Corrie Ellis | Using Research To Create Change
by Lisa Heer
Idaho student Corrie Ellis is an advocate for change. A Sociology and Spanish major, she had the chance to represent the University abroad last spring and put her studies to use while conducting research in Ecuador.
Ellis, who transferred from Middlebury College in Vermont, decided to major in Sociology after taking a class on 1960’s Social Movements. When Ellis came to came to UI, she took a course called Postcolonialism from Dr. Leotina Hormel, which inspired her to conduct research in Ecuador and dedicate her career to social justice.
“This course really opened my eyes to feminist and postcolonial theory and international issues,” said Ellis. She is also working towards a minor in International Studies because of her increasing interest in development and policy, especially relating to women.
Ellis chose to study abroad in Ecuador because of its status as a developing country and her interest in Latin American culture. While studying Spanish in Ecuador, Ellis was also able to conduct a study of women’s informal work, which she had been organizing in her sociology classes prior to going abroad.
She became interested in women’s reproductive labor, which includes caring for children or elders and cooking or cleaning, after reading a book entitled Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth
by Marilyn Waring which argues that women’s work to support family is not productive because it is not exchanged for cash or profit.
“I want this system to be changed,” said Ellis. “I wanted to find out what reproductive labor women do in Ecuador and how they think their work is valued by their partners, communities and government.”
Ellis conducted interviews with Ecuadorian men and women, focusing on the 2008 Ecuadorian Constitution’s extension of social security benefits to reproductive laborers. She is analyzing her results this fall, and will present her findings with Dr. Leotina Hormel this March at the Pacific Sociological Association Conference in Seattle.
While conducting research while studying was time consuming, Ellis would definitely recommend studying abroad to others. With her fellow UI students, she got to travel every weekend and saw most of the country of Ecuador. She enjoyed her host family, the Spanish classes, conducting her research, and learning to function in a new country and culture.
“I think going to a developing country is especially transformative because you see poverty and inequality that is much harder to see in our country. This really makes you thankful for your opportunities for an education, decent work and a quality standard of living,” said Ellis.
Her experiences in Ecuador solidified her determination to help others and bring about change through her future career.
Melanie-Angela Neuilly, a UI professor and Ellis’ sponsor in the Student Grant Program, feels certain that Ellis will make an impact.
“I have been continuously amazed by Corrie’s work throughout her tenure at the University of Idaho. She has all the basic qualities that make good students: she is very bright, she work very hard, and she is extremely committed to her studies,” said Neuilly. “Corrie is outstanding because she truly deeply cares about the social justice issues she devotes her time [to] studying.”