I am a current PhD student in Sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Go Big Red!). I graduated with an Associate Degree in Science from Southeast Community College-Lincoln in 2012, as well as a B.A. in Psychology (2015) and a M.A. in Sociology (2017) from Nebraska. I spent 10 years working in the healthcare field before returning to college, where I first learned about the health disparities facing many Americans. Through my research I hope to work with others to understand and reduce inequity in healthcare, improve the quality of care provided to patients by their healthcare professionals, and empower patients, their families, and caregivers to advocate for their health. My aim is to be an interdisciplinary scholar, and I have taken graduate coursework in gerontology and health communication in addition to my graduate work in sociology.
One particular focus of my previous work is understanding how societal actors attribute responsibility in health conditions that have policy relevance. As an example, my work on diabetes made evident the less stringent approach to treatment standards and quality of care for those who society blame for developing type 2 diabetes when compared to those presumed to have no control over the development of type 1 diabetes. I am currently working on a project with faculty at UNMC exploring racial disparities in diabetes outcomes.
My dissertation examines how social and structural factors affect the development, progression, and receipt of medical care for people with ALS using a social epidemiological approach. ALS is a devastating diagnosis and understanding the complicated relationship of social factors to the disease is an important part of working towards delaying or preventing onset, slowing progression, and ending inequities in access to medical care for people diagnosed with ALS. In all of the analyses, I focus on social location indicators (e.g. level of education, gender, occupation type). Insights from my dissertation have the potential to create a framework for investigating the transmission of information and the access to potential treatments for ALS, as well as tests current sociological theories in a relatively understudied disease. Given the cost of current treatments on the market for ALS, this is an important area of research and one that potentially can be translated to other diseases.
I am the former President of the Nebraska Association of Sociology Graduate Students and I have been active on several university committees. I am a Nebraska Ronald E. McNair Scholar Alum and a current Nebraska Ronald E. McNair Graduate Student Mentor. I currently serve on the Minority Scholars Committee for the Midwest Sociological Society and a member of the American Sociological Association and the Population Association of America.
When I am not on campus, my hobbies include full-time RVing, listening to podcasts, and learning the ins-and-outs of competitive BBQ with my husband, Jasen. I am also active in patient advocacy for those diagnosed with Diabetes as well as for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis patients.
I received my Bachelor’s degree in 2011, and my Master’s degree in 2015, both from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I achieved PhD candidacy status in August 2018, and plan to defend my dissertation in the summer of 2019.
I have spent the past five years at the university working as research assistant in the Reach Lab under Dr. Kirk Dombrowski. My research here has focused on several areas of study, including injection drug use, rural drug use, Hepatitis C and HIV transmission, hard-to-reach populations, and social network analysis – including simulated networks. My work in these areas has led to several publications, including articles in PLosONE, Harm Reduction, and other academic journals.
Beyond these, my research interests also include inequality in health and nutrition, economic sociology, and quantitative methods. My Master’s thesis focused on these areas, examining how consumers made decisions about the foods they bought and ate, and how choices were made under constraints.
My dissertation examines how various forms of capital are generated and exchanged among people who inject drugs in rural areas. The underlying theory is based on the works of Pierre Bourdieu, who promoted the idea that there are multiple forms of capital - such as social capital, cultural capital, and human capital – and that focusing strictly on financial capital results in an incomplete picture of the economics at work in a system. This work examines these questions about capital through a variety of quantitative methods – including regression, exponential random graph models (ERGMs), and network simulation, the latter of which measures the long-term effects of capital on Hepatitis C rates in a large drug co-use network.
In addition to my research experience, I have also taught the online section of Sociology 252 – Health, Medicine, and Society on several occasions, and was even tasked with developing the initial online version of the course in 2016. The course provides an introduction to medical sociology for both majors, as well as students from health-related fields who wish to learn more about the topic.
Upon graduation, I plan to return to Omaha and find work in an applied position.
Elizabeth Straley studies health disparities, biosociological methods, and inequalities, especially among the LGBTQ population. She is currently completing her mixed-methods primary data collection dissertation addressing LGB health and resilience in university students. Her dissertation was supported by an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, “Population Neuroscience Approaches to Minority Discrimination and Health” and utilized cutting-edge survey and experimental methods, along with novel biosignals (i.e., electrodermal activity and electroencephalography). Using this new data source, Elizabeth’s research illustrates the differences and similarities amongst LGB and heterosexual college students as they experience and respond to stress.
She has also used multilevel modeling to investigate state-level restrictive policies regarding abortion and their association with women’s health and well-being in her Master’s Thesis and to examine police deployment tactics within and between neighborhoods. All of Elizabeth’s research projects pivot around the importance of the consequences of in- and out- group stigma and stress for marginalized populations. Her teaching experience includes both online and in person courses ranging from 10 to 90 students on the topics of Statistical Methods for the Social Sciences, Sociology of Crime, Drugs and Society, and independent studies with undergraduates on data collection methods using biomedical equipment (electrodermal wristbands and electroencephalography nets) to investigate differential biological responses to simulated social stimuli.
Her work using biosignals has appeared in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience and Social Neuroscience and she has work under review at mainstream sociology journals. In the future, Elizabeth hopes to investigate health disparities and health care access/utilization for marginalized communities using both survey and possibly biomedical measurement in the field.
Degree & Year in Program
5th Year PhD Student
I am a 5th year PhD candidate at Nebraska. I received my Masters of Science in Rehabilitation Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2009 and my Bachelors of Science in Sociology and Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 2005. My research focuses primarily on social contexts that influence health and wellbeing in youth and young adulthood. Specifically, I examine how negative social experiences (e.g., bullying, racial discrimination) are linked with social, developmental, and health outcomes in youth and young adulthood. I address how issues such as bullying and discrimination are linked with the production of broader population health disparities over time. In addition, I have research interests in religion, delinquency, and health in adolescence. My work highlights issues of power and inequality in the achievement of positive health and wellbeing. My research agenda is grounded in a longstanding interest in social dynamics that influence health, wellbeing, and overall quality-of-life.
My dissertation examines religious-related victimization in youth, and its associations with mental health. This work highlights issues of health and stratification in a few key ways. First, I show that non-religious youth and youth belonging to non-Christian faiths have a higher risk of religious victimization than do Christian youth in the United States. Second, while religion often helps people cope with stressful life events, I show that experiencing bullying continues to have mental health consequences even at times when youth use tools of religious coping. Third, I show that religious victimization has distinct mental health implications for youth. I hypothesize that this is due to the unique threats to identity, perceptions of discrimination, and potential for physical harm associated with religious victimization.
My teaching responsibilities have included introduction to social statistics, juvenile delinquency, and introduction to sociology recitation sections. I also provided one-on-one support to students completing their senior research projects. Working with undergraduate students and even publishing with an undergraduate has allowed me to see the benefits of my work for student development by involving students in real research. I enjoy the opportunities and challenges involved in undergraduate and graduate education and see possibilities for including students in research projects. I anticipate continuing to learn from colleagues and professional development opportunities how to best meet the needs of all students so that they get the most out of my courses.
I am also currently working with a number of faculty on projects pertaining to discrimination, identity and health among college students, the emergence of gendered science identities among middle school students, how post-secondary institutional characteristics (e.g., institutional size, percent women faculty) shape women’s baccalaureate degree completions in computer science and engineering fields, and mental health consequences (i.e., dissociation, posttraumatic stress) of childhood sexual abuse among homeless youth and young adults.
Post-graduation, I hope to continue my teaching and research activities in an academic setting. I’ve enjoyed my experience at Nebraska and look forward to continued scholarship and networking in the future.