Shelby Frye (Class of 2020)

photo of Shelby Frye

  • honors junior double major in Sociology and Political Science
  • from Hebron, KY
  • Student Orientation Undergraduate Leader
  • conducts research on gender language and gender stereotypes
  • presented research at American Sociology Association conference (August 2018)
"Study a variety of things, because you may end up liking something way more than you thought you would! And if you don't, this is also great — you ultimately have a better understanding of what you like and don't like."

Why Miami?

"I really love the Miami community — you can feel it as soon as you step on campus! This has a lot to do with not only the beautiful campus but also the college town feel we have in Oxford. I also really like the size of Miami: big enough to have lots of opportunities but also small enough so that I don't feel lost. The friends I have made, the professors I have had, and the opportunities I have been afforded have really created a special experience for me.

"I was very nervous when I was starting college, but from my very first night I started hanging out with the people on my floor in Emerson Hall, one of the Honors residence halls. My RA (resident assistant), who was phenomenal, right away made me feel more at home. This made me comfortable to join clubs and things like that, as I always knew there would be a supportive community behind me that I could come back to.

"From the beginning, I was completely undecided on my major, and everyone told me I was going to have this epiphany on what I wanted to do. Then, for my second semester first year, I decided to take an introductory sociology class [SOC 153] through the Miami Plan, and it was taught by associate professor Jennifer Bulanda. I immediately thought wow, I want to do this (read: I want to be Dr. Bulanda)! I talked to Dr. Bulanda about it, asking how I could get to where she is, and ever since, she has been the most incredible mentor to me."

Best Miami Experiences

Shelby Frye (right) and a colleague create a unique selfie at the American Sociology Association Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (August 2018)

"Studying about society, to me, was really cool, especially since I'd never thought about life in the way sociology makes you consider them. Since I took my first intro class, I have gone on to really specialize in gender in sociology.

"As I mentioned before, Dr. Bulanda has inspired me to be a professor of sociology one day. With her help, I applied to the Honors Program for the American Sociology Association Conference, which was in Philadelphia in August 2018. While there I was able to meet other professors and help Dr. Bulanda present research — along with my own! It was a really good introduction into what I hope my life will be like beyond Miami and grad school.

"My research is on gender language and how it affects the development of gender stereotypes. Some terms have come to be considered gender-neutral, such as 'you guys' to refer to a general group of people or 'policemen' meaning police officers, even as they are not and still evoke stereotypical thinking. I'm studying how these terms have permeated our society and how we act and react to them.

"About a year before I got involved in research, I became a Student Orientation Undergraduate Leader, or SOUL, working in the Office of Orientation and Transition Programs with Elizabeth Buffy Stoll Turton, the director, and Elizabeth Walsh, the assistant director. They have both been phenomenal for my professional development. If I had to say what experience has made me feel the most at home at Miami, and there are many, it would most certainly be them and the SOUL program."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"Society doesn't exist in a vacuum, so neither should we. Even though I am not a STEM major, the liberal arts teaches you how to think or analyze — not just about sociology or political science or English, but anything. I really feel that, as I have gotten further into my curriculum and have taken various courses in the Miami Plan, the biggest advantage of the liberal arts is learning how to see the world in a different way that takes you out of your comfort zone.

"My specific majors in sociology and political science majors connect really well. Sociology showed me what I want to do, and there are so many different areas to study, such as criminology and gender. These topics challenge the way we think the world is set up.

"Although I have always been interested in politics, before becoming a political science major they had not been a big part of my life. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of political science and sociology, such as my women in politics course, which was cross-listed with Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies and taught by associate professor Monica Schneider.

And although they're not part of my major, I've really enjoyed my Spanish classes. I had them all with the same professor, instructor Manuel Dorado Budia, and he was phenomenal!"

Bringing Research on Gendered Language into Sociology

Shelby Frye gets a lift from her fellow SOULmates.

"Dr. Bulanda first told me about the 4-day conference for the American Sociology Association, which offers an honors program and has an application process. So I wrote an essay and was accepted as one of 40 honors students across the country. All of us had to present our theory papers or research data at the conference. My topic was gender language and how it affects our gender stereotypes.

"The conference was held last year in Philadelphia, and its theme was 'Feeling Race: An Invitation to Explore Racialized Emotions.' I attended a bunch of different research breakout sessions by professors from all over North America. As an honors student, I also got to join in some special experiences like visiting the Eastern State penitentiary, where we discussed criminology and America's prison system. This and other events were meant to get us thinking about grad school and all the good careers that come afterwards. It was a little overwhelming at first, but meeting the other students in the program was very helpful for me — we were all in it together!

"As for my research, up until recently, the field of sociology hasn't had much to say about gendered language; most of the research has been coming from psychology and linguistics. I'd never thought about gendered language until I did training for being a SOUL — we didn't want to say 'you guys' to a group of students because it's not considered inclusive. After that, I began studying how exactly using that sort of gendered language affects us. After I presented my research, one of the honors students at the conference talked about their analysis of masculinity in the Netflix show Queer Eye, and another student presented on how gender is portrayed in the traditional Puerto Rican dance known as bomba. It was all really fascinating.

"Attending the conference gave me a little glimpse on what it could be like to be a sociology professor. I was able to do a lot of networking with professors and fellow students, both undergraduate and graduate. All of this further solidified my desire to not only become a professor but also to gain more confidence in presenting my own research and crafting good talking points. Being able to do this as an undergrad means it won't be as scary or hard to do when I am older and have to do it for a living.

"I also learned to present my research to people who may not understand its full context. I explored different sociology specialties, which are needed for grad school. Although I've only really studied gender so far, I would love to examine other areas. I've become more open to new things."

Advice to Students

"If you're a student who isn't exactly sure what you want to do, whether that be your major or career, I want to say that it's totally fine. Study a variety of things, because you may end up liking something way more than you thought you would! And if you don't, this is also great — you ultimately have a better understanding of what you like and don't like.

"Remember that you don't have to fit in at Miami, because you do belong. You don't have to change who you are to have friends or experiences. You'll always be able to find people who accept you as you are. Sometimes it can take a while, but you will find them for sure."

[April 2019]