Research Interests

Education, stratification, social class, gender, race/class/gender, family, civic engagement/ volunteering, social psychology, social justice, teaching and learning, mixed methods (qualitative and statistics)

Current Project: Entering College during a Pandemic: Decisions, Uncertainty, and Inequality

  • Research questions: 

    • How did first-year students choose to attend an expensive residential university despite the uncertainty of being able to experience the standard experiential learning model? 

    • What do students expect will be their successes and challenges for their first semester and how do these compare to the actual experiences of their first semester of college? 

    • How will the covid-19 pandemic affect institutional policies and how will those changes impact the students’ transition to college? 

    • How do these challenges vary by race/class/gender of the student? 

  • Design: Longitudinal in-depth interviews with 50 students at St Lawrence University in Sept 2020 and January 2021

Other Project: Major Questions: Reproducing Inequality through College Major Decisions

  • Research questions: How do students choose their college majors? How does this process reproduce inequality by race, class, and gender? 
  • Design: Longitudinal surveys (n=1,1,00) and in-depth interviews (n=50) with first-year college students at UNC-Chapel Hill 
  • Major findings: 
    • Student orientations to choosing a major differ by race, class, and gender and these orientations change over time as students learn new schemas for choosing a major (i.e. based on career, intellectual interests, or match with student skillset)
    • Students often get stuck in ill-fitting majors because ​they feel compelled to choose a major before they have much (correct) knowledge about what that major means and entails
    • Students feel uncertainty during parts of the major choosing process, and these times of uncertainty are critical junctures for inequality reproduction 

2010 - present

2010 - present

© Alanna Gillis