Sociology and Criminology

faculty graduation


University of North Carolina Wilmington



Spring Commencement 2020 Message

Department of Sociology & Criminology, Saturday May 9th, 2020

Student Awards
    Sociology Academic Excellence Award
Andrea Marie Stomski

John H. Scalf, Jr. Outstanding Sociology Graduate Award
Stephanie De Leon

Criminology Academic Excellence Award
Cole River Gray 

 Criminology Student of the Year Award
Lindsay Jean Baker

Keely Geyer Latterner Graduate Student Award
Joseph Marshall Brown


Joseph Marshall Brown, M.A. Sociology 

Thesis: Ayahuasca in the Market: A Comparison of Consumption in Different Cultural Contexts

This research investigates the effect of cultural context on the meaning of commodities and consumption. Through interviews and participant observation, the meaning of ayahuasca among consumers and hosts in ayahuasca retreats is compared in two different cultural contexts, the Peruvian Amazon and the United States. Findings show that in Peru, authenticity around tradition and the Amazonian context provides the most salient meaning for ayahuasca. In contrast, the United States retreat exhibits a balance between authenticity and the process of rationalization. That is, in the United States, authenticity is “traded” for standardization, credentialism, safety, and a therapeutic approach to ayahuasca. These findings suggest that cultural context does indeed shape the meaning of ayahuasca. However, the influence of cultural context and the boundaries (East/West and domestic/foreign) associated with its analysis, are complicated by the influence of media on consumers as well as the marketing of ayahuasca retreats.

Chair: Dr. Christopher Shane Elliott

Robyn Alexis Brown, M.A. Criminology 

Thesis: Student Interactions with School-Based Law Enforcement

In recent decades, law enforcement officers have increased in schools throughout the United States. Although recent research has begun to investigate student-to-officer interactions in schools, the perceptions of students have largely been absent from this work. Considering this gap in the literature, this research sought to explore the nature of student interactions with law enforcement officers in their schools as well as the consequences of these interactions within a lens of school climate. The current research draws from 21 semi-structured interviews with UNCW first-year college students while using a grounded theory methodology. Findings focus on the dichotomy of interactions that appeared, which consisted of direct and indirect interactions. Consequences that arose from interacting with police officers in schools included perceptions of police, feelings of safety, wariness and guilt, and use-value. Considering the literature on the school-to-prison pipeline and its focus on the experiences of students of color, the students of color and their discussions are highlighted within this study. These findings have implications for school climate and the growing trend of law enforcement in public schools.

Chair: Dr. Ethan Higgins

Sommer Rose Byrd, M.A. Criminology

Thesis: Gentrification and Crime in Wilmington, North Carolina

The term gentrification refers to the reverse migration of the middle class into inexpensive housing, causing widespread displacement of lower socioeconomic individuals (Covington & Taylor, 1989; Van Wilsem, Wittebrood, & De Graaf, 2006; Kreager, Lyons, & Hayes; 2011). There are numerous effects of gentrification, one of them being either increasing or decreasing crime (Covington & Taylor, 1989; Van Wilsem et al., 2006; Kreager et al., 2011). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between gentrification and crime counts in Wilmington, North Carolina. This study followed a theoretical integration of social disorganization and routine activities theory used by Jones and Pridemore (2019). Two hypotheses were investigated: 1) there is a negative relationship between gentrification and crime counts, and 2) there is a negative relationship between gentrification and crime counts when integrating social disorganization and routine activities theory. Data was compiled from two sources to test the hypotheses. The crime data was received from the Wilmington Police Department’s STING Center, which was then aggregated with U.S. Census data on Wilmington’s block groups for the years 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012. In order to conduct the analysis, this study used negative binomial regression models. The results supported both hypotheses and indicated that gentrification tentativelydecreases crime counts in census block groups.

Chair: Dr. Meghan L. Rogers

Samantha Leigh Durham, M.A. Sociology

Thesis: One Nation, United in Debt: A Study of Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt is a familiar experience to most Americans. Many are aware of the cost of a college degree. In 2015-2016 school year, those who borrowed both federal and nonfederal loans owed an estimated $30,300 for a 4-year program (National Center for Education Statistics, 2019). Despite the increasing cost of a college education however, the number of people attending college remains at an all-time high. This is important as many rely on educational attainment to benefit them in the job market and in many other areas of life. Yet, student debt has also been shown to adversely impact the number of people saving for retirement and homeownership, two of the primary assets leading to wealth accumulation. Thus, the following proposal seeks to examine if student loan debt produces social mobility (the ability of an individual to move between social strata in society) or social reproduction (the tendencies for social inequality to be transferred from one generation to the next). Through in-depth, semi-structured interviews, those with bachelors and associate degrees along with those with some college education from 2000 to 2017 will describe their experiences with educational debt and how their debt has impacted them since graduating college or leaving higher education.

Chair: Dr. Daniel Buffington

Amanda Rose Elliott, M.A. Criminology

Thesis: Ambiguous Enforcement: The Causes and Consequences of Role Ambiguity among Probation and Parole Officers in North Carolina

Over the past several years there has been a shift in the criminal justice system: one that emphasizes reform, diversion, and decarceration. Probation and parole officers are an essential component in achieving these goals. However, community supervision continues to be the least visible and understood part of the criminal justice system. In order to further understand how these officers experience and cope with the demands of their job, in depth interviews were conducted with probation and parole officers working in North Carolina. It is from these interviews that a grounded theory of Ambiguous Enforcement was developed. This theory details why the role of the probation and parole officer is highly ambiguous, and what consequences this ambiguity has for officers both on and off the job. These findings indicate that the role orientation of probation and parole officers is fluid, and therefore officers are not unified in their definitions of their role and functions. Until officers can come to a consensus, the overarching goals of the criminal justice system are not likely to be achieved.

Chair: Jacob Day  

Ashley Nicole Parsons, M.A. Criminology

Thesis: Practicing Restorative Justice in Schools

This research explored the process of transitioning to a whole school restorative model in a low-income, majority minority school in an urban area of the southeast United States, and the components involved in the transition. Shifting to a whole school model is an intensive, multi-tiered process that takes 4-5 years to complete and requires a change to the culture of a school. How this process occurs, and the effect that it has on students, especially low-income kids of color, needs further exploration. What restorative policies emerge at this school? What resources for restorative practices do they have access to and avail themselves of? Lastly, how are restorative practices being used with the students and did they seem to differ based on gender and/or race?

Chair: Dr. Kimberly Cook  



  † Honors Graduate

  *** Summa Cum Laude

  ** Magna Cum Laude

  * Cum Laude

Bachelor of Arts   

Robert Austin Bagley
Lindsay Jean Baker
Taylor Christine Ballard
Bethany Blair Barbee
Kristopher Douglas Beavers
Garrett Anthony Bortnick
Mitchell Morgan Brady
Lindsay Gray Brookshire
Andrew Thomas Brown
Alec William Burleson
Rachel Leigh Byrd
Addison Brooke Caviness
Leslie Marie Centola
Chloe Beth Childers
Delaney Clark
Cassidy Lynn Coates
Craig S Connelly
Thomas Graham Copeland
Emily Renee Crumpler
Hailey Nichole Daniels
Breanna Elizabeth Davis
Paul Edward De Bernardo
Irvin De La Paz Arellano
Stephanie De Leon
Sarah Marie Dobos
Kiala Rose Dyer
Nicolette Ferriolo
Jake Edward French
Winston Caleb Gladfelter
Lauren Samantha Gliot
Tania Gabriela Granados Gasca
Cole River Gray
James Hunter Green
Katelyn Brooks Greene
Meghan Christina Haigler
Lorelei Michelle Haley
Hannah Caroline Hartnett
Victoria Edna Hayes
Fulton Hill
Stephanie Marie Horan
Lauren Nicole Iammatteo
Samantha Lynn Joyce
Taylor Cierra Kalb
Mary Lynne Kanir
Kayla Jean Keiser
Jenny Klamm
Then Ksor
Ronniece Porsha Larkin
Michael Glen Lawrence
Haley Elizabeth Lewis
Tara Paige Luczak
Megan Ruth Maryott
Anna Elizabeth McKnight
Zachary Ryan Mcconnell
Caylee Elizabeth Middleton
Tori Ann Morgan
Jack Heiland Muller
Glenn William Bunting Navarro
Kaley Nichol Neal
Nhi Selena Ngo
Alexis Grace Nield
Sabrina Yoko Ortiz
Anna Grace G Passalino
Cayse Perry
Sarah Hunter Peruso
Devin Grace Pilkington
Rebecca Lynn Porter
Ashley Nicole Rademacher
Jack Graham Resnick
Samantha Rose Sasser
Leigh Scott
Chase Christian Smith
Amber Nicole Sowell
Sydney R Stilwell
Kelsie Viorica Tegrar
Emily Carol Thompson
Olivia Thorson
Aliza Rose Tomkoski
Colby Thomas Torbett
Arianna Tea Triantis
Andrea Marie Vermilyea
Nicholas Wade
Meghan Marie Whitecavage
Jacob Liam Wolf