November 2010 Issue • Volume 38 • Issue 8

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Rondini Heads to Capitol Hill
as ASA’s Congressional Fellow

Jamie Panzarella, ASA Publications Department

rondini

Ashley Rondini

The American Sociological Association named Ashley C. Rondini as the 2010-11 ASA Congressional Fellow. Rondini received a joint PhD in sociology and social policy from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University in May 2010. During her time at Brandeis, Rondini’s substantive areas of concentration were race, gender, qualitative research methods, and policies and programs related to assets and socioeconomic inequalities.

While at Brandeis, Rondini’s interests in policy work were aimed at increasing educational opportunities for vulnerable youth. As a graduate student, Rondini took a hands-on interest in increasing access to higher education for low-income and/or racial minority youth as an instructor in the Brandeis Transitional Year Program (TYP). Rondini spent four years designing and teaching the core social science curriculum, "Status, Power, and Social Justice," for TYP.

Rondini also worked for six years as a mentor for students in the Posse Scholars program at Brandeis, which identifies, recruits, and trains outstanding student leaders from urban public high schools. As a Posse Scholars mentor and advisor, "I learned great deal about the ways that students from diverse socioeconomic, racial, religious, and cultural backgrounds must negotiate the structural inequalities embedded within the day to day milieu of university environments," said Rondini.

Focusing on Educational Attainment

Rondini’s interdisciplinary dissertation, titled "Negotiating Identity: Elite Institutions, Low-Income First-Generation College Students, and their Parents," was developed from her work with diverse groups of students who are typically underrepresented at elite educational institutions. Her research draws from and expands upon the work of scholars who have contributed to the existing research on policies and programs related to education and social mobility. According to Rondini, her dissertation is "among the first efforts to synthesize and cross-examine interview data from both first-generation college students and their parents to illustrate the lived experiences of educational opportunities, institutions, and polices vis-à-vis the construction of social meanings of education within families." She hopes the findings of her study will contribute to the design and development of effective policies and programs more to support academic success of low-income, first-generation college students throughout their educational studies.

During her tenure in Washington, Rondini will apply her past experiences and research to her work with the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor. Her duties will include participation in research, attendance at constituent meetings, drafting memos, attendance at hearings and markups, briefing staff members on committee issues, and working with team members to support the committee.

While Rondini’s work on Capitol Hill will encompass a broad number of education issues, she hopes to especially contribute to policy initiatives aimed at increasing access to higher education to underrepresented populations. Specifically, she would like to work on the implementation of the recently expanded Pell Grant program; creation of opportunities for in-state tuition rates for undocumented youth; provision of tax credits for low-income families with children attending college; strengthening the community college system; diversification of college campuses along lines of race and socioeconomic status; increases to GI Bill benefits; and relief of student loan debt for students who choose to do service in their communities.

Sociology on the Hill

Rondini believes a sociological presence in our nation’s capital is needed because "sociological inquiry provides the critical linkages necessary to understand the ways in which policy initiatives and program designs impact the experiences of the people they are intended to benefit." Her qualitative research and analytic skills will add tremendously to the House Committee on Education and Labor. "I can think of no more important application of sociological knowledge," said Rondini, "than that which informs policies and programs aimed at expanding access to social mobility structures and creating more just and fair systems of educational opportunity."

Rondini’s experiences, passion, and sociological knowledge will help her succeed on Capitol Hill and bring a strong sociological voice to the political process there. logo_small

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