January 11, 2023

CHaSS Student Spotlight:
Claudia Wright

Claudia Wright, Ph.D. Candidate in SociologyClaudia Wright is pursuing her Ph.D. in sociology at Utah State University

By Andrea DeHaan, CHaSS Communications Editor

Claudia Wright is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology working on a dissertation project about migrant motherhood, specifically, the experience of Colombian mothers.

“Transnational motherhood in sociology usually refers to mothers who migrate and leave their kids in their country of origin with family or friends to work in the Global North,” Wright explains.

She wants to broaden this definition to include migrant mothers who are highly educated, have their children with them, and retain strong ties to their country. As someone who also fits this definition, Wright says that mothers in her study have spoken about “migratory grief” because being connected to multiple countries means feeling the duality of never being quite at home in either place. She is also interested in how class, race, and gender impact mothers in this situation, and, more specifically, how “intersectional identities produce a very specific motherhood experience.”

Wright’s qualitative research, which has seen her interview mothers and grandmothers from Colombia, recently got a boost in the form of a dissertation fellowship from the American Association of University Women, an organization offering competitive funding for projects directed at empowering women.

The AAUW fellowship offsets Wright’s expenses for the 2022-2023 academic year, allowing her to set aside teaching and focus solely on her dissertation. It has also created a space for opportunities like conferences and the chance to grow her professional network. Wright says she values the support she has received and hopes to set up a Northern Utah AAUW chapter to expand networks and help other scholars focused on issues surrounding women and girls.

Having experienced several disruptions to her doctoral studies in recent years, Wright is grateful for the AAUW fellowship and those who have supported her research. In particular, Wright credits her dissertation advisor Erin Hofmann for helping her stay the course through the ups and downs of the pandemic.

Hofmann and Wright collaborated during a College of Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty-Student Summer Mentorship Grant, and Wright is the recipient of several USU Office of Research awards, including the Presidential Doctoral Research Fellowship (PDRF) and a Graduate Research and Creative Opportunity (GRCO) grant, which paid for participant incentives and the program she uses to code data. Support from the Utah Women and Leadership Project financed a study led by Sojung Lim to look at the gender gap in higher education in Utah, and Wright collaborated as a researcher and co-author.

However, recognition for Wright’s work goes beyond financial assistance. In 2022 she was named the CHaSS Graduate Student Instructor of the Year.

“I am really committed to teaching and mentoring,” says Wright, who had the opportunity to mentor an undergraduate Honors student last year. “Having good mentors makes a huge difference in your life. I have great mentors here at Utah State, I had great mentors in my undergrad and my master’s, and they really shape lives.”

Admitting that she’s been intrigued by the ideas behind her research for a long time, Wright says the chance to immerse herself in this project has been illuminating.

“It has lots of potential…Like focusing on immigrant families, not just motherhood, and opening up the space to look at motherhood in other contexts, in other countries,” she says, adding that “migrant fatherhood is another area that needs more exploration.”

Ultimately Wright sees this as a life-long project and hopes to pursue an academic position or administrative role in the future.

“It has always felt right,” she says of her experience in the Sociology program and of research. Wright plans to compile her findings in a book, and she looks forward to the chance to continue writing and teaching, and exploring the things that make her curious about life and the experiences we share.


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