Department SpotlightWhitworth Sociology Alumna Finds Niche Studying in Nepal
Mountain climbers visit Nepal for the scenic Himalayans, while tourists often seek out the Hindu temples and Buddhist stupas. Whitworth alumna Lisa Pearce has been to Nepal four times, but instead of focusing on the scenery she turns her attention to the citizens of Nepal and how they react to the social institutions that shape their lives.
Pearce graduated from Whitworth in 1994 with a B.A. in sociology. She went on to earn an M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology and demography from Pennsylvania State University. Pearce is currently a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan's Population Studies Center.While at Penn State, Pearce worked as a research student for a professor who was conducting research in Nepal.
"I have to say that Nepal chose me more than I chose it," Pearce says. "In 1994, I got to spend three months in Nepal to see if it was a place I would like to do research and I've been hooked ever since. The landscape is spectacular, the people are incredibly friendly, and the potential for learning about how religion influences people's lives is great."
In Nepal, Pearce investigates the effects of social and environmental change on marriage, childbearing and family planning. Her stays in the country have ranged from one to five months and involve designing questionnaires, coding responses and conducting unstructured interviews.
During Pearce's most recent trip to Nepal, she interviewed residents to better understand how people who have easy access to schools, markets and health clinics are affected compared to those who live far away from such amenities. Pearce says her sociology research, family and faith classes at Whitworth sparked in her a desire to pursue a career studying human behavior and demographics, and prepared her to practice field research in Nepal.
"The way the classes and programs at Whitworth encouraged me to open my mind, explore my beliefs, and value the people around me have definitely enhanced my ability to think critically and given me a unique lens through which to see the world," Pearce says.
Pearce, who recently made an informal presentation on campus about her research on the religious and family life in Nepal and spoke with students about her experience in graduate school, plans to teach sociology at a college or university in the United States once her postdoctoral position concludes next August at the University of Michigan.