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Meet Virginia Wardell

BA Sociology ’20

Virginia Wardell - Drexel Sociology Student

Degree: BA Sociology '20
Minors: Public Health and Spanish
Research interests: Migrant issues, Maternal health
- Research Assistant, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
- Research Assistant, Temple University Center for Obesity Research and Education
- Co-op, Archdiocese of Philadelphia Office of Child and Youth Protection
Extracurricular activities: Staff Writer, The Triangle; Member, Sierra Club
Awards: AJ Drexel Scholarship, Entertainment Section Award for The Triangle, Dean’s List

Tell us about any research experiences you’ve had as a Drexel student.

I worked with Professor Susan Bell on her project “Refugee Physicians,” for which I did preliminary research work and later contributed to transcription and coding. Dr. Bell guided me through learning how to conduct research and develop my sociological imagination. We met weekly to discuss the project and observations. I learned substantial research skills and practices from an established researcher in the field.

I also did research with criminology professor Dr. Ashley Dickinson on a project titled “Examining Post-Expungement Lifestyle and Health.” Dr. Dickinson helped me balance working between the criminology department at Drexel and Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity. I also wrote my first Institutional Review Board (IRB) proposal, which developed my research skills for the future.

At Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research and Education, I contributed to a project that focused on African American post-partum women living in North Philadelphia who were experiencing obesity. This project developed my quantitative research skills and gave me an experience in research outside of my university.

Finally, at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, I worked with Dr. Aletha Akers in PolicyLab on her project “IUD Experiences.” I contributed to manuscripts that are pending publication and developed my transcription and coding skills. The team mentored and challenged me as a critical thinker and researcher in the policy field. They gave me substantial support and guidance even after my co-op, and allowed me to stay on the research team.

Coolest experience you’ve had through your major?

After doing research with Professor Susan Bell, I presented a poster presentation entitled “Medically-Trained Migrants: Adapting to the United States” at the Eastern Sociological Society’s annual meeting in Baltimore. I also presented this project in panel presentations at a number of conferences including the Mid-Atlantic Undergraduate Social Research Conference, Drexel’s Week of Undergraduate Excellence and Drexel’s Sociological Symposium.

What motivates you?

Discussions with my peers and mentors where we identify problems that exist in society and holes in research literature — this motivates me to do research and create change through policy to better serve vulnerable groups.

What was a memorable travel experience you had through Drexel?

My most memorable travel experience was when I went to Puerto Rico on a Community-Based Learning course. The group had an intensive and immersive experience living on a permaculture farm for a week, and continued to apply knowledge and complete work in Philadelphia after the trip was completed.

How were your co-op experiences?

My co-ops were educational and helped me develop my career path and plan for after graduation. When I worked at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, not only was I part of a competitive research team, but I also received guidance and mentorship from successful role models in my career path.

Why would you recommend your degree program at Drexel?

I would recommend sociology at Drexel because the professors in the department value one-one attention and encourage students to develop work they have passion for. Professors are always willing to discuss ideas and help students find a path that best suits them. I am confident in my future because I feel that my professors have helped guide me toward my strengths.

What are your goals for after graduation? What do you hope to do with your Drexel degree?

After graduation, I plan to attend University of Pennsylvania’s Master’s in Social Policy MSSP program and eventually work in the public policy field. I would like to create policy that minimizes health burdens in the most appropriate way — that considers specific community needs and existing health mechanisms.