Undergraduate Research in Sociology

Sociology majors at Pomona can conduct an option original research project as a senior thesis, as well as apply for funding for other projects through the College's Summer Undergraduate Research Program. Below are recent completed summer projects by sociology students.


Not All About the Grades: First Generation and Low-Income College Students’ Limitations to Enrollment and Graduation at Elite Universities

Lizeth Ortega-Luna ’21; Advisor: Hung Thai

This research consists of a secondary analysis of quantitative research literature that studies the association between socioeconomic status (SES) quartile and graduation rates from top American universities. First, students from the bottom SES quartile are less likely to apply to and enroll in elite postsecondary institutions while students from the top SES quartile have historically attended highly selective postsecondary institutions. Attending a top institution is advantageous as students have greater access to resources and opportunities during and after pursuing an undergraduate degree. Second, students from the bottom SES quartile are not as likely as students from the top SES quartile to attain a college degree. This project uses the following two questions as its focus: What limits first-generation and low-income students from applying to elite universities? Is there an association between the economic household status of students and completion of a college degree?

Differential Postsecondary Educational Opportunities at a Minority-Majority High School

Jeffery Jen ’20; Advisor: Hung Thai

This eight-week study focuses on the sociological factors that inform the college pathways of graduates from a high school in the San Gabriel Valley region in southern California. The high school itself is a minority-majority school as three-quarters of the students are of Asian descent while the remaining one-quarter is of Hispanic or Latino/a descent.

It is much easier to see in a school with a minority enrollment rate of nearly 100% the different sociological and structural factors that influence the academic performance and college pathways of Asian-American and Latinx students, instead of relying on prevailing stereotypes and tropes. Drawing on twelve in-depth interviews with recent graduates of this high school, I dive deep into the experiences and upbringings of these students from various ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Their stories challenge long-standing problematic narratives which do not do enough to explain the apparent gap in the academic success levels of Asian-American students from that of other students of color. At the heart of this study is the crucial role played by the family and the amount of access the family has to resources to support the students’ academic and extra-curricular endeavors.

Homophily Without Heart: Cultivating Community Abroad

Nicole Arce ’21; Advisor: Hung Thai

This case study of Chileans in Australia explores the nature of community and familiarity that comes with being a minority in a new and unfamiliar country. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Chileans are the largest group of Latinx people in Australia. Influenced by a wide range of sociological and political factors, most Chileans immigrate to Australia under a temporary scheme, yet oftentimes extend their visa to gain permanent status. Eleven in-depth one-on-one interviews and several field visits revealed a common desire between participants for familiarity, which creates homophily, or a tendency to remain close to others similar to oneself. This tendency inhibits participants from making connections outside the Latinx community. Although every participant expressed the same feeling of comfort of having friends to socialize with, some felt it was more difficult to reach out to those friends with issues regarding personal mental health. This lack of connection enabled participants to fall into a pattern of deteriorating emotional wellbeing, since they did not have the structure of support that they had back home. The homophily demonstrated is based on shared Chilean language and cultural ties but lacks an emotional connection. This creates a "performance" homophily based on superficial relationships, and leads to an inability to reach out for support.


Growing Up Foreign: The Vietnamese Post-1995 Generation’s “Frames” about the World

Peter Cha ’19; Advisor: Hung Thai

My project focuses on how the post-1995 generation of contemporary Vietnam construct their own "frames" about the world given that they are the generation born after Vietnam re-entered the global economy after a 20-year period economic suspension. For many young Vietnamese, their consumption of foreign commodities and their associations with foreigners heavily influences their understanding of Vietnam, the outside world and themselves. Many Vietnamese hold a deficient view of Vietnam informed by their knowledge of "better" entertainment, education, and living standards abroad. Others hold a more nuanced understanding of Vietnam, wary of being a Vietnamese who looks up to foreigners too much. Their complex views on Vietnam and the outside world are reflected in conflicted feelings about their futures in Vietnam. Now coming of age, this post-1995 cohort has deep curiosity and ambition to travel internationally that comes in conflict with their economic reality and ties to Vietnam. The post-1995 generation must reconcile their Vietnamese identity with their foreign taste as they come of age and look to their futures.
Funding Provided By: Cion Estate SURP Fund

Music and Social Permissibility

Semassa Boko ’18; Advisor: Joti Rockwell

This project consists of a literature review conducted to understand the myriad ways in which the landscape of music has been censored, shaped and promoted by societal agents with the power to influence taste and expression among citizens. These agents include dictators, government institutions, religious institutions, and traditional norms and mores. While there is much information available on the power of music as protest, less is understood about how structures of power navigate the line between repression and permissibility. The study included historical narratives as well as current scholarship in order to frame regional and thematic case studies involving music and social permissibility. This work provides a foundation for more specialized studies of the relationship between structures of power and freedom of music expression, as well as artistic expression more generally.
Funding Provided By: Aubrey H. & Eileen J. Seed Student Research Fund

The Impact of College Access Programs for First Generation, Low-Income, Underrepresented Students in Higher Education: Analyzing Student Experiences in PAYS as a Case Study of College Access Programs

Tania Partida ’19; Advisor: Gilda Ochoa

This study was designed to study the academic and personal impact of a college access program on low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students in higher education. College access programs, such as PAYS (Pomona College Academy for Youth Success), are created to provide students from marginalized backgrounds with the resources to apply to college. I specifically analyzed the following aspects of their experience in PAYS: 1) their exposure to the opportunity of college as a path for social mobility and 2) their gain of cultural and social capital as future tools to navigate secondary schools and college. By conducting in-depth interviews with eleven PAYS alumni and observing several community spaces during the summer program, I examined the transformative experiences that provided former PAYS students with guidance to higher education. A recurring theme among all the interviews was that those who identified as first-generation began high school without the knowledge of applying to college and thus benefited from the mentorship from the PAYS staff and community. Also, the PAYS community provided the former PAYS students the space to explore their identity and become confident with their capacity to succeed academically. This preliminary research on college access programs demonstrates the positive influence of mentoring and community that is offered in college access programs for students of marginalized backgrounds.
Funding Provided By: Aubrey H. & Eileen J. Seed Student Research Fund