Reflections on ASA – Seattle and Some (Sage) Advice

Fem(me) Sem in Capitol Hill during ASA 2016 (Seattle, WA)
UT Austin grad students enjoy some award-winning Seattle clam chowder during ASA 2016.

Now that we’ve had time to come down from the hustle and bustle of a busy ASA in Seattle, WA, UTAustinSOC checked in with some graduate students on advice they have for first-timers to make the most of any conferences they attend, especially during their first time at ASA:

I will say know your personality. Recognize that ASA can be a lot all at once and build in breaks if you need it. Don’t be overwhelmed by the fear of missing out and be strategic about the sessions you attend while also remaining open to pop into a session that does not immediately seem relevant. Remember to take walks if you can and try to spend a few hours each day away from the hustle and bustle of it all. Check out the city the conference is in. You did not hustle your way there to only look at the four walls of the convention center.

Anima Adjepong

Attend both the graduate student receptions and the section receptions. These tend to be a much more laid back way to meet people (Twitter is also great for this, by the way). New graduate student friends can be a great way to meet faculty at other institutions – somebody is probably advised by the person you’re dying to meet and your new friend(s) can make that introduction less awkward. This is a good way to land invitations to co-organize panels at future ASAs or other conferences (such as SWS), and just generally get the word out about you and your work/interests.  Also, take time to go eat some good food at a local spot. Make sure to enjoy yourself!

Shantel G. Buggs

So far, my approach to the overwhelming experience of ASA is to step out of my comfort zone a bit more every year that I attend ASA. Although networking with students and faculty from other universities is of vital importance, it’s also one of the most intimidating aspects of any conference (in my opinion). A good first step is to join a few sections and attend their receptions and/or business meetings. More good advice about conferencing can be found in this blog post from The Professor Is In.

Rachel Donnelly

I think for your first time, the best thing that you could do is observe talks in your interest area and see what people are currently working on. Network within those talks. That’s the best way to maximize your involvement in your first year, unless you’re also presenting a paper. The content of those presentations is new and unpublished, so it’s a good way to see what’s going on in your area. The big events can be intimidating if you don’t have a presence or a reputation already in the field. The smaller talks are less intimidating and more relevant to what you’re doing anyway.

Shannon Malone

Go to the panels from your favorite authors and sociologists, whose papers you’ve read and really liked. Meet graduate students who are working in the same area you’re working in and talk to them about ideas. Try to talk to one professor you really like to discuss your ideas and what you’re working on.

Ruijie Peng

Before my first ASA, I was so worried I would feel paralyzed and intimidated by other scholars, but the opposite happened. Learning what other gender scholars are up to gave me inspiration and helped me think creatively about my own research. Don’t feel pressured to attend sessions. Go only to the ones you find interesting, even if they’re out of your wheelhouse. Also, make friends with graduate students outside of UT, especially those with similar research interests. You can get a real sense of validation and camaraderie from grad students who are in the same boat, and I learned a lot from chatting with them about my ideas. Section receptions and happy hours can be exhausting, but I also found them rejuvenating (and in some ways, energizing) after a tough first year.

Katie Rogers

ASA, especially your first couple times, can be quite overwhelming. I always suggest only going to two panels a day in order to be selective (and hopefully go to the best ones) and to not have a brain melt. Aside from panels, you should try to go to other receptions and caucus events in order to connect with other graduate students (who make ASA a blast) and to start building connections with faculty members involved in those sections. Going to a section business meeting is a great way to start integrating into a sub-discipline or two as well!

Brandon Andrew Robinson

Look up what time the section event you want to be a part of is. The first year I went, I went the day that Sociology of Education was not meeting for anything, and I missed out on all of my networking opportunities. Also, get an Airbnb instead of a hotel room (it’s cheaper and you can get a fridge). A lot of sections host dinners. They can be expensive and may not have an option you want, but they’re also great socializing opportunities.

Robert Ressler

It wasn’t as intimidating as I was expecting it would be. We have a really good program here at UT, and you’ll be prepared if you’re presenting. So don’t be nervous! I also have advice based upon what I didn’t do and wish I would have done. I wish I would have downloaded the app sooner and looked through the schedule and organized the sessions that were of interest to me. I didn’t download the app until I had already gotten to the conference, and I didn’t realize until after the fact that I had missed out on some things that I really wished I would have attended.

Kris Velasco

Brandon Robinson on LGBTQ Homeless Youth


Sixth-year doctoral student Brandon Robinson discusses the complexities around LGBTQ youth homelessness, emphasizing that the circumstances that lead to youth homelessness are “beyond” family rejection:

Most discussion surrounding these disproportionate numbers focuses on family rejection, that lesbian, gay, and bisexual homeless youth are often kicked out or run away from home because of family conflict about their sexuality. Indeed, 73 percent of gay and lesbian and 26 percent of bisexual homeless youth report that they are homeless because of parental disapproval of their sexual orientation. Service providers indicate that 68 percent of the LGBTQ homeless youth they work with experience family rejection. These statistics paint a picture of homophobic and transphobic parents – many of them religious – casting their child out onto the streets. However, as a recent Huffington Postpiece captures, the lives of LGBTQ homeless youth are complex. LGBTQ homeless youth are also disproportionately racial/ethnic minorities, and they often come from family backgrounds of instability and poverty. Perhaps then there are other factors compounding these experiences of homophobia and transphobia?

Read more at The Huffington Post!

Women, Regardless of Class, Need Access to Zika Prevention



Professor Letícia Marteleto discusses the ways that class informs women’s risks of contracting Zika and how governments and medical professionals should work to provide poor women equal preventative care:

Our findings suggest that, while incredibly concerned about Zika, wealthier women, much like Hope Solo, feel in control of preventing the virus by using repellant, netting their homes and postponing pregnancy. Poorer women have a more fatalistic attitude about getting infected with Zika and even about getting pregnant — a fact that can be verified by Brazil’s consistently high rate of unintended pregnancy, particularly among the lower classes.

Poorer women also feel that they can’t protect themselves as well as wealthy women can because they lack the means to do so (money to buy repellents and mosquito nets), and they recognize their living conditions make them more vulnerable to mosquito bites (particularly through exposure to open sewage and stagnant water).

Read more at the Austin-American Statesman!

Vrinda Marwah and Sharmila Rudruppa on the Surrogacy Bill in India

Gratzer/Lightrocket/Getty Images
SOURCE: Gratzer/Lightrocket/Getty Images

Both second-year doctoral student Vrinda Marwah and professor Sharmila Rudruppa have pieces discussing the new legislation on surrogacy in India.

Vrinda notes:

Since the 1990s, India has seen a fall in the labour force participation of women, and a rise in informal sector jobs that are characterized by poor pay and difficult working conditions. This is not to say that surrogacy is the answer to the problems of this class of women; if anything, research has also shown that these lives, lived on the margins of society, are too precarious to be greatly improved by one, or a few, lump-sum payouts alone. And yes, the working conditions for surrogates in India leave much to be desired.

However, bans are certainly not the answer to these problems. Bans create black markets and greater vulnerability. We know this from the kidney trade. And they also take away an economic option from working-class women, without doing anything to ease the crippling precariousness that characterizes their lives. All bans do, then, is alleviate our conscience with the thought that we have acted, when actually we may have done more harm.

Read more from Vrinda at Live Mint!


Sharmila argues:

Feminist ethicists have been asking for deeper regulations of the surrogacy industry in India. But on August 24, 2016 the Indian government went ahead and moved closer to deregulating the industry when the Union Cabinet cleared the Surrogacy Bill 2016. The new bill bans commercial surrogacy altogether, but leaves the door wide open for altruistic surrogacy where no money shall be exchanged between birthing mother and commissioning parents. This new bill will lead to far deeper exploitation of indigent women who are now expected to labor for free.

This is not to say that the practices of global surrogacy have been egalitarian. In various fora, along with other feminist ethicists, I have argued that surrogacy in India has been based on unfair labor conditions for surrogate mothers. The regulations to date had privileged clients over surrogate mothers; provided no enforceable guidelines on the number of embryos to be transplanted; no guidelines on the number of times a woman could be hormonally hyper-stimulated for the purposes of commercial pregnancy; no choice for the surrogate mother to carry her pregnancy to term or opt for an abortion, or even choose how to birth her contracted child; and finally, very little ability to bargain for better wages or working conditions.

Read more from Sharmila at The Huffington Post!

Minimum Wage Jobs No Longer Make Sense for College Students

SOURCE: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg/Getty Images
SOURCE: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Professor Christine Williams shares some thoughts on college students (and others) who work minimum wage jobs to make ends meet as we enter Labor Day weekend:

It’s true that incomes have not kept up with inflation, so one could argue that virtually all workers deserve a raise. I agree. But we must focus specially on students. Some low-wage employers justify the current low minimum wage by contending that their workers don’t really “need” the money because they are students who are not dependent on their jobs for their livelihoods. But in today’s world, students do need the money. And if we are going to treat fast-food jobs as a stepping stone to better jobs, then wages must be high enough to cover the cost of decent housing and the cost of education to prepare workers for better jobs.

Fast-food workers need a raise. The labor conditions that may have made sense for my baby boomer generation are completely out of touch with the needs of the millennial generation. On this Labor Day, let’s remember that all workers deserve a wage that covers the rising costs of education and housing.

Read more at The Dallas Morning News!