Current Students in the Program
Program Graduate Students
Becka Alper is a doctoral student interested in investigating the relationship between majority/minority status and religious identity. She is currently working on her dissertation, "Does Religious Geography Affect Identity?: The Impact Underlying Social Structure has on Religious Identity." Her advisor is Professor Dan Olson. Her research interests include religious identity, religious behavior and participation, social networks, minority-majority effects on religious identity, and generations. She is currently working as a research assistant for Professor Rachel Einwohner on her project about Jewish resistance during the Holocaust.
Deb Coe's reasearch interest focus on the impact of religion on American society, with an emphasis on the historic and lasting effects of religious stratification on America’s educational systems. America was largely founded on the principles of religious freedom by Western European immigrants, the majority of whom were Protestant Christians. Because of this Protestant groups’ overwhelming majority in early positions of power, prestige, and wealth, they were over-represented in such positions, causing social stratification not only by race, gender, and social class, but also by religious affiliation. Her research to date in this area, done collaboratively with Professor Davidson, has shown that this religious stratification continues today after more than 200 years, and is an important variable in studies of stratification.
Coe is expanding her research to include studies of mainline Protestant decline in America, which has occurred concurrently with growth among evangelical Protestant groups. Several theories about what causes certain religious groups to grow or decline in numbers and vitality have offered only partial answers--pieces of a larger puzzle. She hopes to be able to find more pieces of that puzzle in future research, contributing to the sociological literature that theorizes about factors responsible for growth and decline among religious groups. This will be the focus of her dissertation, which examines the differential effects of a spiritual renewal group, called the Great Banquet, on mainline congregational vitality. Although the religious stratification studies have an academic emphasis, her studies of mainline and evangelical groups will also take an applied sociological perspective, offering help and advice to congregational and denominational leaders, while adding new theoretical contributions to the extant sociological literature.
RJ Leamaster's interests include the sociology of religion and political sociology. He is currently working on several projects. The first is his masters thesis, which attempts to answer the question of why non-ethnic (European ancestry) Americans convert to or practice Buddhism. The second is a project that he is working on with Professor Fenggang Yang that uses the recent Chinese Spiritual Life Survey conducted by Horizon, Inc. to create an overview of Buddhism in contemporary China. Third, he is also helping Kris Morgan and Professor Jim Davidson complete a paper on elite religious prep schools, and finally, he is reworking a a political sociology paper centered on Taiwanese national identity.
Jun Lu is interested in investigating how beliefs and practices of various religions--especially Christianity and Buddhism--are configured in the social-economic context of contemporary Chinese society. This is a theme necessarily related to theoretical issues such as market reform, globalization, modernity versus traditionalism, and media-tized religiosity. She is interested in cross-cultural comparisons of Chinese and American scenes on this topic in order to better understand these different social systems. Jun Lu is also interested in such areas as sociological theory, gender, race and ethnicity, and globalization.
Kris Morgan completed his Ph.D. degree in May 2009. His current research interests are American religion, sociology of technology, religion and biomedical research, adolescent religious development, and quantitative and qualitative methods. He is currently the Project Manager for the Purdue University Social Research Institute.
Morgan's dissertation research examines the relative effects of religious and political identity as well as knowledge of science on attitudes about embryonic stem cell research. He also explore how having a sick family member may change people’s opinions. Using structural equation modeling, he found that among mainline Protestant groups, having a sick family member moderates the effect of religious identity and religiosity. However, for some groups (Catholics and fundamentalist Christians) religiosity remained a strong predictor of negative attitudes regardless of having a sick family member.
His other research projects include a recently submitted manuscript to Sociological Quarterly examining abortion attitudes as a predictor of stem cell attitudes. Morgan recently co-authored a piece of longitudinal research, which models adolescent religious development and/or decline over a seven year period. This is under review at Social Forces. He has also completed a project which analyzes the influence of churches on neighborhood crime rates in Indianapolis, and this is under review at the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. He has also been working on a historical analysis of the influence of the American Protestant Elite on the formation of prep-schools in the middle 19th and early 20th centuries.
Jeremy Thomas is a Ph.D. Candidate researching the sociological interaction of religion and sexuality. Along these lines, he is working on his dissertation, “Sexual Moral Reasoning in American Evangelicalism,” which investigates the shifting tactics by which evangelicalism has sought to regulate sexuality among both its adherents and society at large during the last 50 years. Other research interests of his include sociology of religion topics such as congregational and denominational growth and decline, religious economies, religious supply and demand modeling, and secularization and modernization. Broader interests include topic such as sexual deviance, body modification, mental illness, and addiction.