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Alumni Newsletter, Summer 2015

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Center for the Study of Inequality Update

Summer 2015

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Center for the Study of Inequality’s Alumni Newsletter! We plan to release a new copy every few months to keep you informed about programs, speakers, and faculty and student accomplishments. This edition, we are happy to announce the winners of the 2015 Honors Thesis Contest, introduce our featured alumna, and recap CSI’s Charter Day Weekend panel.

2015 Best Honors Thesis in Inequality Awards

University Photography

Jessica Barragan
Sociology & Government
Hispanic Disadvantage In Criminal Jury Trials: A Multi-Method Study of Juror Bias Against Hispanic Defendants in Four Urban Counties

Jessica’s thesis examined prosecutor and juror bias in cases with Hispanic defendants using a mixed methods approach. Jessica found that Hispanic defendants are more likely to be convicted in high-severity cases; that white jurors are less sympathetic toward Hispanic defendants than white defendants; and that public defenders perceive jury bias against Hispanic defendants which may be activated by the use of courtroom interpreters and stem from anti-immigrant sentiments and attributions of criminality. Jessica’s thesis advisor was Erin York Cornwell from the Department of Sociology.


OtedolaZoe Otedola
The Impact of Aspirations on Educational Attainment

Zoe’s thesis assessed the impact of educational aspirations (the desire to graduate college) on educational attainment (earning a bachelor’s degree) using data from two successive cohorts of students in the US. Zoe found that the relationship between college aspirations and college attainment varied by race and ethnicity. This relationship was weaker for Black and Hispanic students than it was for white students. Although aspirations were found to be a key predictor of educational attainment for all students, aspirations of white students had higher predictive ability of college attainment. Zoe’s thesis advisor was Steven Alvarado from the Department of Sociology.

Featured Alumna
Dominique Corley, ’14

Lindsay France/University Photography
Lindsay France/University Photography

Dominique Corley, a Linguistics and Sociology Major and Inequality Studies Minor, graduated from Cornell in 2014, receiving the Best Honors Thesis in Inequality Award and the Leo Meltzer Award for Best Undergraduate Thesis in the field of Social Psychology for the thesis, “Sounding Guilty: African American English and Racial Inequality in the Courtroom.” Dominique found evidence that African American English-speakers are disadvantaged in the legal system and are perceived by jurors as less informative and less reliable witnesses and defendants, concluding that this may contribute to the over-representation of African Americans in the criminal justice system.

During Cornell’s Charter Day Weekend Festival of Ideas and Imagination, Dominique returned to Cornell to participate in a panel discussion on the American Dream: Opportunities and Challenges (picture-right).

Currently, Dominique is working to develop a local branch of Young Life, an international ministry directed at impacting the lives of inner city teenagers, teen moms, and incarcerated youth, in Syracuse, NY. Dominique also hosts a weekly faith-based girl’s group in her home and was responsible for initiating an after-school cafe in Syracuse called “EspressoSelf Cafe,” a safe place for inner-city kids to express themselves, be mentored, and be loved for who they are. Dominique also raises funds for the aforementioned programs and builds community relations with other local foundations that also support inner city teens, teen moms, and incarcerated youth.

The American Dream: Opportunities and Challenges
Cornell Charter Day Weekend: A Festival of Ideas and Imagination

Lindsay France/University Photography

On Saturday, April 25, 2015, CSI organized a discussion by Cornell professors and recent alumni about equality of opportunity and how it can be improved.

The American Dream is a core feature of the American ethos. As a nation, we are committed to the idea that all children, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, should have equal opportunity to succeed through their talent and effort, but many challenges to the American dream persist. Children born into socioeconomically disadvantaged families have lower odds of succeeding in school, graduating from college, entering professional or managerial careers, or being financially secure as adults than other children. Even for children of the middle class, the prospects of doing as well as their parents are weakening. Likewise, for immigrants and their children, the American Dream can be increasingly out of reach.

“Today, faith in the American dream is at an all-time low,” Kim Weeden, Professor and Chair, Sociology and Director of CSI, said, “but we continue to search for answers about how to level the playing field.” Kendra Bischoff, Sociology, Peter Enns, Government, Dominique Corley ‘14, and Adrian Palma ‘13 also participated in this panel discussion.

For video coverage, please visit:



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