Curran ’22 Earns Fellowship from the National Science Foundation

May 18, 2022

By Stephanie Rizzo ’09

Emily Curran
Photo by Scott Cook.

After a superstar undergraduate career, Emily Curran ’22 will start her PhD program with an extra boost from one of the nation’s preeminent STEM fellowships.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded sociology major Emily Curran ’22 a grant toward graduate school through its prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Out of 12,000 applicants, Curran was one of just 2,000 incoming graduate students to earn the award, putting her in the top 16 percent of an ultra-competitive pool of eligible postgrads.

Introduced more than six decades ago, the NSF GRFP supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at U.S. institutions. The five-year fellowship includes three years of financial support, including an annual stipend of $34,000 and a cost-of-education allowance of $12,000 to the college or university.

“The social sciences are historically underfunded,” notes Curran. “I was inspired to apply for the grant to highlight and emphasize the necessity of sociological research in the sciences.”

One of the College’s five 2022 valedictorians, Curran has spent much of her Rollins journey focused on leadership and community engagement, working with programs like the Student Support Foundation (SSF), the Tutoring & Writing Center, and the Bonner Leaders Program. This fall, she’s heading to the University of Pennsylvania to pursue a PhD in sociology. The NSF GRFP grant will enable Curran to focus her research on the areas of interest she developed while at Rollins, including gender equity, the gender wage gap, and parental leave policies.

Emily Curran ’22 and sociology professor Amy Armenia
Emily Curran ’22’s relationship with sociology professor Amy Armenia proved instrumental as she developed her pathway to purpose.Photo by Scott Cook.

As an incoming first-year, Curran enrolled in the Rollins College Conference (RCC) course Inequality 101: Race, Class, Gender, and Society with sociology professor Amy Armenia, which proved to be a pivotal moment in her college career. This led to the duo collaborating on a research project through the Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program in which they analyzed where food-assistance programs were out of sync with populations in need. Curran and Armenia traveled to Boston this spring to attend the Eastern Sociological Society’s annual conference, where Curran presented additional research related to her honors thesis.

“My work with Dr. Armenia is what led me to pursue a PhD in sociology,” says Curran. “We were published together in early 2021, and our work inspired me to get involved with the Student Support Foundation on campus. My thesis lies at the heart of my research interests—the intersection of work and family—and explores how external shocks like the Great Recession and COVID-19 pandemic impact parental labor. I’m excited to expand my research in graduate school, and the NSF grant will help fund my project.”

Curran’s resume is chock-full of professional experience that belies her position as someone fresh out of college. Through her work with the Bonner Leaders Program, Curran worked closely with the Holocaust Memorial Research & Education Center in Maitland, Florida, where she served as the co-chair of the inaugural Take Action Institute, a resource center that equips high school and college students with the tools to enact transformational change in their communities. In January 2022, the institute welcomed hundreds of high school and college students from around Florida as part of its inaugural conference.

Emily Curran, Kayley Klatt, and Leah Hornik at the Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center.
Emily Curran ’22 (center) worked with fellow Tars Kayley Klatt ’24 (left) and Leah Hornik ’22 (right) to develop the first-ever Take Action Institute at the Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center.Photo by Scott Cook.

“I’m looking forward to Emily transitioning from student to academic peer,” says Armenia. “From the moment I met her in our RCC class, I knew this was the right program for her. I think we’ve worked together every semester that she’s been at Rollins.”

Curran’s professors were so deeply impressed by her passion for sociology that they brought her on as a department fellow, where she consulted on the program’s introductory curriculum to include more project-based learning. Through her work as a peer mentor and with the Rollins Tutoring & Writing Center, she has helped dozens of other sociology students achieve a better grasp of degree-specific materials.

“I hope to draw from these experiences in graduate school to empower diverse undergraduate students to think sociologically and engage with course content outside of the classroom so they too can advance social change,” says Curran.

A student wearing a cap and gown walking on campus.

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