Social Sciences on Tap

On the second Thursday of every month, faculty from the School of Social Sciences discuss topics of local, national, and global importance and engage in a lively conversation with the community. Come join us!

Next Event

The Social Sciences On Tap scheduled for March 12, 2020 has been canceled.

Date: Thursday, March 12, 2020
Time: 6 p.m.
Topic: The Fraying Ties That Bind: Will Spain Pull Apart?...Catalexit?

Could Spain be torn apart by ethnic nationalism? Catalonia’s pro-independence movement brought more than half a million people into the streets to protest and pro-independence parties won at the ballot box. But Spain is not ready to let Catalonia go – Catalan leaders are in prison and others fled the country. This is not politics as usual for this European democracy. Will there be a “Catalexit” or will Spain hold together?

Dr. Jean Abshire, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies, is the head of the Department of International Studies. She also co-directs the IU Southeast Global Civic Literacy Initiative. She has researched ethno-nationalist politics and efforts at democratic accommodation in Europe and is currently working on a book, Ethnic Conflict and Global Security, where democratic accommodation did not go so well. She has visited around 40 countries -- the exact count is a little hard because it depends on whom you ask but it does include both Spain and Catalonia!

Our Lady of Perpetual Hops Brewery
300 Foundation Court
New Albany, IN 47150

Previous Talks

February 13, 2020 - "The History of IU Southeast: An Oral History Perspective"

Dr. Elizabeth Gritter, Associate Professor of History and Director of the Institute of Local and Oral History, will present a talk on the history of IU Southeast through an oral history lens. As campus historian and director of the IUS division of the IU Bicentennial Oral History Project, she and her student workers have conducted more than fifty oral histories on IUS history. She will give an overview of the history of IU Southeast and then illuminate it with excerpts from oral histories.

January 9, 2020 - "Profit over Justice: How the Privatization of Criminal Justice Services Corrupts the Justice System"

Topic: Profit over Justice: How the Privatization of Criminal Justice Services Corrupts the Justice System

Dr. Jennifer Ortiz, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice, will speak about how privatization negatively affects the criminal justice system by placing profit over justice. Although state legislatures believed that privatizing criminal justice systems would result in cost-savings, the privatization of prisons and community supervision services lead to more problems than solutions. Dr. Ortiz will draw data from national and local sources in addition to her ongoing three-year study examining the state of reentry in the Kentuckiana area.

May 9, 2019 - “Last Lecture: Thirty Years at IU Southeast”

Topic: Dr. Cliff Staten, “Last Lecture:  Thirty Years at IU Southeast”

We have a memorable Social Sciences On Tap evening planned for May to mark the occasion of Dr. Cliff Staten’s thirty years at IU Southeast. As I meet with alumni, Dr. Staten’s name regularly emerges as one of the faculty who greatly impacted our students’ lives through his mentorship and by adding international depth to our curriculum and region. He’s made an indelible imprint on Southern Indiana and IU Southeast. In August 1989, Dr. Cliff Staten began his career at IU Southeast as an Assistant Professor of Political Science. He runs the Model United Nations simulations for local colleges and high schools, in addition to his extensive offerings in political science. Most recently, Dr. Staten began a radio show, called the International Power Hour on Horizon Radio. Join us to learn more about his experiences and impact on our region.

March 14, 2019 - "Civic Leadership – Solving Community Problems"

Topic: Civic Leadership – Solving Community Problems (Part of the Civic Engagement Series)
Moderator: Dr. Melissa Fry, Director, Applied Research and Education Center

  • Connor Allen, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
  • Rita Shourds, Align Southern Indiana

Discussion topics:

  • Defining the Problem
  • Building Coalitions
  • Funding Your Initiatives

February 14, 2019 - "Early Care and Education: Improving Everyone’s Bottom Line"

Presenter: Dr. Melissa Fry, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Applied Research and Education Center

An estimated seventy-seven percent of Southern Indiana children birth to five live in homes where all parents work. Less than half of these kids are enrolled in care that is subject to any regulation and less than one-quarter are in high quality care. More neural connections are formed from birth to age five than at any other stage in the lifespan. Stagnant U.S. incomes and gendered ideologies of child care, however, have created a dysfunctional market where workers cannot afford the cost of high quality early care and education. Child care workers earn roughly the same wages as fast food workers, creating little incentive for investments in training and education that can produce quality care. Our communities pay a high price for the failure to ensure that all children have quality language rich early childhood environments. Dr. Melissa Fry will discuss the economic and quality of life impacts of access to high quality affordable care for children birth to age five, nationally and in Southern Indiana.


Dr. Melissa Fry is Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Applied Research and Education Center (AREC). She was recently named Indiana University Bicentennial Professor for 2019-2020. The AREC produces issue based regional studies, engages community-based research, and conducts needs assessments and program evaluations. Dr. Fry’s research interests focus on the relationship between public policy and social inequality and the role of nonprofit organizations in mediating this relationship. She also studies the roles of diverse sectors in building resilient communities.

January 10, 2019 - "Holidays in Asian Countries"

"Holidays in Asian Countries"

Presenter: Dr. Yu Shen, Professor of History & International Studies

Here in the U.S., the holiday season of 2018 is ending soon, but the holiday season in some other parts of the world is just beginning. Dr. Shen will take you to China, Japan and Korea, and share her knowledge and experience about how these countries set up and observe their holidays. The topic is fun and informative; it is also culturally and politically illustrative of the countries in the presentation.

Biography: Dr. Shen was born in Beijing, China. She came to the United States for her Ph.D. studies in history. She has regularly traveled to China, and has been to Japan numerous times. She was a Fulbright Scholar and spent a semester in South Korea. She offers history courses on these countries, as well as on the relationships between these countries and between Asia and the United States.

December 13, 2018 - "Twin Studies: So What's the Answer?"

Presenter: Dr. Deborah Finkel, Professor of Psychology

Dr. Finkel’s talk discussed the basic logic and methods of twin studies, then reviewed some results that show both what kinds of questions we can ask, and what kinds of answers Dr. Finkel has learned about aging.

Biography: Dr. Finkel has been collaborating with Swedish researchers for many years, and since 2010 she has been part of the Interplay of Genes and Environmental across Multiple Studies (IGEMS) consortium that includes 16 twin studies of adult development and aging from five countries and more than 50,000 participants. Dr. Finkel has published over 70 articles and was named a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America in 2002.

November 8, 2018 - "Journalism Ethics in the Trump Era."

"Journalism Ethics in the Trump Era."

Presenter: Mr. Ron Allman, Professor of Journalism & Media

Professor Ron Allman will discuss the changes to the issues of journalism ethics due to the Trump presidency, including truth, privacy, conflict of interest, libel and hate.

Biography: Professor Allman is an eight-time nominee for Distinguished Teacher Award. He has been teaching at IU Southeast since 1999 and advised the student newspaper for 13.5 years. He has offered 17 different journalism courses at IU Southeast, including Journalism Ethics and Communications Law. His Journalism Ethics course is a General Education course.

October 11, 2018 - "Riding the Pink Wave: Gender in the 2018 Midterm Elections"

"Riding the Pink Wave: Gender in the 2018 Midterm Elections"

Presenter: Dr. Rhonda Wrezenski, Associate Professor of Political Science

Following the 2016 election, political scientists began to examine how the results of the presidential election might shape political interest and involvement by Democratic and Republican men and women. In this talk, Dr. Wrzenski will overview the trends and patterns uncovered in this research and explore how these findings have corresponded with subsequent candidate entry and victory rates (so far) in the midterm elections. Dr. Wrzenski will also discuss whether women have been successful and how we define success. This discussion will touch on candidate image, candidate messaging, campaign finance, and voter perceptions in 2018.

Biography: Dr. Wrzenski is an Associate Professor of Political Science at IU Southeast, where she teaches courses in introductory American politics, as well as advanced courses in state politics, gender and politics, elections and voting, public policymaking, and senior seminar. She received a PhD (2010) and MA (2005) in political science from Louisiana State University, and a BA in political science and media production (2003) from Hastings College.

Dr. Wrzenski’s research focuses on legislative behavior, the under-representation of women in politics, and campaign finance. In 2016, her chapter on state and local government was published in an American Government textbook along with an article in the journal Social Science Quarterly on the electoral benefits of bill sponsorship and passage. She also published two pieces on teaching in the 2015 edition of the IU Press book, Quick Hits – Teaching Tips for Adjunct Faculty and Lecturers. This summer, Dr. Wrzenski collaborated on a forthcoming textbook project focusing on our nation’s foundational documents and their role in state policymaking and voting and participation, among other areas. Dr. Wrzenski was on sabbatical in the spring of 2018 and is currently working on a project focused on comparing the qualifications, interest group scorecard ratings, and committee assignments of every male and female state legislator in 2016.

Please contact Dr. Kelly A. Ryan at if you would like more information on the series.