January 28, 2014 | 7 a.m.
By Nicole Finsaas ’13
This fall, Bethel senior Lauren Olson won second place at the Sociologists of Minnesota (SOM) Caroline Rose Annual Student Paper Competition for her research paper, “Family Structures of Homeless Men.” The paper, written for her senior seminar class, was submitted based on the recommendation of Assistant Professor of Anthropology Ning Zhang.
The recognition is an honor for Olson, the anthropology and sociology department, and Bethel, says Harley Schreck, professor of anthropology. “(Winning) means she is one of the best sociology students in Minnesota. The competition is stiff and to be honored is quite an achievement.” Olson was invited to present her paper at the SOM Conference alongside top sociology scholars and professors.
Olson’s interest in homelessness was sparked by the relationships she formed while volunteering and interning at St. Stephens shelter in Minneapolis. “The homeless community has stolen a part of my heart, resulting in my desire to research family structures and relations [of homeless men],” says Olson. Her paper explored homeless men’s childhood family structure, current family structure, and their social system structures.
Schreck says that Olson’s intensely curious and inquisitive spirit helps her dig deeply into an idea or question like homelessness. “She wants to make a difference and works hard to bring that around,” says Schreck. “Lauren is clearly a world changer,” one of Bethel’s core values.
Olson is committed to changing a corner of the world for the homeless population in Minneapolis. “Roughly 13,000 Minnesotans are homeless on any given night,” she says. “I firmly believe that learning more about homelessness in attempt to end it permanently is important and relevant in Minneapolis.”