Female student smiling
9.01.2020
By Roanoke College News

Student project gets picked for national honor

Steph Zemba ‘21 was stuck between two options for her Summer Scholars research project last year. She was interested in loneliness among the elderly, as well as immigration.

Dr. Meeta Mehrotra, associate professor and chairperson of the sociology department, suggested a solution: combining the two subjects. Then, it all clicked into place. 

Zemba’s research, focused on the way religion comforts immigrant elders, is now getting national attention. Zemba was accepted into the American Sociological Association (ASA) Honors Program, and presented her research at the ASA’s annual conference.

The presentation, titled “’I depend on God’: Religion as a Source of Comfort for Immigrant Elders”, examines how religious communities can serve as a source of social support and assistance for these elders, and some offer a sense of connection to immigrants’ culture through native language services, traditional celebrations, food and more.

“I was honestly quite surprised to be selected,” said Zemba, “as it’s a very prestigious program, and my advisor had told me when I applied that she only knew of a few Roanoke students who were selected in the 20 years she had worked at the College.”

Her presentation was on Aug. 8, via Zoom. Zemba said it went well.

“I was excited to have the opportunity to present my research findings to the other talented undergraduates in the program and learn about the research that they were conducting as well,” Zemba said.

“I was honestly quite surprised to be selected, as it’s a very prestigious program, and my advisor had told me when I applied that she only knew of a few Roanoke students who were selected in the 20 years she had worked at the College.”

Steph Zemba '21

The ASA Honors Program is an extremely competitive national program that provides undergraduate students with a taste of life as a professional sociologist. Students participating in the Honors Program are invited to attend all regular meeting sessions, in which the most current and innovative sociological research is shared and discussed. In addition, students present their research in a roundtable format, receive feedback on it and network with other sociologists. Workshops sharing information about graduate schools and careers in sociology are also offered. 

Zemba, originally from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, has interviewed 42 immigrant elders throughout Southwest Virginia. Zemba is working with Dr. Mehrotra, of Roanoke’s sociology department, to analyze the data and prepare it for publication. 

Zemba is also involved with two other research projects at Roanoke College. As part of the Research Fellows Program, she is working with Dr. Kristi Hoffman, professor of sociology, to collect data about the experiences of college students who abstain from alcohol. She has also worked with Drs. Mehrotra and Hoffman on a project on interfaith dating, which will be published in the Journal of College and Character in 2021.