Undergraduate Social Science Symposium 2023

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As we fill the program for the 2023 USSS, the details for the program will appear on this page. More to come soon!





Undergraduate Social Science Symposium 2020

DATE:  Wednesday, April 15th, 2020 (Cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns)

TIME:  8:00am - 5:00pm 

PLACE:  the Parliamentary Room (room 201) in the Student Union (MTSU Campus)



Undergraduate Social Science Symposium 2019

THEME: From the Ice Age to the Anthropocene: Human Response to Global Change

DATE:  Wednesday, February 27th, and Thursday, February 28th, 2019

TIME:  8:00am - 5:00pm both days

PLACE:  Student Union Ballroom (MTSU Campus)



All events are free and open to the public

Wednesday, February 27th

7:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. 
Registration 2nd floor, Student Union Building
8:00 a.m. - 8:55 a.m. 
Student Paper Session

Body Rituals and Culture

Moderator: Dr. Andrew Wyatt (Department of Sociology and Anthropology) 

  • “Permanent and Tattooed Makeup” (Kasey Bowe)
  • “Kinky Ink: Stigmatophilia and Tattoo Fetish Culture “ (Hannah Newcomb)
  • “The Rise of Alternative Japanese Fashion in America” (Karissa Selby)
STU Room 224
9:10 a.m. –  10:05 a.m. 

Student Paper Session
Education Abroad 

Moderator: Dr. Meredith Huey Dye (Department of Sociology and Anthropology) 

  • Britteny Johnson, MTSU Global Ambassador
  • Hannah Solima, MTSU Global Ambassador
  • Melissa Miller, Advisor, MTSU Office of Education Abroad
STU Room 224
10:20 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.
Student Paper Session

Social Inequalities

Moderator: Dr. Jackie Eller (Department of Sociology and Anthropology)

  • “The Identification of Racial Inequality of African Americans in the U.S.” (Olivia Bunting)
  • “Types of Violence and How They Affect Society” (Tabitha Tripp)
  • “Poverty’s Relationship to Crime Rates” (Jamal Jones)
  • “Deviance” (Cristen Rachelle Nokes)
STU Room 221
10:20 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. 
Student Paper Session

Social Roles and Identities

Moderator: Dr. Ashleigh McKinzie (Department of Sociology and Anthropology)

  • “Dirty/Traveling Kids: A Sociological Examination of the Transient Community” (Sarah Camille Comer)
  • “The Effect of War and Genocide on Identity“ (Devin Adcox)
  • “Gender Roles of Southeast Asia: A Look Through the Decades” (Krysta Hawk)
STU Room 224
11:15 a.m. -11:30 a.m. 

Introduction and Welcome

  • Dr. Andrew Wyatt
  • Dr. Karen Petersen, Dean Liberal Arts and Sciences
STU Ballroom
 11:30 a.m. -12:25 p.m. 
Speaker: Dr. Laura McKinney

Introductory Remarks: Dr. Ashleigh McKinzie (Department of Sociology and Anthropology)

Intersectionality and the Environment 

Dr. Laura McKinney is an associate professor in the Sociology Department at Tulane University. Her current research projects engage macro-comparative sociology, synthesize theories from the social, physical, and natural sciences, employ innovative empirical techniques to aid in theoretical integration, and utilize environmental sociology to examine nature-society interactions and sustainability at national and global levels. Additionally, she investigates the distribution of disasters, waste, and recycling across the southeastern United States and collaborates on urban agriculture in New Orleans. McKinney’s new research examines a recently declared Superfund site in Louisiana to understand the needs of individuals in the surrounding community and how scientific research can address them. She has been awarded numerous internal grants for her research and has also been supported by the National Science Foundation, CPRA, and The Andrew Carnegie Foundation.

STU Ballroom
12:40 p.m. -2:25 p.m. 
Student Paper Session

Why I Majored in Sociology

Moderator: Dr. Meredith Huey Dye (Department of Sociology and Anthropology) Discussant: Dr. Laura McKinney

  • Cara Carr
  • Nina Donovan
  • Amy Duke
  • Cass Jones
  • Keyonna Jones
  • Megan Kipker
  • Haley Lambing
  • Mary Lentz
  • Cameron Maier
  • Luis Marrero
  • Jennifer Meyers
  • Donita Stanley
  • Erica Yearwood
STU Room 221

Student Paper Session
Comparative Religion 

Moderator: Dr. Rohit Singh (Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies)

  • “The Exploration of the Grey Areas: Religion in American Horror Story” (Brandon White)
  • “A Look at Vaccinations and Religion in America through an Unusual Medium” (Ashley Duchac) 
  • “Imagining Religion” (Timothy Allen)
  • “Nationalism: Modernity in Question” (Joshua Clemens)
  • “It All About Perspectives!” (Amy Conner)
  • “Ancestral Death Cults and the Kurgan Cultures” (Jake Furnish)
  • “Holy Fortune Ministries: Building a Church and a Community” (Skyla Weyrich)
STU Room 224
2:30 p.m. -4:30 p.m.
Film: Before the Flood 

Organizer: Kimberly Leifker (Department of Sociology and Anthropology) 

Before the Flood presents a riveting account of the dramatic changes now occurring around the world due to climate change, as well as the actions we as individuals and as a society can take to prevent catastrophic disruption of life on our planet. The film follows Leonardo DiCaprio as he travels to five continents and the Arctic speaking to scientists, world leaders, activists and local residents to gain a deeper understanding of this complex issue and investigate concrete solutions to the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.

STU Video Theater, 2nd floor


Thursday, February 28th

7:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. 
Registration 2nd floor, Student Union Building
8:00 a.m. - 9:25 a.m.

Student Paper Session
Intersections of the Social and Physical Environment 

Moderator: Dr. Shannon Hodge (Department of Sociology and Anthropology)

  • “Social Factors in Relation to the Suicide Domino Epidemic” (Haley Burt)
  • “Mortuary Practices at the Anthropology Research Facility“ (Devin Adcox)
  • “Anthropogenic Soils in the Amazon” (Tabatha Wadford)
  • “The Anthropocentric Causes and Ramifications of the Darby Mine No. 1 Explosion” (Emma Wiley)
  • “The Prehistoric and Historic Occupation at the Site of Castalian Springs, Tennessee” (Brittany Hunter) 
STU Room 224
9:40 a.m. –  11:05 a.m.

Thematic Panel
Moderator: Dr. Angela Mertig (Department of Sociology and Anthropology) 


  • Dr. Jeremy Aber, Assistant Professor, MTSU Geosciences & Chapter Chair, Rutherford County SOCM (Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment)
  • Dr. James Fraser, Visiting Scholar, University of Minnesota & Urban Policy Consultant
  • Caleb Powell, Environmental Scientist, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation & Alumnus and current graduate student, MTSU
  • Dr. Laura White, Associate Professor, MTSU English, Women’s and Gender Studies & Africana
  • Studies 
STU Ballroom
11:20 a.m. –  12:45 p.m.

Student Paper Session
Internship Experiences 

Moderator: Dr. Meredith Huey Dye (Department of Sociology and Anthropology)

  • Whitney Leake
  • Megan Kipker
  • Regan Harlow
  • Tierra Brooks
STU Room 224
1:00 p.m. -2:25 p.m.

Student Paper Awards
Presented by Dr. Andrew Wyatt (Department of Sociology and Anthropology)

STU Ballroom

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Erle Ellis
Introductory Remarks: Dr. Andrew Wyatt (Department of Sociology and Anthropology)

Evolving Toward a Better Anthropocene

Dr. Erle Ellis is professor of Geography and Environmental Systems at the University of Maryland-Baltimore Country (UMBC) where he directs the Laboratory for Anthropogenic Landscape Ecology. His research investigates the ecology of human landscapes at local and global scales to inform sustainable stewardship of the biosphere in the Anthropocene. Ellis’ first book, Anthropocene: A Very Short Introduction, was published by Oxford University Press in 2018. Ellis is a member of the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy, a Fellow of the Global Land Programme, and a Senior Fellow of the Breakthrough Institute.

STU Ballroom
2:40 p.m. -4:05 p.m.

Student Paper Session
Sociology of Religion

Moderator: Dr. Ashleigh McKinzie (Department of Sociology and Anthropology) 

  • “Religion, the Environment, and Buddhism” (Kelsey Carter)
  • “One with Nature” (Luis Marrero)
  • “The Pentecostals: A Look into Their Beliefs about the Environment” (Mikayla Flagg)
  • “Hinduism and the Environment” (Disha Trivedi)
  • “Christianity and Factory Farming” (Valerie Risk)
  • “The Space Inside the Cup” (Joshua Fuchear)
STU Room 224


The Tennessee Undergraduate Social Science Symposium is sponsored by 

  • Office of the Provost
  • College of Liberal Arts 
  • Global Studies and Human Geography 
  • Distinguished Lecture Series
  • Department of History
  • Department of Sociology and Anthropology
  • Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies

Organizing Committee 

  • Dr. Andrew R. Wyatt (Associate Professor, Sociology & Anthropology)
  • Dr. Ashleigh E. McKinzie (Assistant Professor, Sociology & Anthropology) 
  • Dr. Angela Mertig (Professor, Sociology & Anthropology)
  • Dr. Meredith Dye (Associate Professor, Sociology & Anthropology) 
  • Dr. Will H. Leggett (Associate Professor, Sociology & Anthropology)
  • Dr. Shannon Hodge (Professor, Sociology & Anthropology) 
  • Dr. Rohit Signh (Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies)
  • Dr. Brandon Wallace (Professor, Chair, Sociology & Anthropology)
  • Kimberly F. Leifker (Lecturer, Sociology & Anthropology) 
  • Connie Huddleston (Events Coordinator, College of Liberal Arts)
  • Phattra Marbang (Graduate Student, Department of Sociology & Anthropology)