Graduate Students on the Market

Elizabeth Straley

Beth Straley

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.  

Elizabeth Straley's CV

Alexis Swendener

Alexis Swendener

Alexis Swendener CV 


Alexis researches social inequalities and well-being related to family, gender, and work largely among marginalized and understudied groups. Her related research strands focus on how these areas impact rural and farm/ranch populations, sexual minorities of color, and health science knowledge and communication; and her research informs her teaching and mentoring goals as well.


First, Alexis’s dissertation work studies the impact of work and family roles on health and relationships, using data on understudied farm families. She is using both quantitative (survey) and qualitative (in-depth interview) data to examine the relationship between farm men and women’s various work roles and their health and well-being. In particular, she is examining (1) how farm women’s three work roles (housework/childcare, paid employment, and farm work) and their sense of being appreciated are related to their well-being, (2) the association between farm women’s ideal family work arrangements, actual work arrangements, and health, and (3) how farm women and men understand and negotiate paid and unpaid work roles. This project informs family scholarship by examining not only workload-based measures of work-family balance or conflict (e.g., time spent in and split across role types) but also subjective and couple-level relational factors influencing health and happiness (e.g., relative time spent in different types of work compared to a spouse, appreciation felt for work and family roles). In addition to adding to a better understanding of understudied rural populations, Alexis’s dissertation work has theoretical and practical implications for families with members who also hold multiple family and work roles, including those with multiple jobs or running small businesses in addition to standard paid employment and housework roles.


Alexis’s research on rural families expands beyond her dissertation. She is also exploring associations between farm women’s rural/farming identity and motivations for taking off-farm employment with implications for individual well-being. In collaborative projects, she examines how farm women’s work is associated with gender identity, and she utilizes nuanced categorizations of rurality to understand adolescent alcohol use, such as population as well as adjacency to other populated areas.


Alexis also examines families and health in the lives of marginalized groups. An ongoing collaborative project examines how familial and relationship factors influence health and well-being among sexual minorities of color. This research utilizes an intersectional framework to better explicate risk as well as resiliency in health by examining multiple identities, relationship statuses, and family support. Part of this research is published in the Journal of GLBT Family Studies, finding unique demographic predictors of family support among Black and Latinx sexual minorities. Family support was also found to influence self-rated health and happiness among these populations, with differences found by sexual and gender identity and relationship status as well.


A final strand of research merges Alexis’s interest in health/well-being with science knowledge, communication, and framing. She examines how social factors intersect to influence levels of adult biological/health science knowledge including religious affiliation and participation, gender, and rurality. Additional collaborative work examines how social frames (e.g., religious and political identities/affiliations) influence science knowledge as well as individuals’ general science interest and identity. Her research on science knowledge and framing continues to inform and further motivate her approaches to communicating the findings of her other research projects with the goal of sharing results among various public groups, scholars, and policy makers.


Alexis’ research interests inform her teaching and mentorship goals as well. She has independently prepared and instructed four courses in a variety of formats (from small in-person to large and online courses) and served as a teaching assistant in a large variety of classes and formats. Courses taught include general courses such as Social Problems and Introduction to Sociology as well as courses in her research areas such as Families and Society and Gender in Contemporary Society. She also values mentorship opportunities. She is currently mentoring an undergraduate student in a summer research fellowship program working on her sexual minorities of color project. In addition, she is training and overseeing six undergraduate students working on an NSF-funded research project to better understand data quality in telephone surveys.

Brandi Woodell

Brandi Woodell

Brandi’s CV


Brandi’s research examines how inequality is created and reproduced. Specifically, she studies the disparities between sexual minorities and heterosexuals within social contexts such as religion, family, and health. Her work is guided by an intersectional framework that considers not only sexual orientation, but other factors including gender and geographic location. In her dissertation, she applies this intersectional lens to the study of sexual minority health disparities by including how gender and rurality shape the experiences of community resources and social support. By implementing both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, her work informs, both empirically and theoretically, the fields of sexuality, health, religion, gender, and social psychology.


Brandi’s dissertation, “Health in Rural Communities: Variation in Resource Utilization by Sexual Orientation and Gender,” examines the inequality of health-related resources between heterosexuals and sexual minorities. Through 60 qualitative in-depth interviews, this project analyzes resource access and utilization among sexual minority and heterosexual women and men within rural areas. Her dissertation makes two contributions. First, this study provides insight into social support and health-related resources available to, utilized by, and missing from the lives of rural sexual minorities compared to rural heterosexuals. Second, it highlights the rural-specific resources that sexual minorities utilize, which expands current literature that has focused on connection to LGBTQ community events and organizations as urban-specific resources.


Other current projects focus on inequalities connected to religion. One project addresses how identifying as a sexual minority impacts religiosity over time, making comparisons between heterosexual, gay, lesbian, and bisexual respondents by gender, using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) and the National Study of Youth and Religion. Another project examines differences in how heterosexual and sexual minority individuals use their religious beliefs to cope with stress, using data from the National Survey of Midlife Development.


Brandi has also developed and taught several courses in a variety of formats. She has taught general and survey courses, including Social Problems and Introduction to Sociology, as well as courses in gender and sexuality, including Gender and Contemporary Society, Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies, and Introduction to LGBTQ/Sexuality Studies. Her teaching experience includes teaching both large and small enrollment courses from 15 to 75 students. Additionally, she has developed and taught several online courses. Outside of the classroom, she has mentored several students through honors projects and supervised an undergraduate research assistant. In recognition for her teaching and mentoring abilities, Brandi was awarded the 2017 Cheryl Applegate Teaching Award.