Dr. Fondren received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Mississippi State University in 2009. Her research and teaching interests focus on gender, culture, the environment, social inequality, social psychology, and sports/leisure/recreation. Her dissertation research examined the distinctive leisure subculture of long-distance hiking or backpacking, specifically investigating how subcultural ideologies and practices are combined with a socially significant place to forge powerful emotional bonds among long-distance hikers and strong attachments to the Appalachian Trail. The goal of this research is to illustrate how a geographically situated "subculture of place" is created and sustained in a particular environmental setting in the absence of formal institutions. She plans to further investigate the leisure subculture of long-distance hiking by exploring other long-distance hiking trails and communities, as well as the spiritual aspects of long-distance hiking and the practice of "doing gender" in unconventional contexts like the Appalachian Trail.
Fondren has also developed an interest in athletic recruiting, more specifically negative recruiting and how recruiting practices intersect with the identity of educational institutions. In this line of research she has examined the importance of race, class, and Southern culture through the lens of college football recruiting at two prominent universities in Mississippi. This research demonstrates how the smash-mouth world of college football recruiting can impact school choice decisions made by student athletes. Her goal with this research is to promote a more racially sensitive recruiting process, especially within the Southeastern Conference (SEC). She plans to continue this line of research by further exploring the nature and prevalence of negative recruiting in other sports conferences (i.e., the Atlantic Coast Conference, Conference USA), as well as investigate how the lesbian label is used to influence female student-athletes’ decisions concerning school choice. Her works are forthcoming in a variety of outlets such as Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics and Review for Religious Research.
My general teaching philosophy emphasizes principles of student-centered teaching and the integration of research into the classroom. I try to impress upon students various ways of seeing what many take for granted in life. While I acknowledge students do not have to agree with sociology, I believe they should, as educated citizens, be aware of the diversity of perspectives on any one issue that sociology offers. In my classes, I emphasize the usefulness and relevance of sociology to the past, present, and future.
Learn more about Dr. Fondren’s work in the field and with students in a recent interview.