Graduate Students

Grad students with name tags on smile for the camera

PhD Students in Sociology

Julia Bandini
Julia Bandini
Bachelor of Arts (Sociology, minor in French), College of the Holy Cross

Julia's interests include medical sociology, aging, death and dying, and the family. Her dissertation research examines end-of-life decision-making and family experiences of bereavement.

Rebecca Barton
Rebecca Barton
Bachelor of Arts (Sociology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies), University of Connecticut

Becky's interests include religion, feminism, identity, gender and sexuality. Becky is currently investigating religious identity negotiations among Mormon feminists. She is pursuing a doctorate in Sociology, and a joint master's in Sociology and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University

Thomas Bertorelli
Thomas Bertorelli
Bachelor of Science (Neuroscience), Bachelor of Arts (Music), Muhlenberg College
Master of Arts (Social Science), University of Chicago

Thomas' general research interests include science, technology, health, and culture. His previous work focused on psychiatric attitudes towards the promise of neuroimaging in clinical practice. He is currently working on a project that examines how lab scientists integrate multiple levels of analysis to theoretically model sense perception.

Margaret Clendenen
Margaret Clendenen
Bachelor of Arts (Sociology and Religious Studies), The College of William & Mary

Margaret's research interests include religion, social movements, sexualities and gender. She has previously researched liberal religious leaders' responses to Proposition 8 in California (the 2008 ballot initiative that defined marriage as between one man and one woman) and the relationships between atheism and sexualities.

Sarah Halford
PhD Student
Jing Huang
Jing Huang
Bachelor of Arts (Sociology and Journalism), Muskingum University
Master of Arts (Museum Studies with a concentration in Art History), The George Washington University

Jing's general research interests include sociology of art and culture, sociology of education, inequality, globalization, and nationalism, particularly cultural nationalism and postcolonial nationalism.

Jaleh Jalili
PhD Student
Hannah Klein
Hannah Klein
PhD Student
B.S. in Sociology with a focus on race and gender (Texas A&M University). Hannah's past work focused on community food insecurity in the Brazos Valley, particularly looking at the racial disparities of those living in Limited Supermarket Access (LSA) polygons and those outside of LSA's. As part of a service learning project, her thesis research included volunteering with WIC in Brazos Valley. Now she is interested in studying reproductive justice, motherhood, and race. Her current research focuses on racialized anti-Semitism and Jewish motherhood. 
Jillian LaBranche
Jillian LaBranche
Bachelor of Arts (International Studies), Rhodes College
Master of Arts (International Human Rights), University of Denver

Jillian's general research interests include genocide, mass atrocity, gender and human rights. She is particularly interested in the use of national narratives following mass atrocity.

Samantha Leonard
Samantha Leonard
Bachelor of Arts (Anthropology and Sociology, minor in Hispanic Studies), Vassar College

She is also pursuing the joint MA in Sociology and Women & Gender Studies at Brandeis. Before coming to Brandeis, Samantha served as a Youth Development worker with the Peace Corps in the Eastern Caribbean and has worked for several years in the U.S. in direct services, primarily in foster care and domestic violence counseling/advocacy. Her research interests include gender/sexuality, cultural sociology, violence/trauma, community, and creative practices in social movements/social change.

Nicholas Monroe
Nicholas Monroe
Bachelor of Arts (History), Oberlin College

Prior to attending Brandeis Nicholas taught reading and social studies as a member of Teach For America in Chicago and Gary, Indiana. Nicholas' interests include race and class based inequalities, educational inequality, as well as social movements and social change.

Jake Pullis
Jake Pullis
Bachelor of Arts (Sociology), Trinity College

Jake's research interests include mass media, popular culture, economic sociology and inequality. His previous work focused on allegorical messages in "Star Trek: The Original Series" in the context of the American Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War. He is currently working on a study of online illegal markets and another on the role of the insurance industry in the economic dangers of climate change.

Catherine Tan
Catherine Tan
Bachelor of Arts (Sociology), University of California, San Diego
Master of Arts (Sociology), Columbia University

Catherine's dissertation research compares two major health social movements—autistic self-advocacy and alternative biomedical—that have mobilized around Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and are challenging conventional scientific and medical authority. Through observations, interviews, and textual analysis this study examines how different orientations toward a medicalized condition structure access to embodied and (dis)embodied knowledge, direct health social movement identification, and shape epistemological affinity. By looking across these two orientations, partial knowledges are examined collectively to create a multi-faceted understanding of experiences with a medicalized condition. Catherine's areas of interest include medical sociology, science knowledge & technology, and qualitative methods.

Alexandria Vasquez
Alexandria Vasquez
Bachelor of Arts (Liberal Arts), The New School
Master of Science (Sociology), Virginia Commonwealth University

Alex is a PhD candidate whose work focuses on innovation, professions and organizational culture. Her dissertation explores how professional labor market experiences impact firm innovation. Her previous research examined how sociology can be used as a strategy to support the long-term unemployed. Her work in this area has led to the recognition of the Obama administration and the successful formation of The Institute for Career Transitions. Alex also focuses on several topics within medical sociology, and continues to research the connection between health, technology and environments. She is a passionate qualitative researcher who is currently conducting ethnographic research in Chicago, Illinois, and an experiential educator who motivates her students to achieve at their highest potential. 

For her recent publications, please visit Alex's website.

Ann Ward
Ann Ward
Bachelor of Arts (Sociology, minor in Community Development), Siena College

Ann's interests include environmental sociology, community development, social policy, public sociology, and qualitative methods. Prior to attending Brandeis, Ann spent four years as an AmeriCorps member through the Bonner Service Leaders Program. She is currently working on research regarding deliberative democracy, the environmental justice movement, and the concept of local knowledge.

PhD Students in Sociology and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies

Rachel Bernstein
Rachel Bernstein
Bachelor of Arts (Jewish Studies), University of Virginia
Master of Arts (Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies), Brandeis University

Rachel's research interests include religion in emerging adulthood, Jewish culture and the arts, and gender and sexuality. Rachel has previously conducted research on new Jewish leadership, Jewish education, and gender and American Jewish families. She has published on images of young Jewish women in television and film, and the gendered division of household and religious labor in Jewish families. She is currently working on her dissertation research investigating the cultural and ethnic connections of Jewish young adults in their 20s and 30s and the relationships that impact Jewish identity during this life phase.

PhD Students in Sociology and Heller School for Social Policy

Sara Chaganti
Sara Chaganti
Bachelor of Arts (Anthropology), Yale University
Master of Science (Law, Policy and Society), Northeastern University; Master of Arts (Social Policy), Heller School, Brandeis University

Sara is pursuing a joint doctorate in sociology and social policy. Her research focuses on workforce development programs for low-wage job seekers, with a particular interest in the cultural assumptions that define employability for low-wage workers. Her dissertation uses ethnographic research combined with quantitative analysis to examine job readiness training programs for low-income people. Sara also works as a Research Associate in the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at The Heller School, where she conducts research and program evaluation on family homelessness, low-wage work, and collaborative service delivery models.

Jennifer LaFleur
Jennifer LaFleur
PhD Student
BA, African/African American studies and educational studies (Carleton College) and EdM, education policy (Harvard University). Jenny’s research seeks to apply critical geography to analyses of social problems and social policy, and considers how the spatial distribution of social and economic resources shapes opportunities for historically underserved groups. Additionally, she is interested in how market fundamentalist policy interacts with economic and racial residential segregation to shape outcomes for children and families. Her current and recent research examines how: private school vouchers impact educational opportunity for low income students and students of color; residential segregation influences children’s exposure to disease and chronic health conditions; the parents of Black and Latinx students view inter-district school desegregation programs; and the impact of neighborhood contexts and resources on outcomes for public school students with disabilities. 
Kimberly D. Lucas
Kimberly D. Lucas
Bachelor of Arts (Psychology and Sociology), University of California, Los Angeles)
Master of Arts (Child Development and Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning), Tufts University; Master of Arts (Social Policy), Brandeis University

Kim's research interests fall at the intersection of sociology, economics, and social policy; she studies women in the workforce with a focus on low-wage work and volunteer organizations. Her dissertation will uncover and explore the business and labor practices used by self-employed careworkers, and it will address the issue of turnover in early childhood education. Other projects include an ethnographic study of subcultures, organizations, and market economics in modern roller derby and a qualitative interview project on family child care providers' perceptions of education regulations. Kim is currently the Civic Research Director at the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics in the City of Boston.

Rachel Madsen
Rachel Madsen
Bachelor of Arts (Sociology), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Master of Arts (Sociology), University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Rachel's general research interests include environmental sociology, community and urban sociology, sustainability, housing, environmental justice, and disaster and risk. Current projects examine how sustainability plans and affordable housing policies are coordinated, developed, and implemented at multiple levels of government. Rachel has also been working with the National Fire Protection Association to study disaster preparedness, response practices, inter-agency collaboration, and community risk reduction in wildland-urban interfaces around the country.

Alexis Mann
Alexis Mann
Bachelor of Arts (Public Policy and Photography), Hamilton College
Master of Public Policy, Brandeis University

Alexis Mann is a Research Associated at the Institute on Assets and Social Policy and PhD Candidate in the joint Social Policy and Sociology program and Brandeis University. With a background in mixed methods research, her interests focus on the how regional and city context shapes economic inequality. In particular, her research focuses on how families build and sustain economic security, in the face of increasing rates of economic insecurity nationally. Alexis also holds a degree in documentary photography from The Salt Institute of Documentary Studies in Maine.

Allison Stagg
Bachelor of Science (Psychology), Birmingham-Southern College
Master of Public Policy, Brandeis University

Allison is pursing a joint PhD in social policy and sociology with the Heller School. Allison's research interests include youth civic engagement, policy design and political voice, and participatory research methods. She has previously served as the Assistant Director of the Center for Ethics & Social Responsibility at the University of Alabama, and completed internships and consultancies with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA), and the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).

MA Students in Sociology and Women's and Gender Studies Program

Alexa Damaska
Alexa Damaska
Master of Arts Student
Alexa completed her BS in Business Economics at Miami University during the Spring of 2017. Currently, she’s working toward a joint master’s in Sociology and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University. Her research interests include inequality, education, health and the economy.
Jessica Shenkel
Jessica Shenkel
Master of Arts Student
BA, Sociology, Women’s Studies minor (Colby-Sawyer College). Jessica’s research interests include gender with a particular interest in women’s reproductive health and the policing of women’s bodies.