Associate Professor, Sociology Profile Image
Associate Professor, Sociology Women's & Gender Studies

My broad research objective is to understand the social determinants of mental health and health risk behaviors, and to provide insight into the social disparities in these health outcomes across population groups. My research, thus far, has primarily focused on health disparities across gender, social class and family structure in adolescence. I pay close attention to variation in social network structure, perceptions of social support, stress exposure and the self-concept across these populations groups. Systematic differences in these characteristics (the classic elements of the stress process) should provide insight into mental health disparities across population groups. Many mental health scholars argue for the incorporation of a life course orientation into the stress process model and my research fits within this emerging area of research. I also use social network theory and methods. For example, I study the direct and indirect effects of social network structure on adolescent health outcomes. I argue that social networks indirectly affect mental health by shaping perceptions of social relationships and regulating a person's health promoting or inhibiting behaviors. Social network structure is also likely to have a direct effect on health outcomes because not all aspects of social networks are visible. In other words, social network structure goes beyond individual perception. My expertise in social network analysis has provided me with opportunities to engage in collaborative research projects outside of my primary substantive area of research interest. In the spring of 2008, I designed and fielded a network mapping and climate survey to all STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) faculty at UNL. Several research projects are being developed from these data, including two master theses. My project will investigate how faculty network structure varies by gender leading to gender disparities in access to resources and the amount of faculty workload from service and teaching responsibilities. It is often theorized that a lack of inclusion in social networks disadvantages underrepresented faculty (i.e., women) in STEM departments, but no research has empirically tested how network structure varies by gender in academia and whether or not it leads to disadvantage, in terms of research productivity, for women.


Ph.D., Sociology, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Areas of Specialization

Mental Health

Social Psychology