Department of Sociology

Recent PhDs on the Job Market

Sarah J. Halford
Sarah J. Halford Expected Date of PhD: Spring 2024
  • Research/Teaching Interests: social movements; media; culture; mis/disinformation; institutional distrust; ethnographic methods; qualitative data analysis 

  • Courses Taught: Protest, Politics, and Change: Social Movements; Conspiracy Culture; Order and Change in Society

  • BioSarah J. Halford is a PhD Candidate in the Sociology Department. She studies social movements, media, and culture, with special interests in mis/disinformation, institutional distrust, and online activism, and conspiracy movements. Her dissertation research is an ethnographic study on the role of institutional distrust in recruitment to, and sustained participation in, the Anti-5G Movement. She holds an M.A. in Sociology from Brandeis University, an M.A.  in Individualized Studies from New York University, and a B.A. in Liberal Arts from the New School University. 

  • Publications: HalfordSarah J. 2023. "Conspiracy Movements: A Definitional Introduction and Theoretical Exploration of Organized Challenges to Epistemic Authority." The Sociological Quarterly 64(2): 187-204. 


Samantha Leonard

Picture of Samantha Leonard

PhD: August 2023

  • Current Position: Visiting Lecturer of Sociology, Mount Holyoke College
  • Research/Teaching Interests: collective action and social movements, gender, violence, temporality, feminist theory
  • Favorite courses to teach: "Violence and Intimacy" and "Sociology of Families, Kinship, & Sexuality"
  • Personal Website:

  • Dissertation Abstract: My dissertation research, “Defining Violences: Fielding Intimate Partner Violence in Argentina and the United States” is a comparative study of the intimate partner violence fields of action in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Boston, Massachusetts. This project involved ethnographic and archival research conducted between 2015-2020, including 13 months of ethnographic research conducted in Argentina and the U.S. between 2019-2020. In this project, I bring a temporal lens to the issue of IPV by extending the concept of slow violence to theorize how the temporality of IPV shapes the practices of service providers in Buenos Aires and Boston. I also develop the concept of temporal regimes to analyze field variances. I argue that between 2015-2020 the field of Boston was oriented towards the future through a temporal regime of prevention that centers discourses of public health, while Buenos Aires was oriented towards the present through a temporal regime of recuperation that centers discourses of embodied citizenship.

  • Selected Publications:

    • Leonard, Samantha. 2019. “What is the Work? And With Whom Are We Working?: Relational Practices within the Intimate Partner Violence Field.” Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work 34(4):535-551.
    • Leonard, Samantha and Ann Ward. 2022. “Tales from the (Disrupted) Field: Contemplating Ethnographic Fieldwork in the Midst of Pandemic.” Ethnography.


Jenny LaFleur

Picture of Samantha Leonard

Expected Date of PhD: May 2024

  • Research/Teaching Interests: Inequality and stratification, sociology of education, critical geography, & spatial analytics
  • Favorite courses to teach: Sociology of Education; Intro to Sociology; Stratification & Inequality; Methods
  • Google Scholar:

  • Dissertation Abstract: My dissertation brings together a set of issues that sit in balance across my areas of expertise: race, urban sociology, and the sociology of education. The main data source for this research is a set of interviews with white parents of public-school students who elected to participate in ‘learning pods’ during the Covid-19 pandemic. Through analyses of interview data, I examine how status interfaced with the pandemic context to inform families’ decisions about their children’s schooling during the 2020-21 school year. Learning pods, though they proved to be temporary phenomena, provided an excellent point-of-entry for a sociological study of privileged parenting in U.S. metropolitan areas. Extant literature in the sociology of education and in urban sociology has demonstrated that families with race and class privilege tend to leverage their power and private resources to benefit their own children’s experiences in heterogeneous public schools. The project has provided me with the opportunity to use qualitative data to engage a series of theoretical arguments about how status informs day-to-day practices and social behaviors. Early findings reveal how parents leveraged their social networks to form pods, resulting in homophilous, spatially proximal groups in otherwise diverse school districts. Additionally, interview data demonstrate how parents’ rationales for participating in a learning pod rarely reflected their concern over their children’s academic progress. Instead, interview data echo a wider trend in both education and popular culture—anxiety over the status of children’s mental health and social connectedness in a socio-political context of increasing inequality and insecurity set against the backdrop of the climate crisis.  

  • Selected Publications:

    • Dembo, R.S., Jennifer LaFleur, Ilhom Akobirshoev, Daniel P. Dooley, Neelesh Batra, and Monika Mitra. (2022). "Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities among Children with Special Health Care Needs in Boston, Massachusetts." Disability and Health Journal, 15(3), 1013-16.

    • Braimah, H., LaFleur, J., Haque, Z., and Wallace, D. (2022). "Can We Just Talk? Exploring Discourses on Race and Racism Among U.S. Undergraduates During the COVID-19 Pandemic." Educational Review, 74(3), 576-590.

    • LaFleur, J. (2020). “The Race That Space Makes: The Power of Place in the Colonial Formation of Social Categorizations”. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. 7(4), 512-526.

    • LaFleur, J. (2020) “Racial Passing” in Critical Understandings in Education Encyclopedia: Critical Whiteness Studies. Edited by Zachary Casey. Leiden, ND: Brill Press.

    • LaFleur, J. (2020) “Centring Race in ‘Colour-blind’ Contemporary Education Policy: A Genealogy of U.S. Private School Choice and its Implications for Research”. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 26(2), 205-225.

    • Dembo, R. S., & LaFleur, J. (2019). “Community Health Contexts and School Suspensions of Students with Disabilities.” Children and Youth Services Review, 102(C), 120-127.

    • White, H., LaFleur, J., Houle, K., Hyry‐Dermith, P., & Blake, S. M. (2017). “Evaluation of a School‐based Transition Program Designed to Facilitate School Reentry Following a Mental Health Crisis or Psychiatric Hospitalization”. Psychology in the Schools, 54(6).

    • LaFleur, J. (2016). “Locating Chicago’s Charter Schools: A Socio-spatial Analysis”. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24(19).