Graduate Student Spotlight: Mollie Greenberg (by Robert Reynoso and Megan Wilhelm)

 Greenberg MollieMollie Greenberg is a graduate student in her second year of the sociology PhD program. She originally hails from Lexington, Kentucky and studied Sociology and Women & Gender Studies at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Mollie brings a passion and systematic focus to examining the construction of disability and ability in society. Here we highlight Mollie’s research and recent efforts to address accessibility at UMD as a member of the President’s Commission on Disability Issues. 

What undergraduate institution did you attend, and how did your experiences there influence what you are doing now?

I attended Smith College, a historically all-women’s college in Massachusetts, for undergrad. Smith has influenced my path both personally and professionally in a number of ways. In terms of my professional interests, Smith was where I first realized that sociology would be a great fit for me.

I’d always been interested in human behavior, the ways people think and act and the things and settings that influence those thoughts and actions. But it was only after taking a number of sociology courses from a number of compelling professors who obviously were passionate about the field that I gravitated toward a career in it myself. It was also the environment of Smith and it’s sociology department that helped me move toward disability and medical sociology as a specialty. I was given the opportunity to create and give a series of lectures about the sociology of disability during my last couple years there. The success of those definitely influenced me, as their subject matter is what I’m still doing work in today.

Why UMD?

Of the schools I had to choose from, UMD offered the most freedom to study in the research areas that are of interest to me. Although our department does not have a dedicated medical sociology or disability specialty area, I never felt that I would be discouraged from pursuing those here. On the contrary, I chose to come to UMD because when I talked about my proposed specialty areas, I received nothing but interest and promises of support from department faculty and staff. The openness, support, and possibilities for research creativity are why UMD seemed a good fit for me.

What is the focus of your current research? Why?

Generally, the focus of my current research is stigma, status, and stratification as it relates to physical disability. Right now I’m working on a project where the goal is to observe the possible effects of “inspiration porn” (images of disabled individuals meant to delight and motivate non-disabled people) on implicit attitudes about physically disabled people.

The reason I’m pursuing this specific project is because currently, there is a lack of sociological research on the non-explicit attitudes about physically disabled individuals held by the non-physically disabled. Research tends to focus on explicit attitudes, which can be influenced by a number of factors including social desirability bias. By attempting to measure implicit attitudes (gathering data through means other than interview), I hope to limit the influence of these other factors and get a truer measure of baseline attitudes toward those with physical disabilities.

You were recently featured in the Diamondback. Can you tell us more about that and what you’ve been up to on campus this year?

I was featured in the paper as a part of the “Rise Above Ableism” campaign put on at UMD during the month of October (which was Disability Awareness Month). The campaign featured a series of events and panels with the goal of making disabilities of all types the focus of discussion. I was featured in the Diamondback as a co-leader of one of these events. It was an “accessibility tour” where my co-leader Christopher Gaines (an undergrad at UMD) and I took people on a tour to showcase the more physically inaccessible parts of campus. The point was to illustrate that physical accessibility is about more than ramps or automatic doors. And that having these things does not automatically make a building or a campus completely accessible.

In addition to the accessibility tour, I’ve been involved with a number of disability awareness events so far this year, including a panel where I and three other graduate students discussed our work through the lens of critical disability theory. Aside from campaign events, I’ve been busy trying to roll out my disability-focused master’s thesis.

What do you hope to accomplish during your time here at UMD?

That is an intense question. I suppose what I’d most like to accomplish is establishing an interest in disability theory and disability studies, both in the sociology department as well as on campus at large. Personally and professionally, I’d like to keep on the track I’m on currently and aid in establishing better ways to collect and analyze data on attitudes toward individuals with disabilities.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your graduate studies?

When I do get time to do things non-graduate school related (however small that may be right now), I tend to spend my time reading fiction novels and watching psychological thrillers. I also enjoy hanging out with friends and having dinner or board game nights, especially if Taboo is involved.

Check out The Diamondback story (“UMD Commission Examines Handicap Accessibility Issues on Campus”) covering Mollie’s work with the “Rise Above the Ableism” campaign online http:IIbit.lyI1wQhfDV

Mollie is a 2nd Year Graduate Student.

Robert Reynoso is a 3rd Year Graduate Student.

Megan Wilhelm is a 2nd Year Graduate Student.

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