Graduate Student of the Month - Stephanie Sodero

Stephanie Sodero is a PhD candidate in sociology at Memorial University and a recent visiting scholar at New York University’s Institute for Public Knowledge. Following studies at Trent University (Bachelor of Environmental Studies 1999) and at Dalhousie University (Masters of Environmental Studies 2001), she was fortunate to work for five years with one of Nova Scotia’s most active environmental organizations, the Ecology Action Centre. With colleagues, she initiated a range of mobility-related projects, including the development of a comprehensive Green Mobility Strategy, the creation of university and employer transit pass programs, and the establishment of a community infrastructure fund. Stephanie went on to research carbon taxation at the University of Oxford (Masters of Geography 2010), and is now studying the intersection of mobility and disaster under the supervision of environmental sociologist Dr. Mark Stoddart. Stephanie has published in the Journal of Transport Geography, Mobilities and Environmental Sociology.

How and why did you decide to attend Memorial for your graduate degree?
I was drawn to Memorial by a mix of academic and non-academic considerations. In terms of academia, I was impressed by my (now) supervisor, Mark Stoddart, and his research. In terms of community, I wanted to be close to my family and the ocean!

What drew you to explore sociology?
Transport and mobilities research is the through line of my academic career. Drawing on environmental studies, geography and now sociology, I am exploring different facets of a complex and ubiquitous phenomenon in contemporary society. Each discipline gives me additional tools and questions to approach the world.

Can you tell us a bit about your current research?
The anchoring idea for my research is that fossil fuel-powered transport contributes to climate change and climate change disrupts transport. I study hurricanes Juan (Nova Scotia 2003) and Igor (Newfoundland 2010) as examples of the type of disruptive conditions we may expect more under a changing climate (e.g. sea level rise, storm surges, intense precipitation). Through interviews, as well as document analysis, I examine frames and responses employed during the preparation, response, recovery and mitigation phases of these severe weather events. In particular, I focus on social-ecological dynamics, examining what such events reveal about the human relationship with the natural environment.

A supervisor can be key to the success of any grad student. What does your supervisor Mark Stoddart bring to his role as your advisor and mentor?
I totally agree and encourage grad students to vet potential supervisors! Mark is amazing – he is a productive academic and a supportive supervisor. He is the single most organized person I know! As a result, he is able to turn around my work and respond to questions incredibly promptly. In addition, he strikes a strong work/life balance, creating time to pursue his other interests, like aikido and music. I appreciate such a well-rounded, dynamic approach to life!

Have you attended any conferences/delivered any papers this year? Can you give details?
This spring, at the annual Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences (University of Ottawa), I co-organized sessions on community resilience, disaster sociology and contentious mobilities. I love co-organizing events – I find it energizing and a welcome counterbalance to working solo. This fall, I attended a doctoral course on the politics of mobility in Oslo – it was one of the highlights of my doctoral experience! I appreciated how it brought together a small group of students and professors to engage intensively on a concept for four days. It is a model that I will aim to incorporate into my own teaching.

Are you involved in any organizations on-campus or off? If so, can you explain and detail such involvement?
This past year, with the support of the Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement and the Scotiabank Bursary Burry for International Study, I was a visiting scholar at New York University. It was such a worthwhile experience - I was able to conduct fieldwork on Hurricane Sandy, broaden my research network, and engage more deeply with the concept of resilience. Further, and most unexpectedly, International House of New York, a graduate student residence, has provided an exceptional outlet for exploring a range of interests, from teaching yoga to coordinating a youth employment initiative.

What do you like most about being a graduate student at Memorial?
I value the friendly atmosphere in the Department of Sociology – whether popping my head in a professor’s office for a brief chat or attending departmental potlucks. I also appreciate the positivity of my fellow graduate students. They are kind, supportive and encouraging – traits that cannot be underestimated! The atmosphere feels truly collegial.

What do you hope to do after completing your graduate degree?
My core hopes are to engage in intellectually stimulating work at the intersection of mobility, environment and disaster, work with dynamic and friendly colleagues, and help realize tangible social and environmental improvements.



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