Dr. Melissa Sloan Earns National Attention

Dr. Melissa Sloan

Assistant Professor Melissa Sloan’s surprising research outcomes cited in several national publications, including the Los Angeles Times and Time Magazine.

For an academic researcher, perhaps the most rewarding part of the publication process comes when your work is cited in the national media. That is what USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Dr. Melissa Sloan experienced this week.

Sloan is an assistant professor of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee who recently participated in a study for the December issue of the Social Psychology Quarterly, which was then picked up by several national publications and professional websites this week.

Sloan’s submission: “Counting on Coworkers: Race, Social Support, and Emotional Experiences on the Job” examines the social support among co-workers in the workplace and how “the racial composition of the workplace may influence the formation of workplace social ties.” Sloan and her colleagues Ranae J. Evenson Newhouse, an assistant professor of sociology at Tennessee State University, and Ashley B. Thompson, an assistant professor of sociology at Lynchburg College were surprised by the findings of their research—despite working in more routine and less autonomous jobs, having fewer close friends at work, and feeling less supported by their coworkers, blacks report significantly more positive emotions in the workplace than whites.

“Based on the history of discrimination against African Americans in the workplace, we thought blacks would experience more negative emotions at work than whites,” Sloan said. “As it turned out, the opposite was true.”

Sloan says she has been interested in the topics of emotion, social relationships and social inequalities since she began conducting research as an undergraduate student. “This is important because the workplace has been considered a key context for the development of supportive relationships with others, and given this research it seems that may only hold for white workers.”

After being published in the Social Psychology Quarterly, Sloan’s research was then cited by a number of different media outlets including the Los Angeles Times and Time Magazine, and several professional organizations.

“I am very excited that my research is getting attention,” Sloan said. “I think that it means I am working on a topic that is meaningful to a lot of people.  Most adults spend a great amount of time working, and issues of interpersonal relationships in the workplace, emotional well-being, and race-based inequality can be highly salient.”

The success of Sloan’s research demonstrates to her students that hard work and in-depth research can eventually pay dividends.

“I incorporate my research into all of my classes, and I hope to pass along my enthusiasm for research to my students,” Sloan said. “I teach interdisciplinary social science classes, and perhaps because I am just so interested in the topics that I study, I find myself using my research to illustrate many of the topics that I cover.  I share my data collection experiences with students in my research methods classes, and in my statistics class I often encourage students to work with my survey data.”

Sloan’s research was cited in articles by the Los Angeles Times and Time Magazine.