Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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Beinecke win

Award to support graduate studies in economic sociology

Anna VanRemoortel’s resume, which is already four pages and brimming with outstanding experiences and honors, just got even longer with the addition of her latest accomplishment. The Wheaton College junior has been awarded a Beinecke Scholarship.

The Beinecke goes to undergraduates of exceptional promise to support graduate study. Each scholar receives $4,000 immediately prior to entering graduate school and an additional $30,000 while attending. The program seeks to encourage and enable highly motivated students to pursue opportunities and to be courageous in selecting a course of study in the arts, humanities or social sciences.

Only 20 students nationwide receive the scholarship each year. VanRemoortel is the fourth Wheaton College student to earn a Beinecke in the past four years.

“Honestly, I still can’t believe it,” said VanRemoortel, who got word of the award while riding the bus back to campus from her home in Marblehead, Mass., after Easter break. “This scholarship will play a big role in my success in graduate school because of the financial support and connections that come with it.”

VanRemoortel, who is a resident advisor, a dialogue facilitator at the Marshall Center for Intercultural Learning, and a teacher’s assistant in the Economics Department, is double majoring in economics and sociology. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in sociology, with a focus on economic sociology.

“My double major has introduced me to this new and interesting sub-discipline in the social sciences. I hope that a program focusing on economic sociology will allow me to draw from my experience at Wheaton and continue my interdisciplinary research interests,” she said.

VanRemoortel’s research interest centers on looking at economic issues through the lens of sociology—especially inequality and poverty. The focus dates all the way back to high school when she would spend vacations on service trips with her church’s youth group and could see firsthand how communities were affected by the lack of social and economic opportunities available.

One of those trips—to the Lakota Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota—hit particularly hard, said VanRemoortel. “This experience was a wakeup call to the harsh reality of the many broken economic and social systems in our world. My week on the Rosebud Reservation continues to motivate me to consider alternative solutions outside traditional theories and assumptions we tend to gravitate toward in the U.S.”

Currently, she is working on a yearlong honor’s thesis addressing key questions in economic sociology, specifically on consumption and altruistic behavior.

Her studies at Wheaton have taken her abroad a couple of times—to Rwanda with President Dennis M. Hanno her first year to help lead a seminar on entrepreneurship and leadership; and to Nepal, Jordan and Chile last semester with the International Honors Program to study human rights and look at economic and social systems using various perspectives.

Beyond her coursework, she has involved herself in ways that have led her to discover other passions. “I’ve learned from my leadership positions on campus that I also love to be in a mentoring and teaching role,” she said.

“Intergroup Dialogue at the Marshall Center has played a key role in bringing my academic interests outside the classroom and into the community. This semester I am facilitating a dialogue on nationality. Each week we discuss different concepts relating to the theme of nationality, including colonization, nationalism and citizenship. Dialogue is a space where I see people connecting what they learn in the classroom with their own personal experiences and sharing these connections with their peers. Each week I learn about new ideas and perspectives on various issues, which I then bring back to my own life, broadening my opinions and research interests.”

After completing her Ph.D., VanRemoortel hopes to work as a sociology professor at a school like Wheaton. “I think becoming a scholar is a fruitful path because you are able to participate in the creation and distribution of knowledge. Throughout my life I knew I wanted to have a career in which I could learn for a living. It wasn’t until I came to Wheaton that I realized the extent of my passions within academia, and especially in sociology and economics.”

In the future, she said that she hopes that her academic research will expand the understanding of the role economies play in societies and encourage other scholars to use an interdisciplinary approach to find solutions to social problems wherever they exist.