Megan Evans Wins Prestigious Sociology Award

By Raleigh Basinger

Megan Evans, a Youngstown State University sociology, linguistics and English triple major, earned top honors for her research presentation on home ownership and impoverished people at a national sociology conference in Greenwood Village, Colorado. bludt-sociologyweb

Her research presentation, “An Assessment of the Effects of Home Ownership on the Lives of Low-Income Individuals,” received the ‘Best Undergraduate Research Award’ at the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology Conference.

Evans and Ashley Orr, YSU alumna, collaborated with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation to conduct their study. Orr gathered the surveys while interning at YNDC over the summer.

Tiffany Sokol, housing director of YNDC, said Evans and Orr evaluated two of their programs, one that provides housing and financial counseling and the other that offers affordable home ownership to low-income individuals by restoring vacant or foreclosed homes.

“They were trying to determine the effects [of] counseling on low-income individuals who are going through that process,” Sokol said.

The study also looked at the effects of homeownership on low-income individuals and their aspirations for the future. One limitation that Evans faced was that there were only 27 participants in the study, but she said the results of low-income individual homeowners having high aspirations were still encouraging. Evans said conducting research is something she plans to carry into her future career.

“I want to become a professor and do research on urban inequality and poverty,” Evans said. “Since both Ashley and I have this shared interest, we wanted to see what we can do.”

Evans said the first program they studied focused on making housing affordable for low income individuals in the community.

“These are usually the houses they purchase from foreclosures or absentee landlords,” Evans said. “They fix them up [and] they sell them at affordable prices.”

The second program is a financial counseling program that helps Youngstown residences set up monthly plans and pay debt, Evans said.

“It is little practices like that to help them with their financial management and also to help them be prepared for all of the things that are involved with owning a home,” Evans said.

A survey was conducted at the housing and counseling programs at YNDC. The survey asked individuals in the program about their future employment goals, future education goals and expectations and aspirations for their children’s education.

Based on the data, Evans said all answers to the questions were generally positive.

“We were seeing the housing and counseling participants relatively did have high aspirations,” Evans said. “We did see the homeowners were more confident in achieving their goals compared to the counseling participants.”

YNDC helped distribute the surveys to its counseling clients. Sokol said the corporation looks to improve its programs and is excited to see Evans’ results.

“She already won awards for it, and she hasn’t even completed it yet, which is awesome,” Sokol said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what impacts our program has had on our clients as determined by her survey.”

Evans said winning the award came as a surprise to her, and she will be using the research for her sociology capstone next semester.

“I plan on developing it more and looking at some of the other questions that we had asked,” Evans said.

Amy Cossentino, director of the honors college, said the accomplishment demonstrates high quality education at YSU.

“Through Megan’s consistent desire to discover and dedication to make a difference, her research has been recognized [in] two consecutive years,” Cossentino said. “Megan’s achievements and the support provided to her showcase to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and community why we are Y and Proud.”