For Amanda Gochanour, Mississippi is a wealth of opportunities to make a positive impact on the state, nation and world. A native from Edwardsville, Illinois, Amanda has always viewed sociology as a tool to address the world’s problems.
“I like that sociology is a discipline that makes clear those issues that people know to be true, but struggle to talk about,” she said. “It gives a language and method to study social issues, inequality, and relationships among people instead of just taking it at face value—the puzzle is what makes it great for me.”
Amanda originally completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees in sociology at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, before making her way to Mississippi State University (MSU) in 2010 to pursue her Ph.D. She explained that she wanted to live in a new region of the United States, to learn more and explore opportunities.
“I wanted to live somewhere different from the Midwest, and since my grandparents lived in Mississippi at one point, I made the decision to take a chance coming to Starkville.”
In her doctoral and dissertation research, Amanda decided to look at fictional television, specifically the representation of sexual minorities in family context on television.
“This is a really big topic, one that I hadn’t explored before,” she said. “I’m looking over time at sexual minority characters and how they’re represented within fictional television’s families, from the first introduction in the 1970s to modern day shows.”
“I think the representation we see in television is, at least in some part, a reflection of what we see in society on a broader level,” she continued.
Currently a Research Assistant in the Wolfgang Frese Survey Research Lab (SRL), Amanda recalled the interesting way she joined the Social Science Research Center (SSRC). Through the sociology program, she went to Croatia in 2012 on a study-abroad trip that featured many members of the SSRC. While there, she met Dr. John Edwards, SRL Director, and later began working with him on projects.
“After coming to the SSRC and working with Dr. Edwards, I realized that working in and hopefully leading a survey laboratory is what I want to do in life. It helped me find a place to go with my degree and showed me what I can ultimately do to have an impact on the world,” Amanda stated.
In the future, she hopes to stay around Starkville or a similar area where she can work in a research center.
“I think the close-knitted location of Starkville and, more broadly, in Mississippi brings people together in a good way,” she said. “A lot of social scientists are drawn here because of the important work they can do and the impact they can have, which allows us to come together to look at problems and solve them.”
When not working to complete her Ph.D. or at the SSRC, Amanda enjoys spending time with her wife, Izzy, and her dog, Collins, as they explore the outdoors, kayak, foster dogs, and enjoy life.