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Elizabeth Armstrong
Sociology Department

Richard Doty
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Tuesday, May 20, 2003

IUB sociologist receives $50,000 fellowship to study sexual socialization of college students

An Indiana University Bloomington sociologist has received a $50,000 national fellowship to study the sexual socialization of college students.

Elizabeth A. Armstrong, an assistant professor of sociology, has been named a Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow by the National Academy of Education for the 2003-04 academic year. The $50,000 grant from the honorary educational society will assist with salary replacement and research expenses.

Armstrong, a cultural sociologist interested in sexuality and gender in contemporary America, said her research will focus on the premise that "undergraduate experiences are intellectually, socially and sexually formative. I want to explore how institutional structures shape campus sexual cultures and how this affects college men and women."

Armstrong noted that college is widely perceived to be as much about sociality as it is about academics, and yet there is little research or understanding of the sexual cultures prevalent in American colleges today.

"This study asks: What role do higher education institutions play in shaping undergraduate sexual cultures? What is the content of the erotic curricula being provided -- intentionally and otherwise -- by colleges and universities in the United States? How much of collegiate sexual socialization is due to institutionally specific erotic curricula and how much is due to shared American culture?" she said.

Armstrong, who plans to publish a book on this research, said it is important for both administrators and students to understand campus sexual cultures. She said the findings may improve the ability of administrators to shape these cultures and reduce problem drinking by students, which often has sexual consequences. Students can benefit because what they learn about sex and sociality in college can influence their development of relationships and careers.

The National Academy of Education, now in its 18th year, has more than 500 alumni. It was created to promote scholarly inquiry and discussion concerning the ends and means of education in the United States and abroad.

Armstrong can be contacted at 812-856-2063 or