Dr. Melissa Powell-Williams is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, Criminal Justice and Social Work at Augusta University. Dr. Powell-Williams' primary interest includes identity work in the areas of social movements, subcultures, and organizations. She has published in the areas of domestic violence victim advocacy, the Deaf Culture Movement, and support for marriage equality. Current research projects include police perceptions of body worn cameras, race relations and the media.
Areas of Expertise (6)
Domestic Violence Victim Advocacy
Life in the Neither World: Identity Work as Relational Negotiation of Authenticity and Stigma Management for Biculturally Deaf Individuals Living between WorldsDeviant Behavior
2018 This research examines identity negotiation, stigma management, and authenticity strategies utilized by culturally deaf individuals when navigating deviance within hearing, deaf, and Deaf worlds...
“God Hates Your Feelings”: Neutralizing Emotional Deviance within the Westboro Baptist ChurchDeviant Behavior
Todd Powell-Williams, Melissa Powell-Williams
2017 Drawing on individual and peer-group interviews, participant observations, and analysis of media content, we examine the habitual emotional deviance and neutralization techniques employed by the Westboro Baptist Church...
“I help the ones that want help”: Emotion work and the victim advocate roleSociological Spectrum
Melissa Powell-Williams, S Dale White, Todd Powell-Williams
2013 Using data gathered from participant observation and 32 individual in-depth interviews, this study examines how victim advocates achieve emotion management in their work with battered women...
Are You ‘Deaf Enough?’Deviance Today
The ﬁrst day I was introduced to American Sign Language and the deaf community, I was informed that I would never be able to understand deaﬁiess and that the deaf world did not belong to me. The ﬁrst deaf person that I met was a culturally empowered deaf1 instructor who pointed to me and signed,“Do you think you’re better than me? You’re not. Do you think I want to be like you, to hear, I don’t. Do you think you’re here to ‘help’me? You can leave!” During break (when we hearing students snuck off to talk and “hear” freely) we fervently protested the audacity and arrogance of his assumptions. Though no one admitted to this for years, we had been forced to face our own ethnocentrism and “hearist” biases, and we resented it—we resented him. I felt particularly offended; since I had recently concluded nearly three full semesters as a sociology major and arrogantly imagined that I had learned my way out of such bigoted notions.
Religion, politics, and support for same-sex marriage in the United States, 1988–2008Social Science Research
Darren E. Sherkat, Melissa Powell-Williams, Gregory Maddox, Kylan Mattias de Vries
We examine how religious and political factors structure support for same-sex marriage in the United States over the last two decades. Using data from the General Social Surveys, we show that respondents who identify more strongly with the Republican Party, sectarian denominations, and those who subscribe to biblical fundamentalism and political conservatism are substantially more opposed to same-sex marriage than are other Americans.
“Everybody Makes Choices”: Victim Advocates and the Social Construction of Battered Women's Victimization and AgencyViolence Against Women
Jennifer L. Dunn, Melissa Powell-Williams
Semistructured interviews with 32 domestic violence victim advocates illuminate how advocates explain “battered women who stay.” The interviews show that this behavior is a source of great frustration for advocates, who struggle to simultaneously conceive of battered women as victims trapped by social, psychological, and interactional forces and as agents whose choices must be respected. The authors argue that their organizational subculture and the culture of individualism in the contemporary United States do not provide the ideological and linguistic resources necessary for managing this dilemma. This results in a tendency to overemphasize battered women's choice and thereby diminish the constraints they face.
Gender Gap: A Qualitative Study of Women and Leadership Acquisition in AnesthesiologyAnesthesia & Analgesia
Basile, Ellen R. DO; Byrd, Heather MD; Powell-Williams, Melissa PhD; Polania Gutierrez, Javier J. MD; Riveros-Perez, Efrain MD, MBA
The representation of women among leaders in the field of anesthesia continues to trail that of their male counterparts. This qualitative study was conducted to understand the pathway of leadership acquisition among women in the field of anesthesiology. Using constructivist grounded theory, we sought to determine whether there were specific internal or external factors that were common to women in leadership in the specialty field of anesthesiology, and specifically, how they obtained leadership positions. Semistructured interviews were conducted for data collection. A total of 26 women in leadership positions in anesthesiology participated in this study.
Preparing for Medical School: How Sociology Helps Premedical Students Prepare for the MCAT and beyondSage Journals
Elizabeth Culatta, Melissa Powell-Williams, Kim Davies
Educators have recently highlighted the importance of social science courses for students entering the medical field. This has led to the inclusion of sociological theories and concepts on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), a requirement for any student seeking formal medical training. Using open-ended survey data responses provided by students who recently completed the MCAT, we explore how students perceive that sociology courses prepare them for the MCAT and their lives more generally. We find that students report that their sociology courses introduced them to key concepts and laid a foundation for material assessed on the exam, but those courses could improve by aligning with the MCAT structure by prioritizing application of concepts and critically analyzing case studies. Students also reported that sociology courses helped them develop empathy and inclusivity and use their sociological imaginations, which will ultimately positively impact their careers in the medical field and lives overall.