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Student Sociology Research Published in Academic Journal


Ashley Garcia ’22, Hannah Petersen ’22
Ashley Garcia ’22, Hannah Petersen ’22

While many college undergraduates have the opportunity to conduct research, few see their work published in an academic journal. But this is exactly what Hannah Petersen ’22 and Ashley Garcia ’22 accomplished with the article “Schools as racialized organizations in policy and practice,” published last month in the international, peer-reviewed Sociology Compass.

The paper, which explains the pair’s research with lead author Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology Mahala Stewart, focuses on inequalities in modern schooling as explained by and attributed to racialized institutions. “We apply the components of this racial theory to offer a new framework for examining racial inequalities in U.S. K-12 schools,” the authors explain in the paper’s abstract.

About Ashley Garcia '22

Majors: Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies

Hometown: Hialeah, Fla.

High school: Mater Academy

Petersen and Garcia’s work originated from Stewart’s Inequalities in Schooling course, after which the pair pursued further research via an independent study last spring. It was during this period that the paper was completed and submitted. “Although I did work with both of them on research over the winter, this paper was written based on their exceptional work in my class,” said Stewart, adding that she hopes to help more students achieve publication in the future. 

On their research process, Petersen said they started by constructing a “mini syllabus” that focused on a particular area of interest to be explored in greater detail through academic articles. These articles were logged in an annotated bibliography, whose entries included information such as important findings and relevance to the broader project.

“We were on our own a little bit during the week and would meet weekly to discuss our ideas and see how they were connecting,” Petersen said. “Professor Stewart used those citations to create the skeleton of the paper; we were invited to edit and add different sections as needed.”

About Hannah Petersen ’22

Major: Sociology

Hometown: Reading, Pa.

High school:  The King's Academy

For the paper itself, Garcia described the importance of Victor Ray’s idea of racialized organizations, of which there are four main tenets: the enhancement or diminishment of agency of racial groups, the legitimation of unequal distribution of resources, whiteness as a credential, and the decoupling of race from existing inequalities. With these concepts in mind, the pair examined three case studies, attempting to show how schools are not race-neutral.

“In particular, we highlight how these tenets surface through schools’ policies (school rules around discipline, language, and tracking) and practices (interactions between students, teachers and staff),” the authors write. 

While much of their research revolved around a “Black-white binary,” the pair incorporated Latinx students into their work as well, in order to get a sense of “racial hierarchies in general,” Garcia explained. 

Prior to this project, neither Garcia nor Petersen had been published in an academic journal. Both, though, spoke fondly of the new experience and its value going forward. “It made me feel more confident tackling internship or job opportunities,” Garcia said. “It helps me recognize that, although I’m a student, I am very much capable of doing wonderful work.”

Petersen echoed these positive feelings: “It’s such a great example of how incredible experiences at Hamilton can be … our professors are accessible to us and can see our interests in a way that allows us to collaborate with them.”

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