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WSU Department of Sociology Sociology News

Meet the new graduate cohort!

By Alana Inlow

This year our department welcomed nine graduate students to the 2019/2020 cohort. Below we learn a little bit about each new graduate student. WSU Sociology wouldn’t be what it is without an excited, curious, and inspiring new cohort each year.

Ed. Note: Answers were lightly edited for clarity and brevity.


Sandra YokleyFront facing photo of Sandra Yokley.

Hometown: Belleville, Illinois (20 minutes outside of St. Louis)

Education: B.S. in Sociology, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, 2018

Associate of Arts, Southwestern Illinois College, 2015

Research Interests: social inequality, social justice, liberation sociology, urban sociology, social movements, political sociology, public policy, organizational sociology, poverty, class origins/destinations, mobility, qualitative methods, mixed methods

Alana: What’s your favorite natural phenomenon? If you have more than one favorite that’s fine.

Sandra: Hmm, that’s such a hard question. Give me some parameters.

Alana: There are weird ones like volcanic lightning or the green flash at sunset. But also, more common things like regular rainstorms are fine too. Have you ever been interested in any natural phenomena or taken a fascination with any of them?

Sandra: I guess on a basic level I’m really into stars—finding them, looking at them. Not necessarily astrology but just the idea, the vastness of space. Space… really everything that has to do with that; more along the lines of how I relate to it, how it makes me feel.

Alana: Did you ever want to be an astronaut when you were little?

Sandra: No, I was your pretty basic princess singer. I didn’t know other options were available to me until I grew up.

Alana: What’s your favorite music era? And if you could pick a song from that era that you really love, what would it be?

Sandra: These are really hard! I don’t like new music. Well, I don’t want to say I don’t like new music; I don’t like mainstream music? I’m definitely an indie-alternative kind of person. I’m trying to think of the song, it came out during my birth year, and it’s by… let me look it up. It’s by Annie Lennox. “No more ‘I love you’s’!” Okay, so that came out during my birth year, of course I didn’t hear it during my birth year, but that’s one.

Alana: Do you enjoy singing too?

Sandra: Yes!

Alana: Do you have a go to karaoke song?

Sandra: Oh goodness. If I’m going to do karaoke I like to be as dramatic as possible because I’m not naturally super dramatic, so, like, “Benny and the Jets” or Adele.

Alana: Those are perfectly dramatic. Okay, one more. How do you feel about garden gnomes?

Sandra: They creep me out! There was a time in high school where my friends and I… there was a game and we would go out in the middle of the night and the goal was to find the weirdest thing in someone’s yard and steal it and bring it back. And there was always a garden gnome. And they creep me out. Back home, gnomes around Christmas are the thing, so I’m ok with them. But there is something about them that just creeps me out.


Sarah DemingFront facing photo of Sarah Deming.

Hometown: Tacoma, WA area

Education: M.S., Family and Consumer Science, University of Idaho, 2019
B.A., Sociology, Western Washington University, 2003

Research Interests: sociology of the family, gender/gender role expression, social inequality, qualitative and survey research methods

Alana: What do you like to do with your free time if you have any?

Sarah: Oh, all my free time! I’d say just being outside is probably my number one priority when I’m not working on stuff. Running is probably the biggest thing that I do most regularly by myself. Also, the family and I mountain bike a lot and raft. My husband works for Northwest River Supply, so we get out on the water a fair amount too. Ski and snowboard in the winter. I just like being outside and exploring. I like hiking and trail running and stuff up in the mountains and being on the water.

Alana: What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received?

Sarah: This is going to be kind of mean, but my husband, on multiple occasions now—it started as a birthday present, but he has tried to pull this off multiple times, for Christmas too—he was going to build me a dining room table, which is a beautiful idea. I really wanted this big farmhouse kind of table, so we bought these big slabs of wood. But that was three years ago, and they’re still sitting in our garage annoying me every time I go in. It has kind of become a joke. The unfinished table.

Alana: If you were a plant, any kind of plant, what would you be and why?

Sarah: Hmm. I think I would be a succulent because I like to think of myself as pretty low maintenance and only need small amounts of… oh, geez, this is such a “mother” answer, I can be neglected. And they’re actually my favorite kind of plant too, they’re just not so needy. They’re kind of satisfying, you know the ones that bloom, it’s so surprising.

Alana: How to do feel about garden gnomes?

Sarah: Oh, I can’t imagine ever putting them in my own yard. It’s not something I would ever spend money on buying for my yard. But I think they’re adorable when I see other people’s yards with them. I don’t know. I have vague feelings. I feel like my grandma had some.

Alana: Yeah, if a young group of undergrads had them, that would be a little kitschy.

Sarah: Yeah, I think that’s fair. I feel like I’m a little judgey, “Why do you have all this weird stuff in your yard?!” Unless you’re above a certain age.

Alana: Then you think, “Oh, that’s cute.”

Sarah: Yeah, I feel like my parents are just about that age where if my mom got a garden gnome, I’d think, “Oh, now you’re in that category. Okay, you’re old now!”


Thomas FamiliaFront facing photo of Thomas Familia.

Hometown: “All over the place,” in the U.S. and overseas

Education: B.A., Sociology, Economics, Political Science (emphasis on international relations, University of Utah, 2003

Attended WSU 2005–2008, as a PhD student in Sociology

Research Interests: environmental sociology, energy sociology, political sociology, globalization, social stratification, research methods

Alana: What was the last movie you went to see and what did you think?

Thomas: I’m blanking on the name of the movie; can I look it up really quick? What’s that guy’s name that was in the vampire movies but now is actually a good actor? Patterson?

Alana: Oh! Um, Pattinson?

Thomas: Yeah, Robert Pattinson. I saw this movie he was in, it was set in space. It was this claustrophobic space indie movie from a French director. Highlife? Is that what it’s called? Highlife, yeah.

Alana: What did you think of it?

Thomas: Very um… it was good but depressing. Basically, just these prisoners who were put in space. They send them off all the time hoping they find something, but they’re going to die in the end no matter what.

Alana: Oh, god, that does sound depressing. Okay, well, let’s see, if you had a warning label what would yours say?

Thomas: Um, “non-spontaneous.” *laughs*

Alana: So, I’ve been asking everyone this last question, I like it for some reason, and I want to see what each person says. How do you feel about garden gnomes?

Thomas: Um, uh, they give some variety? They’re like, I wonder if they’re spying? I don’t know the word I’m trying to think of, like I wonder if they’re…

Alana: Oh, like surveillance?

Thomas: Yeah! Surveillance.

Alana: Oh, I never thought of that, huh. Never thought of it that way. People usually just say they’re creepy or they’re cute. But I never thought about if they could be some sort of surveillance mechanism. Ew.

Thomas: Although, I’m not into conspiracy theories.

Alana: Yeah, but they can be fun sometimes!


Cassandra LeonardFront facing photo of Cassi Leonard.

Hometown: Wappingers Falls, NY (just outside New York City)

Education: B.A., French Language & Literature, Stony Brook University, 2018
BA Political Science, Stony Brook University, 2018

Research Interests: Haiti, gender, family, family structure, portrayal and perception of Haiti in western media

Alana: Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?

Cassi: Oh, this is a terrible question because I don’t know any actors or actresses. Um, can I pick a man?

Alana: Yeah, you can pick anyone you want! There are no rules.

Cassi: Probably, agh, this is going to be so embarrassing… probably Emma Watson or Johnny Depp, I don’t know.

Alana: Any particular reason?

Cassi: I just don’t know any people. Emma Watson is obviously amazing, she’s beautiful and talented, and all of the things, I don’t know. And I think Johnny Depp is hysterical.

Alana: What was your favorite subject in elementary school?

Cassi: Probably art!

Alana: That’s a great subject. Okay, I ask everyone this one because I like it and it’s weird and I just want to hear everyone’s answer to it. So, how do you feel about garden gnomes?

Cassi: Oh, my god, I love them! Yeah, my family has a garden gnome on their front steps. But we’re always terrified that delinquents are going to attack it.

Alana: Yeah, I’ve gotten so many different answers, it’s interesting.

Cassi: How could you hate them? They’re so…

Alana: Some people think they’re creepy. Let’s do one more. What’s your go to karaoke song?

Cassi: Yeah, oh, wow, I’ve actually never done karaoke, but I’ve always wanted to. But, um… this is really putting me on the spot.

Alana: If you could sing anything and be good at it…

Cassi: The first thing that comes to mind is “Party in the USA” but that’s not what I would actually pick. Um, I guess, I guess “Party in the USA.”


Michelle WestonFront facing photo of Michelle Weston.

Hometown: McCloud, California (Northern CA, at the foot of Mt. Shasta)

Education: B.S., Sociology and Anthropology, minor in Political Science, Southern Oregon University, 2018

Research Interests: rural sociology, political sociology, environmental sociology, ecology

Alana: Okay, now for the fun questions. So, if you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?

Michelle: It’s hard to pick a place. I want to say some interesting thing like a different country or whatever, but I would honestly pick something like the far outskirts of Portland, up in those mountains because it’s so beautiful and it’s within commuting distance of Portland but you don’t have to live in those urban areas. I really miss Oregon. I miss the beautiful wet forest.

Alana: And all the green.

Michelle: Yes, all the green. I want to move back to Oregon.

Alana: Me too, me too. Okay, what’s the last thing you watched on TV?

Michelle: Like current shows that I keep up with, or…?

Alana: Anything, just the last thing you watched.

Michelle: I guess last night I was watching CSI, which seems like a weird thing to watch when you can’t sleep. But it’s cathartic to me. We didn’t have cable growing up, so we only got one local channel and they used to play CSI at weird hours. So, we used to watch CSI as kids and it’s like a comforting voice, which probably makes me sound like a sociopath!

Alana: No, no! I get it. I understand. Sometimes I listen to creepy podcasts to try to fall asleep. It’s calming. Usually the people have calming voices and there’s calming music, you know?

Michelle: Yeah! So, I was watching CSI and a student recommended Mindhunter to me, and they use the sociological imagination on the first episode, so I was watching that yesterday.

Alana: Okay, how about, are you related to anyone famous?

Michelle: Ummm, no.

Alana: Or even maybe a weak tie to someone famous?

Michelle: Oh, I have a cousin who lives in Los Angeles and works in the movie industry, so he kind of drops names and will say, “Oh, y’know I worked with George Clooney last month,” and I’m just thinking, “No one cares!” Yeah, that’s a loose tie I have to someone famous.

Alana: Okay, last question! I’ve been asking this to everyone. How do you feel about garden gnomes?

Michelle: Um, I actually had a book that was like a conspiracy theory about gnomes taking over the world and I don’t know what happened to it. But I would have to say that they’re probably government surveillance *laughter*. That would be what I would like to study, just ridiculous conspiracy theories like that.

Alana: Okay… government surveillance gnomes. Have you ever listened to Coast to Coast?

Michelle: I think so!

Alana: Okay, yeah, it’s a conspiracy theory radio show, there’s people talking about Sasquatch and aliens and things like that.

Michelle: Yeah, I think we even get that in Northern California where we don’t get radio stations!

Alana: Yeah, it’s weird, it’s everywhere somehow.

Michelle: Oh, I have an aunt who loves garden gnomes and they’re all over her yard. I always thought that was kind of creepy. Yeah, so they’re creepy and just probably cameras and taking over the world.

Alana: Yeah, sounds plausible to me for sure.

Michelle: Have you ever heard of the conspiracy theory of birds not being real?

Alana: What?! No

Michelle: It’s a mock conspiracy that mocks all the ridiculous ones, and it just says birds aren’t real and that they used to be real, but they all died out in the ’70s and the government just replaced them with, like, surveillance drones. So, I have this shirt that says, “Birds aren’t real.” So, I’m just, like, “Birds aren’t real! Wake up, sheeple!” And there are, like, explanations where there are tubes all over the United States where the government is supplying man-made eggs that are made in a laboratory.

Alana: Wow, that is amazing. Oh man.

Michelle: I mean, living in Southern Oregon you just become familiar with all the conspiracy theories.


Sam CastonguayFront facing photo of Sam Castonguay.

Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Southern New Jersey

Education: B.A., Sociology, Ithaca College, 2018

Research Interests: environmental sociology, higher education & academia, gender & sexuality, research methods

Alana: What do you like to do with your free time… if you have any?

Sam: What free time? I don’t have free time! Mostly just exploring this area and getting to know the community a little bit better; definitely finding new hiking spots. I just drove out to Kamiak Butte last weekend and it was really nice. Otherwise, just cooking and baking.

Alana: So, do you have a favorite type of food or favorite recipe?

Sam: No go to recipes, but I’m really good at making pasta. I don’t like pasta, but I’m good at making it. I hate Italian food, I can’t…

*Faculty member, Dylan Bugden, interjects from across the hall: “You hate Italian food?! You have to go back.”

Sam: Listen! Where am I going back to?! *laughter*

Dylan: You’re just done! *laughter*

Sam: So, I grew up in a really Italian family. My mother is from Italy, all my grandparents came over here at the same time. So, all we got to eat as a kid was Italian food!

Dylan: So, what?!

Alana: Okay, so that’s your least favorite food, what’s your favorite food?

Sam: Uh, probably sushi, if I had to pick one. Sushi and muffins. I survived undergrad on muffins. It’s not a healthy choice!

Alana: What kind of muffins?

Sam: Various muffins. You have to spice it up sometimes. Variety muffins! Definitely not the Italian kind.

Alana: Okay, if you had a warning label, what would yours say? I know this is a terrible question.

Sam: No, I love it! I was prepared for the gnome question. I’m not prepared for “if I had a warning label.” I feel like I’m emotional. I think I’m relatively funny and I can joke around, and then other times I’m just emotional. But, I really don’t know.

Alana: Okay, emotional, funny…

Sam: Oh, no, I don’t know, just make something up for me!

Alana: Indecisive?

Sam: Oh, god, yeah, indecisive. Yeah, that’s perfect, actually, yeah, that’s even better.

Alana *laughter* Okay, I’ll end with the gnome question … how do you feel about garden gnomes?

Sam: I’m a big fan. Actually, my parting gift from my nonprofit work was a little build your own gnome pack. It’s like a little pillow gnome. And I don’t know how Michelle is going to feel about that because, apparently, they are all government surveillance gnomes. I’m going to bring that gnome into the office. Pro-gnome!


Sophia (Shuangshuang) YangPhoto of Sophia Yang looking into the distance.

Hometown: Shanghai, China

Education: B.A., Sociology, Shanghai University, 2019

Research Interests: gender, family, sexuality, low fertility, social demography, and quantitative methods

Alana: What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received?

Sophia: The worst gift? Oh! I have to think about it. Okay, I think it is a book, a novel. It just tells a love story of some teenagers in college, which is a cliché, and I just hated it. But somebody gave it to me. They said, “Oh, I think you’ll like it! You’re such a romantic person!” and I’m thinking, “No, it’s not the type of romantic I expected.”

Alana: Yeah, those books are… I don’t think I’ve ever had to read one.

Alana: Okay, what was your favorite subject in school when you were little?

Sophia: Music and art.

Alana: Cool! Do you still play music now?

Sophia: Yeah, I still play cello, but I didn’t bring it here. So, I can’t play anymore.

Alana: Oh, that’s awesome though! What about art, do you do art now?

Sophia: I just draw pictures

Alana: That’s really awesome! It’s good to keep those things up you know? Okay, if you were a plant, what kind of plant would you be?

Sophia: I want to be a tree, like a big tree.

Alana: Any certain type of tree? Just a really big tree?

Sophia: Yeah, that’s always green.

Alana: Oh, that’s nice. Okay, last one, and I’ve been asking everyone this question. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it yet, but how do you feel about garden gnomes?

Sophia: What??

Alana: Garden gnomes, the little guys in gardens, like from the Travelocity commercials?

Sophia: I’ve never heard of it. What is it?

Alana: Here, I’ll look it up and show you. I’m sure you know what they are but maybe have a different word for it.

Sophia: So, it’s like a Santa?

Alana: Yeah, kind of!

Sophia: Oh, oh, my gosh. I had one when I was in Ireland! I thought it was a Christmas thing, like a type of elf or a type of Santa, I never knew.

Alana: Oh, okay, I get it. Yeah, it does look like Santa!

Sophia: Yeah, so, I totally didn’t know anything about it. I just got one for Christmas.

Alana: So you like them?

Sophia: Yeah, I like them!

Alana: They’re kind of cute, huh? They’re kind of weird, but they’re kind of cute.

Sophia: Yeah *laughter*

Alana: Cool! Well, they do look like Santa, the beard, the red hat, you know.

Sophia: Yeah, but, what was its name?

Alana: A gnome, a garden gnome.

Sophia: Does it have a meaning?

Alana: I think maybe to some people? But, they’re just kind of like fantastical fairytale type creatures.

Sophia: Oh! They’re cute, yeah!


Tinashe ChirumeFront facing photo of Tinashe Chirume.

Originally from: Glendale, Zimbabwe (small town in Northeast Zimbabwe)

Education: B.A., Sociology, Morehouse College, 2018

Research Interests: environmental sociology, social organizations, political sociology, norms, attitudes

Alana: So, what do you like to do with your free time, if you have any?

Tinashe: Oh! So free time, I usually like playing sports. I play cricket and soccer. Right now I’m still looking for soccer groups to join.

Alana: Have you found a cricket group?

Tinashe: Yeah, I did! It’s mostly Indian students at the graduate housing. There’s a green field there where they play every Sunday. Last Sunday was the first time I saw them. So, I’m going to try to play next Sunday. But I’m still looking for stuff to do in Pullman. I want to get into hiking, but I’m still afraid because during our international orientation, this guy was telling us how someone just died on a hike out here and how there are bears and stuff. So, I’m now afraid of going hiking. *laughter*

Alana: No! Well, was he talking about the kid who fell off the waterfall?

Tinashe: Yeah.

Alana: Well that’s only if you go close to the waterfall. You won’t fall in if you stay on the trail. Anyway, now to the fun questions. What’s your favorite music era, and which song from that era do you love?

Tinashe: Well, it depends on the time that you catch me. I have phases where I concentrate on one era. Last year I was really into ’60s/’70s jazz and then I went to the blues. Right now, I’m listening to some more alternative. I like One Republic. I have a playlist that I play every day. Sometimes I play one song all day and then I don’t want to hear that song ever again. But I associate that part of my life to that song, so when I hear the song again years later, I think about the things I was doing then. Oh, yeah, I like Cage the Elephant, and Billie Eilish.

Alana: Okay, so if a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you?

Tinashe: Oh, I would say Michael B. Jordan, but he’s too tall. I’m trying to think of something more my height.

Alana: I mean you can pick anyone!

Tinashe: Oh, really? Okay! Idris Elba or Michael B. Jordan then, for sure.

Alana: Okay, what’s your favorite type of food?

Tinashe: I like Mexican food, I’m very big on Chipotle. When I was in New York I think I would go every week. That was my last meal in New York.

Alana: Well, there’s no Chipotle here, but there’s a taco truck and there is Taqueria Chaparrito.

Alana: Okay, so last question, this is the one I ask everyone. How do you feel about garden gnomes?

Tinashe: What’s that?

Alana: Like the little guys with the beards and pointy hats that people put in their gardens.

Tinashe: I don’t know anything about that. *laughter*

Alana: No? Okay, I’ll show you.

Tinashe: Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Oh yeah, I’ve seen them yeah! Um, they’re cool.

Alana: Some people have a bunch of them and collect them. It can get a little weird, but…

Tinashe: So, they’re just for outside?

Alana: Yeah, I mean I’m sure some people have them inside. I don’t know.

Tinashe: No, that’s cool. Do you have some?

Alana: No, people either tend to think they’re creepy or cute.

Tinashe: I can see both sides.


Sarah ParkerFront facing photo of Sarah Parker.

Hometown: Pembroke Pines, Florida (10 minutes north of Miami)

Education: B.A., Sociology, University of Central Florida, 2019

Research Interests: food security, social inequality, social stratification, qualitative analysis, community-based research, socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity

Alana: What do you like to do in your free time, if you have any?

Sarah: I like to lay on the floor with Gracie, my dog, and take naps. I like to drive and get lost in the corn—corn fields?— wheat fields! *laughter*. That’s about it.

Alana: If you were a plant, what kind of plant would you be?

Sarah: Oh! I would want to be a Christmas tree, but maybe Baby’s Breath. I’ve always loved it, even though they’re ugly and don’t smell like anything.

Alana: What, no! I think they’re beautiful little plants!

Sarah: I think they’re just the cutest thing, like the name of it, and they’re just so itty bitty. Or dandelions. Can it be all of them?

Alana: Sure! There are no rules. If there was a movie made about your life, who would you want to play you?

Sarah: Amy Adams, she’s my favorite.

Alana: I was actually thinking that before you said it!

Alana: Okay, last one: How do feel about garden gnomes?

Sarah: I knew you were going to ask this, and I’ve been thinking about how to answer it for like two months! I think I’m scared of them.

Alana: Oh, really?!

Sarah: They move at night, and they end up in different places, and they watch you in stores, and they cost too much money to be so ugly. They’re awful. They. Are. Awful.

Alana: I guess they are awful. Hmm. I kind of like them, though.

Sarah: No!

Alana: Well, I’ve just been agreeing with everyone no matter what they say.

Sarah: Why do you like them?!

Alana: I don’t know if I like them, I don’t really have an opinion on them.

Sarah: I guess they’d be cute to collect, if you can get really weird ones.

Alana: I think collecting is the creepy part.

Sarah: It would be creepy, but can you imagine kids being scared of your house? That would be awesome.

Alana: I can imagine them vandalizing my gnomes.

Sarah: Well, that’s why you need un-vandalizeable ones. Like my mom collects broken nutcrackers. She has a foster home.

Alana: For nutcrackers?

Sarah: Yeah, for the broken and the abandoned.

Alana: That’s so sweet! Aww.

Sarah: It’s really cute. You could be like that but with garden gnomes! Get them a little jacuzzi. That would be so cute.

Alana: Why a jacuzzi?

Sarah: Because garden gnomes deserve to be treated well.

Alana: That’s true. Even though you’re scared of them…

Sarah: Yeah. If they just don’t move at night, then I’m fine with them.

Alana: I think that’s it!

Sarah: Did I get the job?

Alana: Yeah!

Sarah: I win!