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Sociology students study fitness fundraisers

| Denise Olson

Fitness and philanthropy clearly make a perfect match, and in the U.S. there is not a weekend when fundraisers of various fitness sorts are taking place across the country year round. In addition to providing funds for organizations and individuals in need, this trend can also provide interesting topics of research in sociology.  

Two 2015 graduates, Hannah Barringer Kenny and Jack Junker, worked diligently for nearly a year on a project that examined  fitness fundraisers, looking specifically at participant motivation.  The study set out to determine if the stronger motivation was altruism or personal benefit.

Over the course of one year, Kenny and Junker attended 11 different fitness fundraising events, and they were able to interview 123 people on their motivations and opinions of each event. At the end of their study, Hannah and Jack concluded that the majority of people were participating for their own benefit. Even though they were helping others, they still did it because it made them feel good.

However, this data isn’t the only thing that Hannah and Jack have acquired throughout their study. Due to the large number of interviews that they performed, they were able to build their communication skills. They also had to code their interviews and field notes before writing an in depth report on their findings, and had to learn how to use data software, such as Lenovo.

“Throughout this project, I’ve gained critical thinking, information synthesis, and data analysis skills,” said Kenny. 

“This experience helped me improve my public speaking skills and become more affluent with my words," Junker reflected. "I was also able to build connections to people and events throughout the area because of the interviews.”

Student-faculty collaborative research is an important practice at UW-Eau Claire, and faculty mentoring was essential to Kenny and Junker throughout this project. The student team received guidance from sociology professor Peter Hart-Brinson. Brinson mentored each phase of the project, answering questions and developing a research method. This kind of faculty support is essential for student success in a project of this scope.

Junker said, “Dr. Hart-Brinson is awesome. He gave me a lot of his time and put a mountain-full of trust in me. He is exactly what you would want in a professor.”

“Dr. Hart-Brinson really included us in the project planning process, and our work throughout the year was very self-directed. It was a great way to develop interpersonal skills and build professional relationships,” Kenny added.