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Margaret McGladrey Selected as the 2015 Recipient of the American Sociological Association Student Forum Paper Award

By Rachel Lorch

The American Sociological Association (ASA) named Margaret McGladrey, Assistant Dean for Research for the College of Public Health and part-time Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology, the 2015 recipient of the Student Forum Paper Award.

Comprised of more than 13,000 members, the ASA is the largest professional organization in the discipline of sociology. The association is the publisher of nine professional journals and magazines, and hosts an annual meeting for its members.  

Every year, the Student Forum Advisory Board Paper Sessions and Roundtables sub-committee of the ASA chooses one paper from a selection of papers submitted online for the award. Each paper is peer-reviewed, with four to five papers chosen for discussion in one of two paper sessions. Awardees receive a monetary award, as well as a Student Forum Travel Award to cover travel costs to present their work at the annual meeting.

In her award-winning paper, “Studying Sexualities in Girls’ Social Worlds: Ethical and Effective Methodologies for Research with Preadolescent Girls,” McGladrey recommends strategies for eliciting meaningful information about how preadolescent girls interpret sexualized media content. Aiming to interject young girls’ perspectives into adult assumptions about of issues of sexualization, McGladrey focused on methods for putting the girls at ease and positioning them as the experts on the topic.

McGladrey’s paper reflects her strong passion for the health and well-being of young girls and women, an interest that stems from both academic and personal experiences.

McGladrey completed her Bachelor of Arts in Magazine Journalism at the University of Oregon, where she led the creation of media content during her senior year as editor-in-chief of an online narrative journalism magazine. Her training as a media content producer alerted her to the ever-growing importance of media culture and its influence on girls’ development.

Following her undergraduate years, McGladrey spent three years writing proposals for federal, state and local professional services contracts as marketing coordinator for a civil engineering firm in Oregon. She then pursued her Master’s Degree in the Department of Communications at the University of Kentucky, at which point she worked as a Research Assistant in the College of Public Health and applied her proposal development skills to faculty research projects.

McGladrey has now landed in the Department of Sociology as a part-time Ph.D. student thanks not only to her academic background but also her personal experiences with navigating media messages about femininity as a girl growing up in the United States. This personal experience has fostered her commitment to feminist ethics of community service and inspired her to volunteer as a grant-writer and evaluator for The Girl Project, an organization that strives to “empower teenage girls to challenge the misrepresentation of women and girls in contemporary American media culture” through a variety of performing arts workshops that culminate in the girls’ creation of a theatrical piece shared with the community and in-school audiences around Central Kentucky.

Claire Renzetti, Chair of the Department of Sociology and the Judi Conway Patton Endowed Chair for Studies of Violence Against Women, highlights McGladrey’s dedication to her work and the health and well-being of young girls and women. 

“Margaret's research reflects her commitment to the feminist principle of reciprocity: The young women she studies provide her with valuable data about their lived experiences, but she in turn uses her research and writing skills in ways that benefit them. Her passion for this work carries over to her courses, to the benefit of her peers and faculty alike.”

McGladrey’s response reflects her gratitude for the opportunities that have been available to her at the University of Kentucky.

“I am very grateful to the University of Kentucky’s Employee Education Program, which provided me the opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. in Sociology and a Graduate Certificate in Gender and Women’s Studies while continuing my work in the College of Public Health,” McGladrey remarked. “Without this generous benefit and the support of my colleagues, co-workers, and faculty advisors, it would be impossible for me to simultaneously advance my professional and academic career development.”