The faculty and students in the Sociology Department are world-class researchers and scholars. We love to share and celebrate their accomplishments.


Dr. Mellisa Holtzman, Professor of Sociology and Graduate Program Director

Portrait of Dr. Mellisa Holtzman in a blue sweaterSociology alumni Amber Urban, ’20, and Dr. Mellisa Holtzman published, “Menstruation, Menstrual Stigma, and Twitter,” in Sociological Focus. This work is also the basis upon which Amber won the 3-Minute Thesis Competition a few years ago. Read more about their research.

Dr. Mellisa Holtzman, Dr. Ellen Whitehead, and Ayrlia Welch’s paper, “Adjusting Class Policies Amid a Pandemic: How Lessons Learned During COVID-19 Can Help Faculty Prepare for Other Institution-Wide Crises,” was accepted in Teaching and Learning Inquiry.

Dr. Mellisa Holtzman is Co-PI on a $50,000 Cohen Peace Grant project entitled, “Sexual Violence Prevention Program for College Women in India.” The grant will support the development, implementation, and evaluation of a SV prevention program in India as part of Aashna Banerjee’s dissertation. The project is modeled after Elemental (which was co-designed by Dr. Holtzman) and EAAA. After some initial runs and refinement in light of feedback from attendees, it will be implemented in India this fall. Kudos, Dr. Holtzman!


Dr. Chad Menning, Department Chair and Professor of Sociology

Dr. Chad Menning published in Sociological Focus: Menning, C. L., Fox, E. D., and Nunn, L. K. (in press). Blaming the victim, the bystander, the perpetrator, or the institution: Student allocation of responsibility for sexual assault when programming hypothetically varies.

This paper is an important contribution on many levels, but here are some of the key findings:

• Students are no more likely to blame victims of sexual assault if hypothetical mandatory programs train victims to protect themselves, compared to other training. (Students will, however, blame bystanders and perpetrators more if programs include bystander intervention.) This demonstrates that there are some limits to the expected role played by blame in fundamental processes of (re)socialization.

• Perhaps more interesting, though, is what happens when the comparisons are not among different kinds of training programs targeted at different audiences, but between putting nearly any kind of hypothetical training in place and having no training in place. In this case, both victims and bystanders are blamed more when there is programming (regardless of whom is trained to do what), and administrators who put the programs in place are blamed less. This effect is found with great consistency across intended training audiences and types of training. To explain this phenomenon, we build on just world theory and second-order victim blaming to put forth a new theory, which we call just policy theory. If this theory is supported in future empirical work, it holds promise as an explanatory mechanism whereby not just individual victims, but entire communities surrounding victims, may be blamed more for apparent policy failure, whereas elites who develop and implement policies and programs may be somewhat absolved.


Dr. Rachel Kraus, Professor of Sociology

Dr. Rachel Kraus was featured as “Article of the Month,” complete with video abstract and free access by the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion for her article “Examining religious/spiritual change among women with metastatic breast cancer.”


Dr. Richard Petts, Professor of Sociology

Dr. Richard Petts published “Has the Pandemic Increased Gender Inequality in Domestic Labor? It’s Complicated,” and was cited in the article “Why the Middle of a Leader’s Story Matters So Much.”

Dr. Richard Petts, along with co-PIs Dr. Trenton Mize (Purdue) and Dr. Gayle Kaufman (Davidson College), were awarded a grant from the Russell Sage Foundation! The grant, in the amount of $114,806, supports their project, “Attitudes About Parental Leave-Taking for Single and Same-Gender Parents.” Kudos, Dr. Petts!

Parental leave policies are a pressing social concern, with mounting evidence that parental leave-taking leads to better outcomes for parents and children, and also that U.S. workers would like to have access to better paid leave policies. As diverse family structures become more common, it is more important than ever to consider family diversity when designing parental leave policy, including how these policies will affect single-parent and same-gender parent families. We propose a large survey experiment designed to isolate the causal effects of variations in leave policies on perceptions of workers. Our experimental design has currently employed U.S. workers evaluate someone who recently took parental leave on a number of workplace and parenting dimensions. Our design allows us to test six novel hypotheses about inequalities in who is supported in taking parental leave and—integrally—which aspects of policy design ameliorate these inequalities.


Dr. Ellen Whitehead, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Dr. Ellen Whitehead received a Middletown Studies Fellowship! The project is entitled, ““Residential Decision-Making of College Students in an Era of Increasing Political Bifurcation and Devolution of Individual Rights.” It is a collaborative project with Dr. Emily Wornell at Ball State’s Center for Local and State Policy.

Dr. Whitehead’s paper called “Are In-Laws Substituting or Supplementing?: Mothers’ Receipt of Support from Paternal Kin” and was accepted at Family Relations. It was a co-authored piece with Taryn Wield, one of Sociology’s former graduate students.