Melanie Rowe ’13 Focuses Thesis Research on Personal Experiences

Posted March 21st, 2013 at 11:35 am.

mrowe-22271Growing up in a rural, working-class family, Melanie Rowe ’13 never imagined that she would be graduating from Bryn Mawr College and pursuing her MBA/MPH at Case Western Reserve University.

Her parents instilled in her a strong respect for hard work and an understanding that some people may relate certain mannerisms or appearance to a person’s socioeconomic class. With this insight and help from a mentor, Melanie began working towards her career aspirations and applied to the McBride scholarship program at Bryn Mawr.

Though the path to reach her career aspirations was different than many who attend Bryn Mawr, it has inspired her to focus her sociology research on class mobility and the paths that most upwardly mobile individuals use to be successful.

“Part of it is to understand my experience a little better, and part of it is to put a face on what it means to be socially mobile,” Rowe says.

As part of her thesis, Rowe is conducting open interviews with a small group of upwardly mobile individuals examining the factors to which they attribute their success. Her research will attempt to find common behaviors that influenced opportunities for advancement, as well as barriers that have impeded mobility.

“Some activities, clothing, and/or choices indicate class positioning and I am guessing that individuals who come from lower-class backgrounds may experience resistance because they are unaccustomed to the social habits of upper-class circles,” Rowe says. “I want to see if the mobile class group has experienced this and what they’ve done to compensate.”

According to Rowe, these barriers can range from the way a person carries themselves and speaks, to the socks a person is wearing. “These barriers are arbitrary and are often things that you wouldn’t know unless you study it or someone teaches you,” she says. “Through my research I’d like to show how these barriers operate in a real-life setting, as opposed to simply describing them in academic or clinical terms, in the hopes that it will educate those at the top, and the bottom, about why it is important to address these hurdles.”

Her research will also look at whether individuals who have successfully assimilated into the culture associated with their new class position experience a loss of identity. According to Rowe, she has changed greatly throughout the years to feel more comfortable in her new environment and she is interested to know if her research group has, as well.

Rowe will begin work on her MBA/MPH at Case Western Reserve University this fall.

Filed under: Social Sciences,student research,Students Tags: , by Diana Campeggio

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