Penn Sociology News

June 6, 2014

Dr. Grace Kao was just elected as Chair of the American Sociological Association (ASA) section on Children and Youth.  She was also elected to the ASA Committee on Nominations.

June 2, 2014

Sociology Ph.D student Yi-Lin Chiang has been recently awarded the 2014 GAPSA-Provost Fellowship for Interdisciplinary Innovation.

May 29, 2014

Sociology Ph.D. candidate Rachel Ellis won a Joseph H. Fichter Research Grant from the Association for the Sociology of Religion for her dissertation on religion among incarcerated women.

May 28, 2014

Jerry A. Jacobs' essay, "Why Disciplines Still Matter" was published in the May 27th issue of the Chronical of Higher Education.

Full Article

May 23, 2014


Penn Sociology is proud of all of our students for their hard work and dedication to the program. Today we highlight one of them, Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng, who recently received his Ph.D in Education Policy and Sociology.

Sebastian's research interests are in the areas of comparative perspectives on race/ethnicity, immigration, youth and adolescence, development, and education.  As such, his scholarly work has focused on the social lives of racial/ethnic and immigrant adolescents in the United States, gender and ethnic differences in education in China, ethnic identification in China, and cultural and social capital transfers between US adolescent friends. He will be joining the faculty of New York University as an Assistant Professor in International Education this Fall.

We had a chance to catch up with Sebastian to learn more about the motivation behind his research, and why he chose Penn Sociology.
What motivated you to engage in the particular research you are doing?

For most of my life, I have worked with minority youth in a number of capacities: as a middle school math teacher, youth organizer, foreign language instructor, and mentor. Although I am convinced that many marginalized young people possess a resiliency that eclipses my own, many of my students, after leaving my classroom, had less than ideal outcomes. Even in vastly different contexts, such as impoverished rural China or immigrant enclaves in large US cities, I found similar stories and shared experiences.  Therefore, the desire to understand the larger forces that shaped the lives of minority youth – and ultimately to help make things right – forms the basis of my research agenda.

How do you hope to build on this research as you continue your academic career?
Currently, I am transitioning from my role as graduate student to professor, and will further establish my research agenda that I have started during my time at Penn. An aspect that will be newer to me will be teaching courses based on my research, such as courses on comparative ethnicity and education, immigration in the US, etc. Moreover, I look forward to working with other scholars, policymakers, and practitioners to better address the needs of our youth.

What factors went into your decision to choose Penn Sociology?
I was a joint PhD student with sociology from Penn’s Graduate School of Education, where my program was Education Policy. I believe it is rare that a university allows such flexibility of study between schools, and operating in both worlds allowed me to learn the norms of both sociology departments and schools of education.

The main draw, of course, was the faculty. My interests in marginalized youth in both US and Chinese contexts were a great match for the expertise of Drs. Grace Kao and Emily Hannum.

How has the department been able to support your research interests?

As a sociologist who studies the social relationships in the lives of young people, I know very well the power that parents, teachers, and friends have in shaping important outcomes. Imagine the importance of good advisors, who take on the responsibilities of all three key actors!

When I reflect on my time at Penn, I think of my interactions with my mentors, Dr. Kao and Dr. Hannum.  When I came to Penn five years ago, I knew almost nothing about sociology (my alma mater didn’t even have the major). I’m still not sure why both were willing to work with me in the first place, but I am supremely grateful. I am the scholar I am today because of the incredible and excruciatingly time-consuming effort of Dr. Kao and Dr. Hannum.

Many graduate students in the department were also a great resource, not only to brainstorm about paper ideas or figure out a particularly arcane statistical method, but for social support. And the administration in the department cannot be beat. Their help really allowed me to focus primarily on my research.  

What is the biggest thing you've learned about yourself during your time as a graduate student?

When I first considered entering a PhD program, a co-worker (who was a teacher) said that people who go to grad school “lose their souls.” I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I think for students who forget why they came to grad school (or didn’t have a good reason to begin with), a PhD can be tough.

I worked both my hardest and happiest when I realized that finishing the program and becoming a professor, while worthy goals, did not motivate me to return to school. Instead, the responsibility I believe I have to society and its young people is still the reason for doing what I do. And the knowledge, skills, and relationships I have cultivated during my time at Penn will definitely help me toward this goal.

To check out the profiles of our graduate students, visit our Graduate Student Page.

For more information about Sebastian, visit his personal website.

May 15, 2014

Sociology Ph.D student Maryann Erigha was recently selected to participate in the USC Annenberg 2014 Summer Institute on Diversity in Media and Culture.

May 13, 2014

Sociology Ph.D student Seth Harvey has recently won a 2014 SASgov and Dean's Award for Research and New Media.

May 12, 2014

Sociology Ph.D student Valerio Bacak has recently received a Mathematica Summer Research Fellowship.  The Mathematica Summer Research Fellowship program, "supports independent, self-directed research on economic or social problems that affect minority groups and individuals with disabilities."

May 6, 2014

Sociology Ph.D student Shani Evans has won a National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, as well as a fellowship from the American Sociological Association Minority Fellowship Program (MFP). The Spencer awards is a writing fellowship; the MFP award is a supplemental fellowship which covers travel to the ASA Annual meeting and other expenses.

May 1, 2014

Tukufu Zuberi's museum exhibit, Tides of Freedom: African Presence on the Delaware River, was recently mentioned in an article on the Independence Seaport Museum in USAir Magazine.  This magazine will be available on board future US Airways flights. 

Full Article

April 30, 2014

Sociology Ph.D student Alexander Jerneck was recently featured in Penn SAS Frontiers to discuss his research on the role of taxation in the development of American corporate law.

Full Article


April 23, 2014

Ross Koppel was recently featured in Penn News discussing his recent study, "Circumvention of Security: Good Users Do Bad Things."

Full Penn News Article

April 17, 2014

A chapter of Sociology Ph.D student Benjamin DiCicco-Bloom's dissertation was recently selected for the "Graduate Student Paper Award" of the Disabilities Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.  Benjamin's dissertation is titled, "The New Normal: Families, Autism, and the Transition to Adulthood."

April 16, 2014

Sociology Ph.D student Andrew Stokes was recently featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer further discussing his research that suggests that obesity studies are underestimating the mortality risks associated with excess weight in the U.S.

Full Article


April 14, 2014

Sociology Ph.D student Natalie Young has been selected as a recipient of the Foreign Language and Areas Studies Fellowship (FLAS) for Academic Year 2014-2015. The fellowship, funded through a grant to Penn from the U.S Department of Education, provides tuition assistance and a stipend "to assist meritorious undergraduate students and graduate students undergoing training in modern foreign languages and related area or international studies."

Natalie plans to use the fellowship to advance her study of Mandarin, Chinese and contemporary Chinese society.  

April 11, 2014

Sociology Ph.D student Charlene Cruz-Cerdas was recently awarded the Cesar Chavez Dissertation Fellowship at Dartmouth College.  Her dissertation is titled, "Forced to Choose: How Racialization and the Privatization of Higher Education Constrain Latino College Choice."

April 8, 2014

Sociology Ph.D student Andrew Stokes was recently featured in Penn News regarding his research suggesting that obesity studies are underestimating the mortality risks associated with excess weight in the United States.  His viewpoints come from his recently published study, "Using Maximum Weight to Redefine Body Mass Index Categories in Studies of the Mortality Risks of Obesity."

Full Penn News Article
Andrew's Personal Website

April 7, 2014

Jerry Jacobs' presentation (with Linda Sax, professor of Education at the University of California at Los Angeles) from the American Education Research Association (AERA) Meetings on the effects of the Great Recession on enrollment in STEM fields was covered by the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education.

April 4, 2014

Penn Sociology is proud to announce that the following Ph.D students have been awarded Fellowships by the School of Arts & Sciences:

Dissertation Completion Fellowship
Tugce Elliati
Juhow Wei

Dissertation Research Fellowship

Yi-Lin Chiang
Doga Kerestecioglu

Teece Research Fellowship

Radha Modi
Aliya Rao
Sarah Spell


April 4, 2014

A paper by Sociology Ph.D Student Alexander Jerneck has been selected by the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE) Awards Committee as an Outstanding Submission. The paper is titled, "Endogenizing Change: Power and Taxes in the Development of American Corporate Law." 

The annual SASE conference with be held in Chicago July 10-12, 2014.