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Westminster College Sociology and Criminal Justice Majors Present Research at American Sociological Association Meeting

Posted on Tuesday, August 27, 2013

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Westminster College sociology/criminal justice alumnus Joseph Ritchie `13 and sociology alumna Annalisa Ryding `13 presented research at the American Sociological Association Meetings Honors Program Aug. 9-13 in New York City.

Ritchie and Ryding were nominated by Westminster faculty and accepted into the Undergraduate Honors Program of the American Sociological Association (ASA) in the spring. [MSOffice1]  They are the first Sociology Honors Program students in the history of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice Studies.

The ASA Honors Program provides undergraduate sociology students an intensive introduction to the professional life of the discipline.  As part of the program the students presented their research in a roundtable paper session and received feedback from a mentor in the field.

Ritchie's presentation was titled "Anarchy: A Study of Socialization and Retention of Motorcycle Club Members."  The investigation sought to identify the models of socialization that motorcycle clubs utilize not only to recruit, but also to maintain members within their organization. The goal of this study was to illuminate an elusive and enigmatic component of American society to aid in the development of a process model of socialization that may enable both sociologists and criminologists to further understand these groups.  

"It was a wonderful opportunity to present and discuss independent research with peers and colleagues in the field of sociology," Ritchie said. "Furthermore, it provided me with opportunities to network with various graduate schools and leaders in the field of sociology. It was sort of a surreal experience in which I was able to meet, converse, and receive encouragement with renown professors such as Sudhir Venkatesh (Columbia University) and Earl Babbie (Campbell professor emeritus).

Ritchie is a son of Carmen and Elizabeth Ritchie of New Castle and a graduate of Kennedy Catholic High School.

Ryding's paper was titled "‘It's Just Not Something People Want to Hear:' The Socialization Process of Becoming an Atheist."  Although the population of people who identify as secular, agnostic, or atheist has doubled in the past few decades, they are still one of the most highly stigmatized groups in today's society. This paper draws on in-depth interviews with self-proclaimed atheists to investigate their journey from theism to a non-religious identity.

"Going to the ASA Honors Program was one of the best experiences," Ryding said. "I gained so much knowledge and networking opportunities within the sociology discipline. Not only did I meet some amazing people, including some of my academic idols, but also I gained confidence in myself and my long-term career goals."

Ryding is a daughter of William and Merriam Ryding and a graduate of Kane Area High School.

In addition to presenting, Ritchie and Ryding attended lectures and informational sessions created for honors students. Topics included inequality and contemporary social protest; graduate programs in sociology; 21st century careers in sociology, ethics and social responsibility; social media and social inequalities; deviance and social control; and new directions in sociology of law and health.

"I would like to thank Westminster's faculty and professors for providing me with the means and abilities to attend the ASA conference," Ritchie said. "The atmosphere of the conference fostered academic growth as well as excitement in sociological discovery. It was an indispensable experience in my academic journey and I am grateful for this opportunity."

Ryding said, "I was inspired by all of the workshops and sessions that I attended and was further convinced that I chose the right career path for me. Going to this conference has already opened so many doors for my future."

Acceptance into the program was based on the students' personal essays, resumés and submissions of excerpts from their capstone research papers.  The students were also sponsored and recommended by departmental faculty Dr. Kristin Park, professor of sociology and chair of the department, and Dr. Kristenne Robison, assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice studies.

Ritchie and Ryding both graduated in May.

Contact Robison at 724-946-6033 or email for additional information. 


Joseph Ritchie and Annalisa Ryding in Times Square. Ryding is in white shirt in front left. Ritchie is in black shirt in back left.