Graduate Student Spotlights

Oneya Okuwobi

What is the topic of your research?

My overarching question is “How do multiracial organizations impact racial inequality?”  I  looks at this by investigating diversity discourse and racial attitudes expressed by leaders of multiracial churches.

How did you become interested in this line of research?

I was using sociological research to create learning experiences for my multiracial church when I realized there were more best guesses than best practices.  My desire is to answer questions about race and organizations that are both sociologically significant and practically useful.

What is the most interesting finding  of your research?

I find it fascinating that the idea of diversity can sometimes lead to negative outcomes such as commoditizing the presence of people of color. Having people together can be great, but for multiracial organizations to impact racial inequality, other elements, such as openly addressing racial disparities, are required.

What are your plans after leaving Ohio State?

I would love to become a tenure track professor at a university where I can influence the next generation of sociologists.

One interesting fact about yourself.

I spent 14 years as a finance manager in corporate America.  One of my first roles was with the Folgers Coffee Company at their green coffee bean site; so, I was both a literal and figurative bean counter.


Laura Phillips

What is the topic of your research?

I study the causes and consequences of stratification across sub-national places, in the wake of economic crises, and for particular groups. My dissertation explores the spatial dynamics of economic insecurity for populations and for governments.

How did you become interested in this area of research?

Although my sociological interests have certainly been refined throughout my years at Ohio State, my core areas of interest have remained the same, motivated by a desire to better understand the social environment that I grew up in: an inner-ring suburb of an aging industrial city, where racial and socioeconomic change was both rapid and pronounced.

What is the most interesting finding from your research?

I recently learned, through some preliminary information gathering for my dissertation, that most local governments operate from year to year with negative unrestricted net assets (essentially, cash on hand), after accounting for pensions and other long-term liabilities. The question isn't whether local governments are in the red; the question is how in the red they are.

What are your plans after leaving Ohio State?

I'm enthusiastic about research, teaching, and the opportunity to mentor young sociologists; thus, I hope to obtain a tenure-track professorship at a research university after earning my PhD.

One interesting fact about yourself.

In my spare time I volunteer with the education foundation and the historical society in the city where I grew up.

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