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First Recipient of the Alison Piepmeier Scholarship Shares Experience Knowing the Well-Loved Activist and Scholar

Posted by: Christine Ragusa | January 31, 2017 Comments Off on First Recipient of the Alison Piepmeier Scholarship Shares Experience Knowing the Well-Loved Activist and Scholar |

Leigh Friar

Last August, to honor the memory of Dr. Alison Piepmeier, the College of Charleston’s Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) program established a scholarship in her name.  Alison was known for her social activism, scholarship, and dedication to students.  As the Charleston City Paper put it, “Alison was a force of nature.”

This spring, Leigh Friar was chosen as the first recipient of the scholarship. Leigh is uniquely deserving of this award. In addition to her commitment to social activism, Alison was Leigh’s professor, mentor, and role model.

“Dr. Piepmeier had a significant influence on me – not only on my academic career but on my personal growth,” Leigh says.

Before leaving their family’s small farm on Johns Island, Leigh already committed to studying biology. “I wanted to go into the hard sciences because I believed that objectivity was the answer to every question,” Leigh says. After meeting Alison during their freshman seminar class, however, Leigh was intrigued. “When I asked her what it meant to study in women’s and gender studies she told me it was about questioning and challenging the perceived objectivity of academia and creating space for activism.”

Leigh declared a WGS major the following day.

Since freshman year, Leigh, now a senior, has worked with many organizations to help make a difference in the Charleston community. Leigh has worked with People Against Rape as a sexual assault survivor advocate, My Sister’s House as a crisis line advocate, and the Southern Poverty Law Center to raise funds for survivors of partner violence. Most recently, Leigh started volunteering as an organizer with Girls Rock Charleston, a nonprofit organization focused on empowering girls and transgender youth. Leigh also started working with We Are Family, an organization that provides opportunities to LGBTQI youth and straight ally youth, to start a support group for the parents of trans and gender non-conforming children. “These organizations have not only allowed me to see the practical application of my academic studies but to give back to my community,” Leigh says.

After graduation in May, Leigh plans to continue gender and sexuality studies at the graduate level and aspires to get a Ph.D. in social work in order to teach and inspire others, just like Alison did. “I watched as Dr. Piepmeier inspired students to unapologetically carve out space for themselves. I want to focus my teaching career on ethics in social work and intersectionality in academia.”

We’re certain that Alison would be proud to have Leigh as the first recipient of the Alison Piepmeier Scholarship.

Thank you to those who have donated to the Alison Piepmeier Scholarship in order to help students like Leigh. To learn about and donate to the fund, click here

Left to right: Women’s and Gender Studies Director Cara Delay, Leigh Frair, Provost Brian McGee

under: Publications

Our First Time Presenting at a Psychology Conference!

Posted by: Christine Ragusa | December 6, 2016 Comments Off on Our First Time Presenting at a Psychology Conference! |

by: Ashley Russell and Katie Smith

Thanks to the HSS Dean’s Excellence Fund, we had the opportunity to travel to Asheville, North Carolina, in November to present a poster at the Society of Southern Social Psychologist’s annual conference.  This was our first experience presenting research that we had been collaborating on with Dr. Chelsea Reid about “Attitude Alignment and Relational Humility.” Although we only presented to three people, it gave us a chance to speak in front of professional psychologists and student peers, which made us more confident after the experience. We were also able to talk to other students presenting research and sit in on a few talks about various social psychology studies being conducted in the southeast. One particular talk, changing the labels on feminism to make the concept more widely accepted across genders, was of particular interest to both of us.

This was a valuable experience for us because we got the chance to show off our own work and feel proud of it. Sometimes, it is hard to see why we spend so many hours in a lab conducting studies, running tests, and writing up research papers. But, attending this conference made us feel a part of a growing community of social psychologists all interested in explaining the human experience.


Left to right: Ashley Russell, Katie Smith

under: Publications

Travel Award Recipient Maisy Deans Presents Research in Asheville

Posted by: Christine Ragusa | November 29, 2016 Comments Off on Travel Award Recipient Maisy Deans Presents Research in Asheville |

by: Maisy Deans

I am currently a junior majoring in psychology and minoring in political science. I work in Dr. Reid’s Social Psychology lab on campus at the College of Charleston. This past fall, 2016, I was accepted to present our research at the Society of Southeastern Social Psychologists (SSSP) conference in Asheville, NC. SSSP was founded by a group of social psychologists in 1978 and every year they host a nationwide conference where students, faculty and professional psychologists meet to share their research. I was awarded the School of Humanities and Social Sciences travel award, which made this inspiring opportunity possible.


Maisy Deans is pictured on the right.

The conference was such a new and exciting experience for me, one that I will remember forever, as it was my first psychology conference. I am very interested in learning about the self and relationships. At the conference, I attended several talks about new research on intimate connections, personal motivations, and the influence of perceived partner commitment. Additionally, I presented our research poster, and explained our study and its findings to attendees at the conference. I learned so much from this experience, both by presenting and by listening. It was especially amazing to meet with other aspiring psychologists and to discuss current research and future ideas. I look forward to continuing work in the social psychology lab, and I am so grateful to the School of Humanities and Social Sciences for helping me attend the SSSP Conference.

Maisy was awarded the HSS Travel Award, which was made possible by donations to the HSS Dean’s Excellence Fund. To help fund student conference travel, internships and other experiential learning opportunities, donate to the fund today!

under: Publications

School of Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty Offer Insight Into the 2016 Election

Posted by: Christine Ragusa | October 24, 2016 Comments Off on School of Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty Offer Insight Into the 2016 Election |

presidential-election-2016-1Believe it or not, political science is not the only discipline within our school that offers insights into the 2016 election. Because many of our 170 faculty have interdisciplinary research interests, our school has a lot to say on a range of important topics. So, we’ve asked our faculty to draw from their specialties to help inform discussions about the upcoming election and future of American politics. Read what they had to say.


Lisa Covert

Lisa Covert

Lisa Covert: “Many observers have despaired that the rhetoric in this election cycle resembles something from a third world banana republic. Students in my Latin American history classes would not find this surprising because they know that if the so-called banana republics have a reputation for corruption, repression, and strong-man politics, it is in part because outside interests, including the United States, have frequently intervened to keep them that way. When viewed in the context of our long history of U.S.-Latin American relations then, this election is not so much an anomaly as it is an unveiling of what has long lurked beneath the surface.”

Adam Domby: “As much as the election is all about the future of America, it’s also about the nation’s past. In some ways, the Donald Trump phenomenon is uniquely new, and history provides few comparisons (at least from the United States). In others, Trump is a continuation of old trends in American history. But overall, most historians, both conservative and liberal leaning, seem to agree that Trump is an existential threat to the nation, combining the very worst elements of our past and ignoring those things that have kept America a stable republic. I would also argue that he is a product of America’s own troubled history.” This was taken from a recent Huffington Post article written by Dr. Domby. Read the full article here.


Rachel McKinnon

Rachel McKinnon

Rachel McKinnon: “I work on what we say to each other, some of which involves the nature of lies, bullshit, and propaganda. Bullshit is when one says, roughly, what one thinks one’s audience wants to hear, without any regard to whether one thinks the statement true or false. This election season, in particular, has been a rich source of examples of bullshit, often involving candidates or their surrogates making contradictory assertions.”


Gibbs Knotts“Political scientists have a number of tools to help understand the current election.  Quantitative researchers analyze polling results to identify trends and develop projections of the characteristics of people who will vote for Trump, Clinton, Johnson, and Stein.  Political scientists have also developed forecasting models, often using just a few variables, to predict election results.  Qualitative researchers conduct focus groups and in-depth interviews to gain insights about the current contests.  They also gauge reactions to campaign advertisements and other decisions about candidate messaging.”

Jordan Ragusa: “It sounds simple, but this election confirms one thing: party identification is an exceptionally strong factor in one’s political beliefs.  Even though both candidates are deeply unpopular, it’s remarkable that only 10% are “true” independents and the vast majority have lined up behind their party’s candidate.”

Claire Wofford

Claire Wofford

Claire Wofford: “Long after the drama and and divisiveness of the 2016 Presidential election have faded from our daily lives,  the impact of the election itself may last for decades, if not generations. The next President certainly may shape national policy through executive orders and Congress, but it will be in appointments to the Supreme Court that the most substantive, and long-lasting influence will occur. The Supreme Court may not seem as exciting as scandals, but that is the institution over whom the next President’s influence – and policy choices – will be most profound.”


Chelsea Reid-Short: “We should all be aware of our own biases. Social psychology teaches us that we tend to interpret information and other people in ways that are consistent with our existing beliefs rather than look at information in an unbiased manner, and we engage in cognitive processes to justify our behaviors and attitudes even when they are inconsistent. This is part of being human, but we should try to overcome these biases, particularly when making important decisions like voting for a presidential candidate.”

Related: Chelsea wrote an article titled, “Are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Ruining Your Relationship?”


Elijah Siegler

Elijah Siegler

Elijah Siegler recently wrote an article titled “Trump’s Magical Appeal: A Dated Anthropologist Offers Clues”. Dr. Siegler notes that political identity is much like religious identity. “As more and more studies are showing, politics isn’t just about policy. It’s also about identity, community, meaning and belief—in other words, the domain of religion and religious scholarship,” he states. In the article, Dr. Siegler looks at religious scholar James Frazer’s theory about the vitality and magic of kings and compares it to 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump. Because, as history shows, citizens have the ideology that a strong ruler represents a strong society. Read more.


Tracy Burkett: “Political sociologists are concerned with the organization of political and social power, especially how these are unequally distributed according to demographic  characteristics such as age, race, gender, class, and education. During this election season, adopting a sociological  viewpoint can help illuminate the social processes that heighten competition among social groups, govern patterns of political association, and drive political participation.”


Related: Join the School of Humanities and Social Sciences on November 19th for our 25th anniversary event “Ballots and Brunch: A Review of the 2016 Presidential Election and Future of American Politics.”



under: Publications

Master of Public Administration Major Funded to Travel to Columbia Conference

Posted by: Christine Ragusa | October 19, 2016 Comments Off on Master of Public Administration Major Funded to Travel to Columbia Conference |

by: Sarah Fichera

sarah-fichera-hss-travel-grantI was awarded the School of Humanities and Social Sciences’ travel award to attend the 9th annual Public Education Partners Conference in Columbia, South Carolina, on Friday, October 14th. I am a second year graduate student in the Master of Public Administration program with a specialization in education policy. Looking ahead to the spring semester, I will need to complete a Capstone project as well as network to find a job upon graduation in May, 2017. This conference presented an opportunity to plant the seeds for success next semester.

At the conference, I was able to network with education stakeholders from across the state. I met a woman who works for a nonprofit organization designed specifically to fundraise on behalf of her local school district. This interaction sparked an idea for an upcoming project: I plan to compare different funding models from across the state to offer recommendations on behalf of Charleston County School District (CCSD). I am excited to capture this state-wide information with the hopes of benefiting our our local community in tangible ways.


under: Publications

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