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Gender, Socialization, and Service Patterns in College Students

Kathyrn Geise

Kathyrn Geise, William Smith '10
Double Major in Sociology and International Relations

"For this project I tried to combine two of my biggest interests: service and issues of gender. So I came up with the idea to examine service and gender as they intersect within the HWS student body. I had known from my past participation in Days of Service, that male participation was highly sparse. However, I wanted to get more at the root of why that tended to be the case. I wanted to discover what it was that made a particular person - or a particular gender - have the penchant to participate in service."

What were your goals for the project? What did you hope to accomplish?

  • The purpose of the project was to gain insight on what is it that drives someone to want to serve. I wanted to understand the reasons behind giving back, and hopefully apply what I learned to enhance the male participation in service activities on the HWS campus and elsewhere.
  • I interviewed twenty student volunteers on campus, ten men and ten women, with questions designed to target the main question: why serve?
  • I discovered many findings from my analysis. One of the most interesting findings I took from my analysis of these respondents was that the majority of individuals (every male that I interviewed, except one) had grown up in a household where their father was either completely absent from their lives or at least emotionally absent. In other words, the students who volunteered the most were those who grew up with a strong maternal presence.
  • I hope that whoever I was able to share my findings with will now have a heightened awareness of the need for more service participants. I hope that those people can regognize that, that need is pressing not exclusively, but definitely majorly, for male participants.

What did you personally learn? How has this project affected you?

"This project has really affected the way I view parenting and the importance of parental models. Talking with the interviewees opened my eyes to the subtleties of that influence and that something so seemingly small and insignificant can sometimes make all the difference in the world in terms of what a child says or does or how they behave later in life." - Kathyrn Geise