Student researches social movements in higher education

Noticing a plethora of recent cases where university officials resigned amid pressure from students and others, Naomi Li ’20 wanted to know more.

Li, an economics and sociology major, conducted research over the summer on the role of resignation in social narratives and social change to find out more about cases like Lou Anna Simon at Michigan State University or Tim Wolfe and R. Bowen Loftin at Missouri State University and the kind of justice activists hoped to achieve.

“I have always been interested in how social change develops and the construction of social narratives,” said Li, who is a Tanner Dean’s Scholar in the College of Arts & Sciences. “My research has helped me expand my literature base tremendously this summer and gain a better understanding of how to approach questions from a sociological perspective.”

Li, who is interested in race and gender studies, says her research focused on situations where students and faculty experience sexism and racism in higher education. Li conducted research under the supervision of Kelly Nielsen, a postdoctoral fellow in sociology. The research is part of the groundwork for a paper they are working on.

“Dr. Nielsen’s guidance and knowledge of the sociological world has been integral to helping me become a better researcher and refining my questions for building this paper,” Li said.

Li credits her time on Cornell’s Speech and Debate Team for helping her approach her summer research. Li is a member of the policy team, which spends time “cutting cards, a process of reading through articles and books and highlighting the most important passages that supports an argument and condensing it into a couple of concise sentences.

“This has been invaluable to me as I read through numerous articles trying to pull out the information that best supports our argument in this paper," said Li.

Yvette Lisa Ndlovu is a communications assistant for the College of Arts & Sciences.

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Student researches social movements in higher education