Breanne Penkala ’15 Named Top Graduate in Sociology for 2015

May 5, 2015

In recognition of outstanding academic achievement, Breanne Penkala ’15 has been named a Top Graduate in Sociology by the Stonehill College Sociology & Criminology Department.

Penkala, a sociology and psychology major from Cumberland, Rhode Island, has demonstrated a commitment to scholarship that exemplifies the habits of mind that Stonehill seeks to help students cultivate.

“Breanne takes sociological concepts, theories and methods out of the classroom, putting them into action in pursuit of a more just and compassionate world,” says Chris Wetzel, associate professor of sociology. “The department is particularly enthusiastic about the work she has done related to food and environmental justice.”

Emerging from the “Food Politics” learning community she completed in the fall of her sophomore year, Penkala immediately started taking action to transform the structure of the food system at Stonehill and around the world.

She helped organize the first “no-to-go” week at the dining commons and co-founded the College’s chapter of Food Truth, an organization dedicated to pursing change related to the social and ecological dimensions of food.

As a junior, Penkala studied abroad in Perugia, Italy, where she did research on and advocated for reducing food waste at local restaurants. She then interned with a union local, conducting interviews with food service workers to understand the challenges they faced in their workplaces. In another internship last fall, completed with a local environmental education organization, Penkala’s supervisor called her “passionate, knowledgeable, focused and able to manage multiple moving parts.”

Most recently, Penkala designed and facilitated a course through the Integrating Democratic Education at Stonehill (IDEAS) program called “Lettuce Be REAL Foodies” that challenged her peers to understand, and act to change, Stonehill’s food system.

After graduation, Penkala plans to complete a year of service in a field such as agriculture, environmental education or invasive species.

“I am thrilled to present Breanne with the department’s top graduate in sociology award for 2015,” adds Wetzel.

Selected Activities and Achievements

  • Inducted into the Alpha Kappa Delta Honor Society (sociology)
  • Co-founder and co-president of Stonehill College chapter of Food Truth
  • Member of the ALANA-A Brothers and Sisters Leadership program
  • Volunteer at My Brother’s Keeper
  • Volunteer at The Farm at Stonehill
  • H.O.P.E. Service Immersion trip leader
  • Teaching assistant for the Food Politics learning community
  • Facilitator for IDEAS course “Lettuce Be REAL Foodies”
  • Studied food culture and sustainability in Perugia, Italy