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Erin Ellis Ellis to receive Virginia Chandler Dykes Scholarship for the College of Arts and Sciences

Four Scholarship Awards to be presented at 14th Annual TWU Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award Luncheon Honoring Francie Moody-Dahlberg for her commitment to education, social services, the arts, and community development 

Erin Ellis is a student pursuing her doctorate of sociology from Texas Woman’s University with a 3.765 GPA and plans to graduate in December 2016 and continue teaching as well as researching in areas where positive change can be initiated.  Ellis is receiving one of four prestigious scholarships given by Texas Woman’s University at the 14th Annual Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award Luncheon, presented by Bank of Texas, Texas Woman’s University, and the Texas Woman’s University Foundation, Feb. 10, at noon, at The Belo Mansion and Pavilion.  Sis Carr is the sponsor of the College of Arts and Sciences scholarship, honoring Ellis this year.

“I love teaching because I find it very rewarding to interact with my students and to learn from them as well as help guide their own learning processes,” said Ellis. “I am passionate about action research and would like to team up with community groups to do research to help meet the needs of the community.”

Since 2012, she has been a graduate teaching assistant in the department of sociology and social work at TWU. Ellis’ areas of specialization include medical sociology, women and children’s health, qualitative methodology, social theory, sociology of motherhood, criminology, deviant behavior and social control.   She is working on her dissertation proposal, which will be a qualitative study of women who suffered Hyperemesis Gravidarum during pregnancy, focusing on their experiences in navigating healthcare with medical professionals, employment issues as they are often too sick to work, and issues with family and friends who may not understand their illness.

“It is my hope that by giving these women a voice, I can help initiate positive change for future sufferers,” said Erin Ellis.

Ellis received her undergraduate degree in sociology from TWU in 2011 and her master’s in sociology in 2014. She originally planned to get her undergraduate degree in psychology and minor in sociology, but when all of the psychology classes were full, she began taking a full load of sociology courses.

“As I took more sociology courses, I was intrigued to discover how much people’s backgrounds, upbringings and the world around us influence who we become,” said Erin Ellis. “Before I began the graduate program at TWU, I was a stay-at-home mother to my three amazing children.  When I began working as a graduate assistant and then as a graduate teaching assistant in sociology, I was suddenly a full-time graduate student working part-time and being pulled in many directions.  I struggled with guilt over missing important milestones in my children’s lives and no longer being the kind of mom I wanted to be.”

Conversations with other graduate student mothers made her realize she was not the only one having these feelings, leading to her thesis project to give voice to these mothers and help them look for ways that departments, graduate schools, and the universities can better support them.   She discovered that graduate student mothers have high attrition rates, and when forced out of school due to lack of social and institutional support, brain drain results, harming not only these mothers but also the department and university that have invested time, money and energy into educating and training them.

“In my opinion, TWU is in a really unique position to craft methods of support for graduate student mothers given their history as an institution founded for women and one that primarily serves women,” added Ellis. “I would love to see TWU become a leader in supporting student parents but especially graduate student mothers.”

Ellis founded an online support and networking group for graduate student mothers on Facebook, which now has 69 members from all over the world who share articles and tips and pose questions to one another about navigating academia and parenting.

“I encourage graduate student mothers to seek out other mothers in the program who will be able to understand some of your unique struggles that your childless colleagues are not experiencing,” added Ellis. “Talk to one another and don’t see anyone as a threat or more qualified to be there.   You are not going to be the only one feeling overwhelmed and you can support one another.”

Ellis jokes that while her kids, now 12, 10, and 9, do not say that she is Wonder Woman, they do like to say that they have never seen their mom and Wonder Woman in the same room at the same time. 

“While they are not exactly sure what I do, they understand I teach college courses and think that is really cool,” added Ellis.

Raised by a single dad in Troutville, Virginia, she moved to Savannah, Georgia, when she was a junior in high school and attended Georgia Southern University for two years before dropping out to get married and move to Texas with her new husband. She received her first acceptance letter from TWU on the same day she learned that she was pregnant with her oldest child.  She decided to delay finishing her degree to focus on her baby.  Her second child was born when the oldest was 22 months old, and the third when the oldest was not quite 3. After spending several years as a stay-at-home mother, teaching preschool at her children’s school, she finished her undergraduate degree at TWU and began the graduate program as a pass-through PhD student. She and her husband of 12 years divorced after a long separation, and she remarried in 2015. Her husband, Tom Guffey, is also pursuing his PhD in the Department of Sociology and Social Work at TWU, and is one of her biggest cheerleaders.

Ellis is the recipient of numerous awards including the Allsup-Lane Scholarship, the Bertha and Morris Levy Endowed Scholarship, and multiple favorite faculty awards.  She also received the Outstanding Graduate Student Award in Scholarship for the Department of Sociology and Social Work. She is a member of the American Sociological Association, Sociologists for Women in Society, Southwestern Social Science Association, and Alpha Kappa Delta (the national sociological society), where she has held numerous officer positions.  She is a member of the alumni advisory committee of Alpha Omicron Pi Fraternity, Delta Theta Chapter (TWU), and has also served as the organization’s educational adviser at TWU as well president and treasurer at the Greater Tarrant Alumni Chapter and chapter relations chair at Georgia Southern University.

 “I feel incredibly honored and excited to receive this scholarship and am grateful to the professors in the sociology department who are always willing to help and have an open-door policy,” said Ellis.  “They are always willing to meet with us and help us to be as successful as possible.”

In addition to Ellis, graduate students from the remaining three TWU colleges will also be honored at the luncheon as recipients of scholarship funds: Veronica Rowe, College of Health Sciences (Occupational Therapy), sponsored by Edgemere – Dallas/SQLC Charitable Foundation; Tara L. Roush, College of Professional Education (COPE), sponsored by Geraldine “Tincy” Miller; and Mary Roberts, College of Nursing, sponsored by Luther King Capital Management.

TWU’s 14th Annual Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award Luncheon, Feb. 10 at the Belo Mansion and Pavilion, will honor Francie Moody-Dahlberg as the 2016 recipient of the Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award.  Tickets are $175 for silver patron; $250 for gold patron.  For more information, call 940-898-3872, visit, or email

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