Sociology & Anthropology

Notable Faculty & Student Achievements

May 2024

  • Professor of Anthropology Melissa Johnson has just published “Lucy’s Story: The Surprising Tale of an Enslaved Black Woman in British Central America in the 1770s” in Anthropology Now. The article can be read here.





April 2024

  • Assistant Professor of Anthropology Naomi Reed (panel organizer) and Professor of Anthropology Melissa Johnson (panel chair), along with two SCOPE undergraduate students, Rose Reed ’25 and Kalista Esquivel ’26, presented their panel “Unsilencing the Past: How Oral Histories Give Voice to Black and Latinx Students at Southwestern University” on April 18 at the Southwestern Social Science Association Conference in New Orleans, LA. Dr. Johnson discussed the foundational history of the University and the founding of The SU Racial History Project. Dr. Reed discussed the liberatory potential of oral histories and why this particular method is key to unsilencing the voices of the oppressed at a predominantly white institution. Rose presented the oral history of Lynette Philips, a Black woman who attended Southwestern University between 1980-1984, played basketball for the university, and was very active on campus. Kalista presented the oral history of Eva Mendiola, a Mexican-American woman who attended Southwestern University from 1972-1975 and founded the volleyball team, which was the first women’s sports team on campus. Future plans include submitting these student papers to a special issue of an oral history journal. The conference program can be viewed here.





  • Sociology major Elena Clark ’24 was selected as the first place winner in the prestigious Alpha Kappa Delta national undergraduate paper competition for her capstone project titled “‘Freedom of the streets’ or ‘Barriers to success?’ Factors that Predict Attitudes About Homelessness In The United States.” Elena competed against sociology majors from R1s, liberal arts universities, and other schools across the country. Her award comes with a cash prize and travel money to the August 2024 American Sociological Association (ASA) meeting in Montreal, Quebec, where she will participate in the ASA Honors Program, present her paper, and receive her award at the AKD Awards Ceremony. Professor of Sociology Maria Lowe served as Elena’s faculty mentor for this project.





  • Professor of Sociology Maria Lowe and four sociology seniors attended the Southern Sociological Society annual meeting in New Orleans, LA from April 3-6. Each student also presented their capstone research. Elena Clark ’24 presented her paper titled, “‘Freedom of the streets’ or ‘Barriers to success?’ Factors that Predict Attitudes About Homelessness In The United States.” Liana Collins ’24 presented her paper titled, “Americans’ Attitudes About Second Language Learning in the U.S.” Carson Maxfield ’24 presented his paper titled, “Who is More Likely to Support Conspiracy Theories? Examining the Connections between Education, Gender, and Beliefs in Conspiracy Theory.” Brigit Reese ’24 presented her paper titled, “Hope, Nope, or Cope: Americans’ Perceptions about Climate Change in the 2020s.” In addition, Lowe, Reese, and Maxfield presented the preliminary findings from their faculty-student collaborative project titled, “Racialized Fears in White Spaces: The Frequency with Which Residents Worry About Being Perceived As Suspicious in Their Neighborhood.”





  • Professor of Anthropology Melissa Johnson presented the paper “The Crawford Family Line: Subaltern Socio-Ecological Formations on the British Coast of Central America in the 1700s” at the Political Ecology Society/Society for Applied Anthropology 84th Annual Meeting on March 27 in Santa Fe, NM.





  • Assistant Professor of Anthropology Naomi Reed and investigative journalist Brittney Martin received a 2024 Gracie Award for Best Investigative Feature [Radio ‐ Nationally Syndicated Non‐Commercial] for their podcast series “Sugar Land.” The Gracie Awards celebrate women in media. More info can be found here.





February 2024

  • Assistant Professor of Anthropology Naomi Reed was invited to present at the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration Historical Studies of Texas Symposium on February 9th and 10th in Austin, Texas. On the roundtable “Community-Based Scholarship,” she explored who gets to be “community” when decisions are being made about forgotten Black cemeteries such as The Bullhead Camp Cemetery (the current resting place of the Sugar Land 95). She discussed how the Texas Antiquities Code requires community input when remains are discovered and how the broader Black descendant community of the 95 has been ignored, thus resulting in subpar memorialization efforts by the local school district that owns the land the bodies are buried on.





  • Professor of Anthropology Melissa Johnson’s work on Belize was featured in the January 19, 202, JSTOR Daily.





  • Assistant Professor of Sociology Adriana Ponce participated in the Sociologist for Women in Society (SWS) 2024 winter meeting in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico, from January 25 to 28. She presented her project, “The Intersectional Landscape of Stepparents in the U.S.: What’s Next?,” which advocates for an intersectional, feminist approach to stepparenting research, in preparation for a Faculty-Student Project (FSP).





December 2023

  • Assistant Professor of Anthropology Naomi Reed presented her poster presentation, “From Convicts to Ancestors: Resurrecting the Humanity of the Sugar Land 95,” at The American Anthropological Association Conference in Toronto, CA on November 16, 2023, where she explored the impact of white redemptive narratives–in media, archaeology reports, history curriculum, and cemetery signage–of Black history on the memorialization efforts of the Sugar Land 95 in Fort Bend County, TX.





  • Assistant Professor of Sociology Amanda Hernandez presented “‘My Last Evangelical Hold Out’: Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, and Everything in Between” at the American Academy of Religion Conference in San Antonio, TX.





November 2023

  • Professor of Anthropology Melissa Johnson was part of a collaborative team of nearly 50 social scientists whose publication “Governance and Conservation Effectiveness in Protected Areas and Indigenous and Locally Managed Areas” Annual Review of Environment and Resources.48: 559-588 has just come out. It is available here.





October 2023

  • This past weekend (Oct 19-22), Assistant Professor of Sociology Amanda Hernandez attended the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and convened a session entitled “Feminist Approaches to the Sociology of Religion.” Additionally, she presented her paper “The Sacred & The Secular: Examining the Intersection of Feminist Christian Identification and Progressive Social Issues” with collaborator Tess Starman of Howard University and served as a guest panelist for “Religion And…How to Bring the Study of Religion into Conversation Across Disciplines.”





  • Professor of Anthropology Melissa Johnson was an invited speaker for the 26th Meeting of the United Kingdom-Belize Association (UKBA) at University College London on October 13, 2023. She presented a revised and longer version of her paper “Lucy’s Story: A Window into the Shore and the Bay in the late 1700s” via Zoom, and it was very well received.





  • Assistant Professor of Anthropology Naomi Reed was invited to discuss her podcast “Sugar Land” on the panel “Can you hear us now? Storytelling in podcasting” at the 2023 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference hosted by The University of North Texas in Dallas, Texas, this past weekend October 13-14th. (https://www.themayborn.com/schedule). Dr. Reed and her co-host, investigative journalist Brittney Martin discussed their process of writing and editing “Sugar Land” and the benefit of interdisciplinary collaboration in storytelling and producing public scholarship.





September 2023

  • Professor of Sociology Maria Lowe, Luis Romero (2018-19 SU Mellon Teaching Fellow), and Madeline Carrola ’19 published an article titled “‘Racism Masked as Safety Concerns’: The Experiences of Residents of Color With Racialized Coveillance in a Predominantly White Neighborhood” in the journal Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. In their article, the authors coin the term racialized coveillance and discuss ways that residents of color navigate and are negatively impacted by such resident-initiated monitoring practices.





April 2023

  • Professor of Sociology Maria Lowe and two sociology students attended the Southern Sociological Society annual meeting in Myrtle Beach, SC. In addition, Angel Ferrales ’25 presented her capstone paper titled, “‘As long as everything is legal and consensual, there’s no problem’: Attitudes that help to predict efforts to ban online subscription sexual content websites,” ThuyMi Phung ’24 presented her capstone paper, “‘There are Always Going to be the Bad People who Access the Guns’: Predictors of Americans’ Perspectives on Gun Violence,” and Maria Lowe and ThuyMi Phung presented their faculty-student collaborative research project titled, “‘Because history has been whitewashed for decades:’ Predictors of Attitudes about Critical Race Theory” Katherine Holcomb ’24 was a co-author on this project.





March 2023

  • ThuyMi Phung ’23 received the Southern Sociological Society’s 2023 Howard Odum Award for Best Undergraduate Paper for her capstone paper titled, “‘There are always going to be bad people who access guns’: Predictors of Americans’ Perspectives on Gun Violence.” Maria Lowe Professor of Sociology and Morenz Endowed Professor, supervised ThuyMi’s project during this year’s sociology capstone class.





November 2022

  • Professor of Anthropology Melissa Johnson presented “Feeling Climate Change in the Unruly Environment of Central Belize” for the roundtable “How Does Climate Change Feel? (Re)Thinking Cultural Embodied Responses To Environmental Precarity” at the 2022 annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, held November 9-13 in Seattle, Washington.





October 2022

  • Professor of Anthropology Melissa Johnson traveled with three students who worked with and were mentored by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Naomi Reed this summer through SCOPE to represent Southwestern at the Universities Studying Slavery Fall 2022 Conference, held September 28–October 1 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Southwestern’s panel was titled “Revealing Race and Exploring White Dominance at a Small Liberal Arts School: How Southwestern University Confronts (Ignores?) Its White Supremacist Foundations.” Johnson presented a paper coauthored with Reed titled “An Overview of the Southwestern University Racial History Project”; Maria (Cony) Cameron ’24 presented “Exploring Policy and Racial Climate”; Aspen Coriz-Romero ’24 presented “Building Communities of Care and Organizing Resistance at Southwestern University”; and Kellie Henderson ’23 presented “Early Life of Black Students and Faculty on Southwestern University Campus.” The panel was well attended, and attendees (primarily faculty) were very impressed with the students.





April 2022

  • Professor of Sociology Sandi Nenga presented her paper “When Six Feet Feels Like Six Miles: Children’s Images of Their Lives During the Pandemic” at the Southern Sociological Society 85th Annual Meeting, held April 6–9 in Birmingham, Alabama. Hannah Mitchell ’22 also presented her capstone paper “Praise on the Stage and Criticism in Class: Understanding Relationships Between Students and Their Instructors in Competitive Irish Dance Studios.”





March 2022

  • Professor of Sociology Sandi Nenga published a chapter titled “When Six Feet Feels Like Six Miles: Children’s Images of Their Lives during the COVID-19 Pandemic” in the book COVID-19 and Childhood Inequalityedited by Nazneen Kane (Routledge). Students in Nenga’s fall 2020 Childhood & Youth class collected the data for this chapter as part of a community-engaged learning project.





Feburary 2022

  • Professor of Anthropology Melissa Johnson’s review of Rajeshwari Dutt’s book Empire on Edge: The British Struggle for Order in Belize during Yucatán’s Caste War, 1847–1901 was recently published in The American Historical Review.





  • Professor of Anthropology Melissa Johnson was invited to join the editorial board of PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, the leading journal for political and legal anthropology. She will serve a three-year term.





December 2021

November 2021

  • Professor of Anthropology Melissa Johnson  organized and participated in a roundtable session cosponsored by the Society for Cultural Anthropology and the American Ethnology Society titled “Embodying Praxis: Everyday Work Toward a Liberatory Anthropology” at the 2021 American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, on November 20. One of the other roundtable participants was Cristina Alcalde, formerly of Southwestern, who now is vice president for institutional diversity and inclusion and professor of global and intercultural studies at Miami University in Ohio.





  • Assistant Professor of Anthropology Naomi Reed recently participated in WAIL, a community grief ritual performance commemorating the Sugar Land 95. She also presented on an invited panel discussion hosted by Diverse Works and the African American Library at the Gregory School titled “Unshackling History: Convict Leasing Camps in Sugar Land, TX.” Reed presented her research on the white redemptive ways in which the local school district, city, and county are responding to the discovery of the Sugar Land 95.





October 2021

  • Southwestern University was well represented at the 11th Race, Ethnicity, and Place Conference, held October 20–23 in Baltimore, Maryland. The SU Racial History Project presented a panel featuring research from both 2020 and 2021 SCOPE projects. The panel included:

      • Professor of Anthropology Melissa Johnson: “The Southwestern Racial History Project: An Overview”
      • Kristine Velez ’22 (Anthropology): “McKenzie College: A Plantation on the Edge of Indigenous Territory”
      • Saul Zuniga ’22 (History): “Soule University, Slavery, and the Confederacy”
      • Juan Mojica ’22 (Anthropology): “Hispanics, Methodism, and the Reproduction of Whiteness”
      • Rini Mannankara ’22 (Political Science and Anthropology): “The Presence and Representation of Blackness in the 1960s and 1970s at Southwestern University”

    In addition, SU alumna Esther S. Ramos-Garcia ’19 (Latin American and Border Studies), who is currently a graduate student at the University of Texas in the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies program, presented “Accompanando Ninos Migrantes ‘No Accompanados’: A Feminist Geopolitical Perspective on Central American Unaccompanied Minors in U.S. Long-Term Foster Care (LTFC)” as part of a panel titled “Asylum in Crisis.”





  • Professor of Sociology and Morenz Endowed Professor Maria Lowe has been invited to serve a three-year term on the American Sociological Association’s Honors Program Advisory Panel (2022–2024) and a one-year term on the Southern Sociological Society’s Program Committee (2022). 





September 2021

August 2021

  • Katherine Holcomb  ’23 participated in the American Sociological Association’s 2021 Undergraduate Honors Program (held online) on August 7. She presented the paper “Fear of Crime as a Gendered Experience: Gender and Risk Perception in Public Spaces,” which was originally written for the fall 2020 sociology research methods class.





  • Professor of Sociology Reggie Byron served on a “Teaching in the Liberal Arts” remote panel for the sociology department at the Ohio State University on July 28, 2021. He also presented a paper remotely at the Annual Meetings of the American Sociological Association on August 7, 2021. The paper, titled “‘Get Rid of That Ghetto Element’: Race, Gender, Work Sector, and Employers’ Ideal Worker Pursuits” reflected key findings from chapter 2 of his forthcoming Rose Series in Sociologybook on employment discrimination across the U.S.





April 2021

  • Are antibias diversity trainings effective? Associate Professor of Sociology Reggie Byron and others weigh in on the efficacy of these widely used trainings and some of their limitations in this recent Acorns–CNBC Grownews article.





  • Megan Piel  ’20 presented her sociology capstone paper titled “Watching Horror Films: A Qualitative Sociological Study of Fear” at the Southern Sociological Society on April 8.  The conference was held online.





  • Madeline Yu Carrola (’19) had a peer-reviewed article titled “Activists in Red Capes: Women’s Use of The Handmaid’s Taleto Fight for Reproductive Justice” published in The Journal for Undergraduate Ethnography. The article is based on her 2018 sociology capstone project.





Feburary 2021

  • Professor of Sociology Sandi Nenga  has been appointed to a three-year term on the editorial board of Sociological Studies of Children and Youth  (UK: Emerald).





January 2021

  • Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology Naomi Reed was invited to submit an article produced from her research on the Sugar Land 95 to the food edition of Anthropology News. The piece, titled “The Darker the History, the Sweeter the Truth: How a White-Identified City Struggles to Commemorate the Black Lives and Deaths That Produced Its Sugar and Built Its Wealth,” can be found here.





December 2020

  • Associate Professor of Sociology Reggie Byron was invited to offer feedback on an equal employment opportunity policy memo written by the leadership at the Center for Employment Equity after being solicited by incoming U.S. President Biden and his campaign. Byron’s name (and Southwestern’s) is listed in the acknowledgments along with those of seven other scholars from research universities who are noted for having a “deep knowledge of the enforcement process and EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] data quality.”





November 2020

  • Associate Professor of Sociology Reggie Byron published a review of the book Should Schools be Colorblind? by Laurie Cooper Stoll in the sociology journal Social Forces.  The review can be found here .





  • Associate Professor of Sociology Reggie Byron published a peer-reviewed teaching exercise titled “Teaching Criminology during a Pandemic” in the American Sociological Association’s Teaching Resources and Innovations Library for Sociology (TRAILS). The resource can be found here.





October 2020

  • Professor of Anthropology Mel Johnson, Associate Professor of Education Alicia Moore , and Professor of Philosophy Phil Hopkins  were panelists for the Georgetown Public Library event “Confronting Racism: A Community Conversation.” The event offered three sessions centered around three selected texts aimed at children, young adults, and adults. Moore participated in the panel discussing New Kid by Jerry Craft, a graphic novel about the struggle to fit in with a world that doesn’t look like you. Hopkins participated in the panel discussing The Hate U Give  by Angie Thomas, which details the impact of police violence on communities of color. Johnson participated in the panel on Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist,  a best-selling book on how to fight racism and inequality.





August 2020

  • Professor of Sociology Sandi Nenga presented her paper “Processes of Cultural Capital in a College Readiness Program Aimed at Latinx, First-Generation Students” at the 2020 American Sociological Association meetings on August 8 (held online).





  • Megan Piel  ’20 participated in the American Sociological Association’s 2020 Undergraduate Honors Program (held online) on August 8. She presented her paper “Religion, Gender, and Attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ Community,” which was originally written for the Research Methods class in sociology.





April 2020

  • Associate Professor of Sociology Reggie Byron is reviewing more than 35 published articles (as the only invited reviewer from a liberal-arts university) for the prestigious Richard Scott Best Article Award through the Organizations, Occupations, and Work section of the American Sociological Association.





  • Associate Professor of Sociology Reggie Byron had a peer-reviewed article titled “Neighborhood Context, Race, and U.S. Newspaper Coverage of Home-Invasion Crime” accepted for publication in the Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture.





  • Professor of Sociology Maria Lowe, Associate Professor of Sociology Reggie Byron, and student coauthors Holly O’Hara ’17 and Dakota Cortez ’19 had a peer-reviewed article titled “Neutralized Hegemonic Banter: The Persistence of Sexist and Racist Joking among Undergraduate Students” accepted for publication in Sociological Inquiry. This is the fourth such coauthored campus climate–related study that Lowe and Byron have published.





Feburary 2020

  • Part-Time Assistant Professor of Anthropology Naomi Reed was interviewed by CBS News to contribute to a Web and television segment on a Texas textbook’s representations of slavery and Black people. The article reads in part, “CBS News is not the first to point out problems with The American Pageant. Dr. Naomi Reed is a sociocultural anthropologist and professor at Southwestern University in Texas. She looked at the 12th edition of the textbook in 2007 and the 15th edition in 2015, and said it consistently takes a white redemptive narrative of American history.” You can read the article here.





January 2020

  • Sociology alumna Samantha Pentecost ’19 has had her capstone paper, “Gendering the Boy Scouts: Examining Hegemonic Masculinity at a Coed Backpacking Camp,” accepted for publication in the Journal for Undergraduate Ethnography(vol. 10, no. 2). In addition, sociology alumna Madeline Carrola ’19 received the best undergraduate paper award for her capstone paper, “Performing TheHandmaid’s Tale: The Use of Dystopian Literature at Political Protests,” at the October 2019 Mid-South Sociological Association meeting. Both capstone papers were written under the direction of Professor of Sociology Maria Lowe.