Graduate Research Assistant Maia Behrendt Defends Master’s Thesis

Graduate Research Assistant Maia Behrendt entered the lab with a B.A. in Anthropology and will be graduating next month with her M.A. in Sociology. She recently defended her master’s thesis “Drinking Behaviors, Relationships, and Recovery: A Relational Sociological Examination of Addiction” and sat down with us to share a couple of thoughts about her thesis and her work in the REACH Lab.

Maia with thesis chair Kirk Dombrowski after her successful thesis defense.

Maia’s thesis is centrally concerned with understanding how people who abuse alcohol see the world around them and view their relationships with friends and family. Utilizing a sociological relational approach to her research, Maia interviewed 20 people including those both in and out of active recovery, and she describes the successful implementation of her research as a collaborative effort with The Bridge Behavioral Health in Lincoln. She finds that those not in active recovery view their relationships with others as predominantly negative and express a sense of hopelessness whereas those in recovery experience a path to greater self-esteem and restored relationships. She notes that group support is essential to maintaining sobriety for those in the study. Maia’s research helps to inform approaches to treating alcoholism and addiction that move away from traditional biological models to a more nuanced approach that incorporates the essential role of relationships in understanding patterns of addiction.

Maia says she is passionate about her work in the Lab and hopes to expand her research to include examining museums as ecological systems–entities composed of many working parts including the artifacts, exhibits, curators, and those who visit and experience the museum. A common thread we hear is Maia’s abiding interest in understanding the construction of meaning, from how people do this in relationships to how this occurs in curated spaces.

Finally, we asked Maia what she appreciates most about the Lab and she quickly answered: collaboration noting “if you have a question, you can easily find someone in the Lab who can answer it.” Maia also appreciates that everyone in the lab is genuinely happy to celebrate the successes and accomplishments of others.

Congratulations on successfully defending your thesis, Maia!

-Alice MillerMacPhee

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