Five Trailblazers: Page 6 of 6
Alli Puchlopek ’13
In a neat gray jacket Alli Puchlopek clicks through her PowerPoint slides at the Undergraduate Research Conference. It’s the sociology session entitled, Exploring Research in Sociology I: Sex and Society. Puchlopek’s presentation is “Rape Myth Acceptance and Bystander Attitudes on Campus: Understanding Students’ Perceptions of Sexual Assault.”
As Puchlopek analyzes her data, she’s quick to point out what worked and what didn’t and what might be improved in a further study. She clearly enjoys the discussion that follows. In the room are several highly respected sociologists including two of her mentors—Sharyn Potter, associate professor of sociology, a leader in the field of education for bystanders in the prevention of sexual and relationship violence and stalking, and Rebecca Glauber, assistant professor of sociology, who has extensive publications in the area of workplace policies and family well being.
Just a few years ago, Puchlopek was in a remedial math course at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, N.H.
“I had a rebellious streak in high school,” says Puchlopek. “I was not a good student. And, I did not want to go to college at all. Plus, I was training to be a shift manager at McDonalds. But my parents convinced me to enroll.”
Once in school, Puchlopek found that “it grew on her” and then that “it was fun!” But the math came slowly and she often felt that she’d never get it. And then she changed. “I just decided I was not about to give up,” she recalls.
Eventually, Puchlopek transferred from Great Bay to UNH. She lived at home and continued to work at McDonalds. Her shift was generally from 5:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
She chose sociology as her major, and then Potter suggested that she sign up for the Honors-in-Major program.
“I said, ‘Are you crazy?’” recalls Puchlopek. “And she said, ‘You sit in the front of the class, you raise your hand a lot, you’ll be fine.’ She’s fearless. But, I’m so glad I did it.”
In the meantime Puchlopek has also added a minor in justice studies. And, starting last summer, she got a job as a research assistant at the renowned Crimes Against Children Research Center and left McDonalds.
“So far I’ve contributed to two major studies,” says Puchlopek. “I can feel like I’m doing a small part to help create change, since these studies will inform people.”
But, she’s still in touch with her friends at McDonalds. “Working for a fast food restaurant is very demanding,” she notes. “I’d love to do an ethnographic study of McDonalds, since there are so many social issues tied to that industry.”
Still, the changes in her life sometimes make her catch her breath. Puchlopek pauses and adds, “Man, what a journey.”
Photo by Perry Smith, UNH Photographic Services