At Trinity University, Ryann Moos ’25 is using sociology research to take a larger view of her world.
A sociology major from Houston, Texas, Moos actually came to Trinity to be a psychology or English major, but got hooked by a first-year sociology course she took. “I really like learning about humanity, the human mind,” Moos says. “But with sociology, I like getting the bigger picture of how the human mind interacts with culture as well. This field is really beneficial just for learning about global perspectives and underrepresented groups of people. I think everything that sociology does is very important to understanding our world.”
Right now, Moos is continuing her sociology journey by diving deep into a summer research project with her faculty mentor, sociology and anthropology professor Amy Stone, Ph.D. Along with a small, tight-knit team of fellow undergraduate researchers, Moos is researching homelessness and housing instability among LGBTQIA+ youth, with a grant funded by the prestigious National Science Foundation.
“A fact that's really striking about our research is that it's been proven that about 40% of homeless youth actually are LGBTQ-plus,” Moos says. “That really puts into perspective why this project is so important.”
This project, which was recently extended for a second year under Stone (with the total funding amount raised to more than a million dollars!), is primarily focused on how non-parental relatives (grandparents, uncles and aunts, and more) can have a positive effect on housing these youth. And for Moos, it’s the type of experience that’s life-changing.
“This research has definitely been part of how I’ve been deciding what I want to do after college,” Moos says. “I realize that I really do love working with people, hands on, and I think that after going through undergrad I want to get a master's in social work and possibly work for a nonprofit.”
Moos, working alongside Stone and the rest of their teammates, says conducting summer research at Trinity is challenging and time-intensive, but rewarding.
“A lot of the stuff I do is remote, except for a weekly meeting every Wednesday, where we kind of set everything up for what we're gonna do,” Moos says of her day-to-day duties. “A lot of our research is interviews with the youth who are part of our study, which are very lengthy just because we have a lot to get to know about them, so usually that takes three hours out of the day. Then I am cleaning transcripts from these interviews that we get and do lots of reading because I also am working on a paper for Dr. Stone for this project.”
Moos says this sheer amount of workload might seem daunting for an undergraduate, and especially for a younger one. But thanks to Stone’s mentorship, Moos is feeling more and more at home doing this type of research.
“I haven't done research before, and usually sociology majors take a social research design course their junior year,” she says. “So I kind of got thrown into this without knowing a lot of stuff. But it's been very easy for me to [adapt] to everything just because of how Dr. Stone runs everything. They make everything very self-explanatory, and if it's not self-explanatory, they’re explaining to you in a way that's super easy to understand.”
It’s no surprise that Stone, who was just awarded the inaugural Danny J. Anderson Faculty Prize for undergraduate research mentorship, has made Moos’ experience a positive one. But rather than pointing out how Stone makes the work easier, Moos actually points to the way Stone gives her more control and decision-making opportunities.
“I was actually quite surprised that I did get a lot more say in the project than I first assumed,” Moos says. “When we first started scripting out the questions for the interviews this summer, it was mostly me and my research team kind of throwing out questions that we thought were important to follow up on. And Dr. Stone helped us fine tune those.”
And Stone is also giving Moos this same type of supportive independence on the paper she’s completing. “This summer, I'm the only student from my group who's working on that paper. So my writing, the meat and the bulk of it is research that I've done, which is very exciting.”
Moos says this effort is worth it, thanks to the connections she’s made with her mentor and her research partners.
“There are times when I’m just overwhelmed by the fact that this is such a prestigious grant,” Moos says. “But it helps that I’m working with a really nice, close, tight-knit group of people, and hanging out with them like every day when we can.”
At Trinity, Moos doesn’t just get support through faculty mentorship and peer networking. She’s also enjoying life as a recipient of the Mellon Initiative Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), a 10-week summer program where students receive a $4,200 stipend, free dormitory housing for the summer research period, and a travel and supplies budget, all to work on research just like Dr. Stone’s project.
“I've found it to be a really helpful program, and I am very grateful that I chose Mellon to be my funder for the summer,” Moos says. “It’s not just the funding, but they do this thing every Wednesday called a ‘Lunch and Learn’ where they provide us a free lunch and with a lecture where they bring someone in to teach us about important skills that we need for the future, like job interviews, presenting research, and other things. So it's been a really nice community that I've got a lot of knowledge from, and I wasn't expecting that going in.”
Thanks to this experience, especially since it’s occurring so early in her Trinity journey, Moos says she’s going to be much more prepared for more advanced courses down the road, which will involve more research components.
But Moos says she’s also growing as a holistic person:
“I feel like I have become more observant through doing this research, just because I spend a lot of time listening, and I spend a lot of time getting information from other people,” Moos says. “I feel like this has made me more patient in my learning. And I think that's always a good skill to have.”
And thanks to her mentor, Moos’ summer hasn’t been all work:
“Dr. Stone actually invited our sociology research team to go out to Austin, where they live, to go kayaking out on the water up there,” Moos says. “So I got to swim in Barton Springs for a little bit. And so that was super fun.”