Introducing the New Grad Student Cohort!

2023- 2024 grad student cohort on steps of Wilson-Short Hall

The WSU Department of Sociology wouldn’t be what it is without our excited, curious, and inspiring new graduate students! This fall, we welcomed six new graduate students to WSU Pullman. 

2023-2024 cohort on the steps of Wilson-Short Hall.

Jingyu Lang

Hometown: Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Education: MA, sociology, Columbia University; MA, translation and interpreting, Sichuan University; BA, English and literature, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China
Research Interests: Medical sociology, health, health disparities, science and technology, social policy, women’s health

Shekinah: Tell me about your research interests?

Jingyu: I’m very interested in women’s health, medical sociology, and the intersections between health, science, and technology. At Columbia, I wrote a seminar paper discussing COVID-19 and the role of traditional Chinese medicine in the Chinese government’s decisions related to COVID and how Chinese people react to traditional Chinese medicine. The paper was related to one of my professor’s current academic projects, so I joined his research team. The project seeks to explore the type of information people receive online about COVID and the sources they tend to trust. This project helped me see medical sociology with a broader perspective.

Shekinah: What do you like to do outside of school?

Jingyu: I am an avid tennis player. I’ve been playing tennis for about 13 years now, since I was 14 or 15 years old. I’m not a professional, but I love playing tennis. I also play badminton and table tennis. I also love hiking and I like to read.

Shekinah: What is your favorite book?

Jingyu: I can’t say I have a favorite book of all time because I have one each year. In 2023, my favorite book was On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. He’s a Vietnamese-American writer and poet. It’s about Vietnamese immigrants coming to the United States after the Vietnam War and the trauma they experienced. It’s beautifully written and I love that.

Shekinah: Do you miss anything about home?

Jingyu: Family and food. Life in the States is very different from life in my hometown. I miss the food—hot pot originated in my hometown and it is one of my favorite foods.. In my hometown the weather is often cold and humid so we tend to eat a lot of spicy food to warm up. We have hot pots on a weekly basis, very spicy and very authentic. I also miss my family and my parents.

Kayla Lendy

Hometown: Wheaton, Illinois
BA, sociology, North Central College
Research Interests: 
Environmental sociology, sociology of consumption, social movements, political sociology, social theory, qualitative methods

Shekinah: Tell me about where you grew up.

Kayla: I grew up in Wheaton, Illinois, a suburb about 45 minutes outside of Chicago. A fun little fact about where I grew up is that Wheaton has the second most churches per capita in the United States!

Shekinah: Tell me a little about your research interests.

Kayla: During my last year of undergrad, I took a class called, “American Culture and the Environment” and it changed my perspective on sociology and what I’m interested in. So now, I’m interested in environmental sociology, but I’d also love to put my minor in gender and sexuality studies into practice and see how I can marry those two disciplines together.

Shekinah: I hear you’re interested in horticulture. Tell me a little more about that.

Kayla: During the pandemic, I started taking horticulture classes at a community college near me. And during those classes, I found that the questions I was asking in class weren’t horticulture questions, they were sociology questions. And I said, “OK, how can I kind of combine these two?” And that led me to environmental sociology.

Shekinah: What were some of those questions that were coming to your mind?

Kayla: One of the biggest questions I had was about the meat industry and climate change. In my urban agriculture class, one of the questions I asked was, “What kind of impact does the keto diet have?” There is huge trend right now to be keto. I was curious about how the keto diet impacts climate change and if there’s concern for that.

Shekinah: What sparks joy for you? What do you like to do outside of school?

Kayla:  I really love to crochet. I’ve been making blankets for a while. I’d love to expand on that and make my own clothes. I think it’s the coolest thing when I see people out wearing crop tops or whatever they made—that is so cool. I also love to read. I love YA fiction. The Hunger Games series is my favorite series of all time. My favorite book I’ve read this year is Where the Crawdads Sing. I also love going outside and being immersed in nature and walking around and testing my horticulture knowledge.

Yujia Li

Hometown: Weinan, Shaanxi, China
Education: MA, public administration, Northwest University; BA, administrative management, Northwest University
Research Interests:
Health disparities, life course, social inequalities, quantitative methods

Shekinah: Tell me about your research interests?

Yujia: My research interests are health disparities, social inequalities, the life course, and quantitative methods. I’ve engaged in some research projects and written papers about public policies and health policies. I think health is a very interesting research area. Health is very a hot issue in China, and I think in the U.S., too.

Shekinah: Interesting! Why is it a hot issue in China?

Yujia: I think, with the development of society, people are paying more and more attention to health issues. In China, those that live in villages are much poorer than those who live in cities. I hope I can do research on health for those that live in rural areas of China and help them get the same health rights.

Shekinah: What do you like to do outside of school?

Yujia: I like to stay at home and maybe watch videos. I like to hike, too.

Shekinah: What have you been watching lately?

Yujia: I usually like to watch videos about Chinese politics and international relationships. While in the U.S. you have YouTube; in China, we have many different and interesting of video apps. Lots of people work in this industry and post many interesting things.

Cassie Rueda

Hometown: Ashburn, Virginia
BS, biological sciences and geographic information science, Arizona State University
Research Interests:
Environmental sociology, political sociology, race and ethnicity, gender, social movements, and LGBTQ+ studies

Shekinah: Tell me a little bit more about your undergraduate studies and your research interests.

Cassie: I worked for the entire four years of my undergrad in a bird research lab. By the time I got to the end of my program, I discovered that I really liked research, but I felt kind of disconnected from society—events in 2020, the pandemic, and those sorts of things. I wanted to be more connected to societal issues and I wanted to work with people. I wanted to make a shift over to environmental sociology.

Shekinah: What do you like to do outside of school?

Cassie: Reading, gaming, and lately, darts. Kayla (fellow first-year cohort grad student) and I have been really into playing darts at Rico’s. We’re keeping track of how many bull’s eyes each of us get so we’re both going to be very good at darts by the time we’re out of grad school!

Shekinah: What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you or that you wished people knew about you?

Cassie: I’m the child of a Spanish immigrant and I’m a dual Spanish citizen. An entire half of my family is across the Atlantic and I have very strong ties to an entirely other country. I have a Spanish passport and technically, I can vote in Spanish elections.


Avijit Saha

Hometown: Pabna, Bangladesh
Education: MSS and BSS, development studies, Bangladesh University of Professionals
Research Interests:
Youth transition, gender and development, rural society, developing countries, methodology, mixed methods

Shekinah: Tell us a little bit about where you grew up.
Avijit: I’m from Pabna in Bangladesh, just beside the Jumuna River. I went to my undergraduate and graduate school in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

Shekinah: What are some of the differences between Pullman and where you grew up?

Avijit: The systems are quite different. First, the geography is very different. Bangladesh is very flat and quite plain. Here, there are hills. The public transportation system is also quite different in Pullman. Back in my country, we have a very busy public transportation system, while people here are more likely to have their own vehicles. Also, the climate is different. There is no snow in Bangladesh.

Shekinah: Will this be your first-time seeing snow?

Avijit:  Yes! I also come from the “land of rice,” and now I’m in the “land of lentils.” In Bangladesh, there are many rice paddy fields and here, many lentil fields. It’s kind of cool!

Shekinah: Tell us a little bit about your master’s degree and some of the work that you’ve done?

Avijit: While completing my master’s in development studies, I had an internship with Global Alliance. I was involved in a project called Food Fortification. The project aimed to improve nutrition in Bangladesh, especially vitamin A, because people don’t tend to buy staple foods with vitamins that are necessary for health. We worked to make sure our citizens have those staple foods with fortification. Our project was funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Another area of my research experience is the impact of the digital divide on the mental health and psychological distress of undergraduate students from Dhaka City during the pandemic. Back in my country, a great portion of students don’t have access to technology for studying, like laptops or phones, due to their economic background. My research found evidence that not having access to technology led to psychological distress among undergraduate students during COVID. The goal became how can we solve this issue? How can we propose to our government that we need more technological and mental health support for our students?

Shekinah: What are some of your hobbies?

Avijit: I love to watch soccer. I follow a lot of teams, especially the English Premier League and Manchester United. I also love to watch Brazilian soccer, the Brazilian national team, and the U.S. women’s soccer team.

Sydney Silva

Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Education: BA sociology, Arizona State University
Research Interests: Gender-based violence in Latinx communities, incarceration, stratification

Shekinah:  Tell us a little about your academic background?

Sydney: I went to Kent State in Ohio for two years and then I transferred to Arizona State where I earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology. I transferred to Arizona State because I worked at Starbucks at the time and they had a program where you can basically get a free bachelor’s degree through ASU Global.

Shekinah: What are some of your research interests?

Sydney: My research interests revolve around social stratification in terms of race, ethnicity, poverty and gender. Right now, I’m specifically interested in gender-based violence in the Latinx community. Although I’m open to exploring new interests, including incarceration.

Shekinah: Where did your interest in gender violence and incarceration come from?

Sydney: When I moved to Ohio, I was in a relationship and through that relationship I got the opportunity to live in a community that was very, very underprivileged. It was an impoverished community with high child mortality rates, incarceration, drug abuse as well as gender-based violence—which was very much connected to incarceration and drugs and poverty in the community. It was the first time I lived in a space where there was food insecurity. I got the opportunity to play a role in helping to mitigate food insecurity within the family I was in. Becoming part of that community got me interested in this area of research. I learned about their school systems, too, and factors that played into the cycle of violence, drug abuse, incarceration, and general crime in the community. That’s really what inspired me. I think I really owe that community a lot because I probably would not have found my research interests without it.

Shekinah: What are some things that you like to do outside of school?

Sydney: I love baking. I like painting, although I’m no artist. It’s just fun. I also like kickboxing and martial arts. I enjoy being outside and hiking and watching silly reality TV.

Shekinah:  What’s your favorite type of food? What foods are you going to miss from home?

Sydney:  I’m really going to miss Korean food. My favorite childhood comfort food is Japanese curry. My mom used to make it all the time. I’m not Japanese, but I was very lucky that my family was open to diverse foods. I’m going to miss that specific dish, but in general, I like Korean food like kimchi and Mediterranean food.

Shekinah: What is something that might surprise people to know about you?

Sydney: Sometimes the kickboxing and the martial arts thing throws people for a loop. I am pretty serious about. Technique is very important to me. I started in high school. For those four years, I was very focused on training. Kickboxing is a sport to me, and I want to continue to get better. I’ve restarted a few different times during different blocks of time in my life. I kind of hop back in and out. I miss it here, but they have a bunch of bags in the Student Rec Center so hopefully I can get back into it!