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On the Market

Rachel McKane

Dissertation Title: “Transit Justice: Assessing Gentrification, Displacement, and Patterns of Environmental Inequity Surrounding Light Rail Stations, Bus Stops, and Transit Deserts”
Dissertation Chair: David Hess
Research Interests: Environmental Justice; Environmental Sociology; Quantitative Methods;

In my current research, I use a variety of quantitative methods to examine how social, economic, and political inequalities manifest within, and are shaped by both the built and natural environment. I am primarily interested in exploring how decision making concerning the distribution of environmental goods and bads, and by extension technological innovations, can be used as tools of oppression that diminish the agency of marginalized groups. Thus, as a scholar, I am driven by questions such as: how do multiple reinforcing categories of social difference relate to the environment? how can we center inequality within the bounds of manufactured geographic space? and how can environmental problems be examined at multiple levels of analysis within socio-political decision-making?

My dissertation directly engages with these questions by examining the spatial and temporal aspects of transportation inequality in urbanized areas across the United States. I bring together literature in urban sociology and environmental justice to better understand the relationship between gentrification, residential displacement, and transit systems. Transportation inequality has been a feature of urban areas in the U.S. since the birth of the highway system. Middle class whites fled to the suburbs and enjoyed automobile-based transportation, while the poor and racial minorities were left behind in cities with inadequate and underfunded urban bus systems. However, the growth of the new urban middle class in late twentieth and twenty-first century is changing the nature of transit-based segregation. Rather than bringing reinvestment into the city as a whole and encouraging the ideal of a multicultural, multiclass city, the return of the white middle-class to the central city has tended to create a new chapter in the saga of geographical apartheid, transportation racism, and spatialized inequality. Some studies have recognized that gentrification and displacement of low income residents has been facilitated by new forms of transportation, such as light rail transit (LRT), that has made it easy for the new urban middle-class to move freely about the city without the constraints of urban traffic that has plagued bus systems. I expand on those previous studies in two ways. First, using insights from critical environmental justice theory, I argue that transit related gentrification from LRT should be studied through the lens of race as well as class and should include measures of racial displacement. Second, I examine whether LRT development leads to the displacement minority residents, and subsequently, the growth of minority populations surrounding dirtier forms of transit, such as bus systems as well as in transit deserts, using a series of spatial autoregressive models.

Aside from my work on transportation justice, I have also worked on several research projects on environmental planning and management as an NSF funded research assistant at the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and the Environment (VIEE). I am currently coauthoring two interdisciplinary projects on water governance. The first project develops an agent-based model (ABM) to better understand how water stakeholders, such as local governments, business owners, and low-income households negotiate to create water supply portfolios. This social network simulation tool allows us to better understand how the consequences of decision making under various automated negation protocols shape water governance within cities. The second project uses topic modeling to characterize and compare rhetoric used in both state-level water plans and state-level drought plans.


Rachel McKane and Holly McCammon. “Why We March: The Role of Grievances, Threats and

Organizational Resources in the 2017 Women’s Marches.” Forthcoming at Mobilization.

Rachel McKane, Lacee Satcher, Stacey L. Houston II, and David J. Hess. 2018. “Race, Space, and Waste: An Intersectional Approach to Environmental Justice in New York City.” Environmental Sociology.4(1):79-92, DOI: 10.1080/23251042.2018.1429177

David J. Hess and Rachel McKane. 2017. “Renewable Energy Research and Development: A Political Economy Perspective.” In David Tyfield, Rebecca Lave, Samuel Randalls, and Charles Thorpe, eds. Routledge Handbook of the Political Economy of Science.


Minyoung Moon

My research broadly centers on the intersections of social movements, gender, and law. My prior and current projects examine how feminist activists mobilize and influence gender policymaking through their political activism both in South Korea and in the U.S. My dissertation examines multiple pathways leading to the success or failure of eleven feminist legislative policy campaigns in South Korea between 1993 and 2007 when pro-women presidents held power in Korean politics. The campaigns I examine consider various gender issues, including violence against women, equal employment, family systems, family/work reconciliation, and women’s representativeness in politics. Drawing on the interview and archival data that I collected during my fieldwork in South Korea, and utilizing a qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) method, I find that there are effective coalition and framing strategies that contribute to the successful outcomes of feminist legislative policy campaigns in Korea.

While my dissertation examines the women’s movement and gender legislation in South Korea, I have also explored gender policies and women’s activism in the U.S. With collaborators, I have examined how gendered organizational logics shape university sexual assault policies in the U.S., and how feminist legal coalitions and framing strategies influence Supreme Court decision making in sex-discrimination and reproductive rights cases. My goal with these projects is to further test the theoretical arguments that I make in my dissertation, such as the importance of the quality of a coalition in winning political victories for women’s rights. My collaborative research project has been published in Law & Policy.

Going forward, my research will focus on women’s activism targeting policies related to sexual harassment in the workplace and women’s reproductive rights. I have begun to explore landmark sexual harassment cases in the Korean courts to understand the strategies and impact of women’s activism in expanding and protecting women’s rights in the workplace. Then, drawing on sexual harassment cases from the U.S. feminist litigation project, I will compare the strategies of the Korean and the U.S. feminist movements to examine how different political, cultural, and legal contexts influence strategic choices that feminist activists make. Additionally, I am developing a new study on emerging radical women’s activism for the legalization of abortion in South Korea as it marks a significant step in the prospect of advancing women’s reproductive rights in Korea.



Rachel Skaggs

Dissertation Title: Changing Patterns of Cooperation in Occupational Communities: A Multi-Level Analysis of Songwriter Career Strategies

Dissertation Chair: Dan Cornfield

Keywords: Production of culture; social networks; work and employment; mixed methods

Dissertation Abstract: How do individuals enact careers within our increasingly precarious economic system? Examining workers in artistic careers can bring insight into this question, given their history of precarity and non-traditional employment. As analyzing artistic careers in aggregate is more difficult than simply mapping a corporate chain of command, I developed a novel method, the “network-based sampling frame,” that uses social network data to account for structural biases in snowball sampling and to examine the ways individuals enact careers when opportunity is concentrated in social space rather than within a bureaucratic organization. My sampling frame facilitated the collection of novel quantitative data from 1197 songs written by 941 songwriters, social network data mapping the 2927 co-writing ties that created these songs, and 38 in-depth interviews with songwriters and recording artists who wrote these songs. I use this data to examine the re-patterning of cooperation between songwriters and recording artists from 2000-2015. I find strong evidence as to how political economic shifts in the music industry at the turn of the millennium led to the restructuring of songwriting careers, which ultimately led to reduced chances for success without being socially tied to other successful songwriters. The changing nature of collaboration between songwriters and recording artists contributed to decreased songwriter agency in the writing room and a more homogenous cultural product, as the influence of recording artists’ personal branding goals influenced the songwriting process. My study deeply engages with Becker’s theory of patterned cooperation, which, while cited thousands of times, generally is used to justify intra-occupational study into non-superstar occupations rather than examining inter-occupational patterns of cooperation within an art world. I call for more research into a “networked post-bureaucracy” that incorporates social networks as the structural basis for systematic analysis of careers that are increasingly temporary, part time, project-based, or otherwise casualized.

I have written peer-reviewed articles, book and textbook chapters, and national arts policy reports. My peer-reviewed work has been published in Work and Occupations, Business Creativity and the Creative Economy, Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts, and Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions.


Peter Vielehr

Dissertation Title: “Police Discrimination, Concentrated Policing, and Mental Health in Nashville, TN”

Dissertation Chair: Mariano Sana

Research Interests: Stratification and Inequality; Criminology; Health Disparities; Race and Racism; Social Psychology; Quantitative Methods

My sociological interests lie in better understanding how social inequalities, discrimination, and social institutions affect individual wellbeing over the life course. One central focus of my work is the collateral consequences of the criminal justice system. My dissertation examines the effect of proactive police strategies in neighborhoods and experiencing unfair police treatment on mental health in Nashville, TN. Drawing on research related to police discretion, race, place, and health I merge police administrative records with a social epidemiological survey of Nashville to better understand the spillover of aggressive policing on communities of color. My work relates to ongoing policy discussions of police tactics and I am involved in community efforts to improve police practices.

In addition to my research, I have taught sociology at Vanderbilt University and Turney Center Industrial Complex, a medium security prison in Middle Tennessee. Teaching incarcerated students is incredibly rewarding and I hope to bring students from both sides of the prison walls together by developing “inside-out” courses in my next professional position.


Kanetha Wilson

My areas of expertise include race and ethnicity, sex and gender, the social determinants of health, health policy, qualitative methodologies, and quantitative methodologies.  My research primarily explores the ways gender, race, and class interact to create distinct social contexts that are influential for health and longevity.  For example, in my publication in Preventive Medicine, my co-authors and I explore racial and ethnic variations for multiple health outcomes among a sample of very high income earners using several waves of the Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys (MEPS).  My current research also elucidates important variations that can arise within Black Americans, especially among middle class black women.  From 2014-2017, I ran a grant-funded qualitative study that focused on social context, decision-making, and cancer treatments of a group of primarily middle class black women. I was awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation pilot mini-grant ($20,000) to pursue this multi-site ethnographic research study.  Four manuscripts from this project are either in the works or submitted to social science journals.   I am also working on a book that explores how black women process body transformations after treatments from this disease.