one of six Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) provinces, is best known for its expansive and World Heritage Site recognized rice terraces, and has been a popular tourist destination in the Philippines for the past twenty years. According to local rice farmers, though, the terraces in Ifugao are quickly becoming degraded, as a series of external and internal factors have placed pressure on the indigenous community. Drawing from anthropological, ecological, and historical sources, I examine the history and current state of the Ifugao rice terraces. I analyze the effects of tourism and rural out-migration to pinpoint the root causes of terrace degradation, examining Ifugao traditional knowledge (TK) alongside Western values of productivity and industry. Ultimately, I find that the best path forward in ending terrace degradation requires both Ifugao and Western thought, and I argue that the commodification of heirloom rice varieties in Ifugao best embodies this framework. I further argue that IRRI's HRP has the funding and framework to successfully and sustainably commodify heirloom rice, assuming that IRRI employs community-driven development (CDD).

Research suggests that a significant portion of LGBTQIA+ individuals report that their sexual orientation and/or gender identity play a substantial role in choosing which postsecondary institution to attend; thus, it is incumbent upon institutions for higher education to assess their respective campus climates. This project evaluates LGBTQIA+ campus climate at a small, private, Midwestern liberal arts university. Utilizing a grounded theory approach, I interviewed my queer-identified classmates – selected via a combination of strategic and snowball sampling – about their experiences on campus. Through these discussions, I gained a better understanding of queer students’ experiences within the classroom, extracurricular activities, living spaces, and elsewhere throughout the institution. Findings include a divide between cisgender and transgender or nonbinary participants’ perceptions of campus climate, as well as incongruence in institutional policy and students’ lived experiences. The information I gleaned from these interviews was then used to suggest ways for the university to better serve its LGBTQIA+ population.

Wicca has typically been viewed as an empowering alternative to institutionalized and patriarchal religions, and women especially have been drawn to this religion because of its inclusion of women as goddesses and priestesses. It is also seen as a sex-positive religion, and many LGBTQ+ people embrace Wicca due to its lack of concepts such as sin and shame, especially around sex and sexuality. This research, however, troubles the claim that Wicca is a feminist, woman-friendly, queer-friendly religion. While women are celebrated and valued, I argue that women’s positive portrayal as mothers, nurturers, emotional, and intuitive portrays women’s nature in a gender essentialist way. My research also explores the consequences and limitations of emphasizing Wicca as a fertility religion, as women’s power is theoretically restricted to their potential for motherhood. The resulting heteronormativity and its procreative focus can create an exclusionary environment for gay men and women as well as for transgender and genderfluid or non-binary individuals. For this research, I engaged in ethnographic participant-observation of a local Wiccan coven and conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with Wiccans and Pagans from across the United States and England. In doing so, I was able to gauge Wiccan practitioners’ attitudes related to gender and sexuality and explore the ways in which Wiccans are modifying their practices to be more inclusive.

Food intolerances and food allergies are evolving and diagnoses of such conditions are rapidly increasing. Yet our ancient bodies and social resources are not adapting to this dynamic environment. Accessing healthcare and allergen-free foods is necessary for all people with food allergies and intolerances, but gaps in social resources complicate acquiring these resources, especially for low-income individuals. This interdisciplinary pilot study utilizes a mixed method approach, including sociologically and anthropologically-based surveys and participant observation, respectively, and is guided by the action research approach. Data analysis illustrates major gaps in access to healthcare, specifically to dietitians, and in food acquisition from government agencies and food pantries. All grocery stores included in this study have some amount of allergen-free foods, but knowledge of these products varies drastically. The paper is concluded with a resource-neutral plan of action that aims to enhance the lives of people who suffer from food intolerances in McLean County, Illinois.

The phenomenon of migration is best viewed as a general dichotomy between voluntary and forced migration. The following study pertains to the latter....[and] is divided into four sections. Section I is an outline and critique of conventional theories of migration which include neoclassical/neoliberal theory, new economics of labor migration (NELM), segmented labor market theory, social capital theory and world systems analysis. Included in this section is also a review and defense of the recent reconceptualizations of forced migration. Section II develops the framework of capital logic that creates forced migration. As a nuanced contribution to World Systems analysis of migration, I will highlight three Marxian concepts that dialectically constitute forced migration: expanded reproduction, the global reserve army and accumulation by dispossession. Section III looks at the relevance of aforementioned concepts in modern and contemporary Mexican history. Section IV is an analysis of the in-depth interviews I undertook with eleven Mexican nationals in Bloomington-Normal. I will highlight specific aspects of their experiences in order to expose first hand the injustices and complexities of forced migration. I then offer concluding remarks and ideas for social change. I will emphasize not only that migration is a human right, but also that there should be a right not to migrate: that is, alternative development-development on people's own terms-is the necessary prescription to cease forced migration. Accordingly, I will bring attention to what migrants themselves affirm regarding what is to be done.

Past researchers have examined the prevalence of dating violence among college-aged students in the United States. Using a self-reported survey of the experiences of current college students, this study analyzed some of the factors related to physical, emotional, and sexual abuses in their romantic relationships. From that analysis, comparisons were drawn with the research from other college-university samples, attempting to describe and explore the problem of violence in premarital relationships. In the sample, race, number of past serious romantic relationships, and frequency of experienced anger was associated with minor physical abuse. Non-involvement in Greek Life was associated with experiencing major physical abuse. Gender, sexual orientation, and current year in school were associated with experiencing sexual abuse. Number of months spent in a most recent romantic relationship, consuming alcohol, and weekly alcohol consumption were associated with experiencing sexual abuse.

Courtney Irby - Associate Professor of Sociology

Department - Sociology & Anthropology