Emory Sociology was a hotbed of activity this weekend (Feb. 19-20, 2016). Young scholars from around the region came to our campus to participate in the Southeastern Undergraduate Sociology Symposium, affectionately known as “SEUSS.”
We’ve had the pleasure of hosting SEUSS for 34 years, along with our esteemed colleagues at Morehouse Sociology. Alternating each year, one of the departments serves as the organizer and gathering point for SEUSS. This year was our turn, and next year will be Morehouse Sociology’s turn.
The symposium got off to a roaring start on Friday night. Following an hour of tasty food and conversation, our own Dean Robin Forman offered a thoughtful presentation. Not only did he talk about the unique contributions and strengths of sociology as a discipline, he also made clear an important point: sociology is something that is learned not simply by absorbing material in the classroom, but rather, by doing it — engaging in theoretically-informed and empirically-rigorous research. Our keynote speaker for the evening, Dr. Barret Michalec, demonstrated that point to perfection.
As an alum of Emory Sociology, earning both his BA and PhD here, Barret compellingly laid out his intellectual journey, doing so in a conversational way rather than a jargonistic way. In essence, he addressed how he developed answers to two broad questions: Why is the world the way it is and how can we make it better? His particular foci revolved around empathy — namely, how it is that medical curriculum and training tends to reduce empathy in medical students and how interventions in that curriculum and training can reverse that tendency. This matters because those physicians that remain relatively more empathetic than their peers are also ones who have higher job satisfaction, higher evaluations by their peers, and lower levels of malpractice difficulties. Befitting the collegiate athlete he was, and the marathoner that he now is, Barret energetically took the audience step by step through his evolving answers — prowling back and forth across the stage (if not daring the audience to fall asleep!).
The energy carried over from Friday night to Saturday. We had concurrent sessions, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, in which undergraduates presented their own sociological research. These sessions drew upon 48 paper presentations of students from 14 different institutions of higher education. Their papers dealt with core issues in such areas as crime and criminal justice, education, family, healthcare, media and sexualities. Their papers also represented a multitude of theories and a healthy range of methodologies (both qualitative and quantitative). The presenters that traveled the farthest were from University of Notre Dame and Centenary College of Louisiana. Throughout the day, these students gave Barret a run for the money in terms of their own enthusiasm. And, as Dean Forman would appreciate, they all made clear the importance of doing sociology.
The success of SEUSS 2016 is due to the efforts of many people. As a result, I want to give a shout-out of appreciation to this year’s co-organizers, Dr. Karen Hegtvedt and Dr. Sonal Nalkur (both of Emory Sociology). Thanks also to our own Brandon Mitchell for all of his logistical support. Thanks to the Emory Sociology graduate students who served as session moderators. And, of course, thanks to the mentors and advisors who worked closely with the students that participated in SEUSS.
Finally, I want to give a shout-out of congratulations to the following scholars. Their papers were selected by a committee as the best of those entered into the SEUSS 2016 paper competition.
- First Place: Xueqing Wang, Emory University; “The ‘Wealthy High-Flyers’: Media’s Framing of Chinese International Students in the U.S., 2009-2015
- Second Place: Naveed Noordin, Emory University; “How Does Satisfaction with GP Appointment Wait Time Correlate with Overall Satisfaction with the NHS?”
- Third Place: Phyllis McDaniels Morton, Coastal Carolina University; “State-of-the-State: The Effects of Race and Socioeconomic Status on Educational Achievement and Attainment in South Carolina”
On to SEUSS 2017 at Morehouse Sociology!