Dr. Elizabeth A. Larsen


Department of Humanities


Dr. Larsen is the director of undergraduate sociology and social science and the director of the Master of Social Science online program at PennWest California. She is certified in alternative dispute resolution. Dr. Larsen is a certified sociological practitioner, carrying out applied research for Carnegie Mellon University, Centers for Disease Control, and Magee Women's Hospital. She is active in the American Sociological Association, Pennsylvania Sociological Society, and Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology, and was awarded PennWest California's Merit Award for Service and Service Learning. 


Her recent research has focused on gender and work. She sees great career opportunities for students who earn their B.A. in sociology with a concentration in deviance, and follow it with a master's degree in social science.



  • 2020 Larsen, Elizabeth. Horses in Hats, Frogs in Frocks.  In Jackson, Kathy Merlock; Stolley, Kathy Shepherd; Payne, Lisa Lyon (eds). Animals and Ourselves: Essays on Connections and Blurred Boundaries. McFarland.
  • 2015. Larsen, Elizabeth.  Gender, Work and Harness Racing: Fast Horses and Strong Women in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham, MD. (The photo editing for the cover of this book was accomplished by one of PennWest California's own graphic design students, Ashlyn Neiffer.)

Outside the Classroom

  • 2020: Established PennWest California’s chapter of Alpha Kappa Delta, the International Honor Society for Sociology.  
  • 2018: Collaborated on, at the invitation of the Theatre Department, a teacher resource manual and a student study guide to complement the visit of students from three area high schools to the university to attend a presentation of Heathers: The Musical.  Contributed to a post-performance panel discussion on relevant issues such as suicide, bullying, school shootings, and violence. 
  • 2018: Presented large-scale puppets created with undergraduate students for Cuban Art: An Exhibition from Cuba as a student in Sabrina Hykes-Davis’ course in Puppetry.  This performance was part of a presentation to accompany and engage with students from five area high schools who met the artists and attended a panel discussion on human rights. 
  • 2017: Collaborated on the creation of the Violence and Incidence Collaborative Evaluation in Schools Certificate (VICES) -- The 12-credit Sub-Baccalaureate Certificate provides students with a system-based, comprehensive view of school violence, critical incidence identification, response, and prevention.  This certificate is recommended as an added credential for any B.A. degree and particularly for students who plan careers in education.
  • 2017: Created and presented a 3-hour workshop on Conflict Resolution to a spectrum of professionals who work in affordable rental housing in Pennsylvania at the invitation of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA).Applying the Skills, Processes, and Ethics of Mediation & Conflict Resolution at Home and Work. 
  • 2016: Performance of five members of the Langston Hughes Poetry Society given at President Jones’ Inauguration Week Activities.  Spearheaded the outreach for and coordination of all aspects of the performance. 

Articles in Peer-Reviewed Academic Journals

  • 2013: Larsen, Elizabeth.  Doing it Our Way: Laverne and Shirley, Women in Harness Racing, and Applied Sociology. Presidential Address for the 2012 Conference of the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology. Journal of Applied Social Science, Vol. 7, No. 2: 144-147. 
  • 2013: Larsen, Elizabeth. The Simpsons Help Us Understand Deviance and Social Control. Teaching Resources and Innovations Library for Sociology TRAILS). Assignment, Class Activity, Lecture, PowerPoint, Video. Washington, DC: The American Sociological Association. ( http://trails.asanet.org) This article was among the Top Ten Most Accessed Resources in TRAILS in 2013. 
  • 2011: Larsen, Elizabeth. Fast Horses and Strong Women: Revisioning the Sport-Family-Business of Harness Horse Racing. Sociological Viewpoints, Fall 2011, Volume 27, No. 1, pages 39-46. 
  • 2006: Larsen, Elizabeth.  The Impact of Occupational Sex Segregation on Family Businesses: The Case of American Harness Racing. Gender, Work, and Organization. July 2006, Volume 13, No. 4, pages 359-382. 
  • 2006: Larsen, Elizabeth. A Vicious Oval: Why Women Trainers and Drivers Seldom Reach the Top in American Harness Racing. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. April 2006, Volume 35, Issue No. 2, pages 119-147. 
  • * 2005: Larsen, Elizabeth and Margaret L. Stubbs.  Increasing Diversity in Computer Science: Acknowledging, Yet Moving Beyond, Gender. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering. June 2005, Volume 11, Issue No. 2, pages 139-169. * Recommended to the Annals of Research in Engineering Education (AREE).

Professional Affiliations

  • Served as president for the Pennsylvania Sociological Society
  • Elected president of the national Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology (AACS)
  • Served as editor-in-chief for Sociological Viewpoints, the peer-reviewed journal of the Pennsylvania Sociological Society
  • Member, American Sociological Association

Student Publications

  • Geiger, Rebecca.  2017. Book Review of Girl Up by L. Bates, Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work, Volume: 32 issue: 3, page(s): 415-416.
  •  Homanics, Ryan. 2018. Dopesick: The American Addiction to Heroin and Profit. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Student Learning Experiences and Professional Collaborations

Career and Professional Development Center   -- Students carried out evaluation research on the Mock Interview program and the PennWest California Career Fair.  The results of this formative evaluation assist the Director in improving the quality of these experiences for our students.                    

Center for Volunteer Programs and Service Learning – Students worked with Brownsville Area Revitalization Corporation, Tripil, Rivertowns, Center in the Woods, Washington Food Bank, and Mon Valley Hospital to plan, implement, and report with recommendations on challenges identified by the organizations based on interviews and participant observation.  We also collaborated with Studio 224, PennWest California's graphic design club on a new map of Brownsville.

Service Learning -- Students worked individually and in teams with the Washington County Food Bank, Center in the Woods, Rivertowns, and Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living (TRIPIL).  The Applied Sociology course is grounded in sound pedagogical research on service learning.  Students engage in service, and then follow up by reflection, critical thinking, and application of sociological concepts to the experience, to the benefit of our students, the university, and the local community.

Vulcan Village – Collaborated with the Community Manager of Vulcan Village, with a pre- and post-test of a green energy education program and an evaluation of residents' knowledge of and attitudes toward environmentally friendly usage of water, electricity, and natural resources. 

P.E.A.C.E. Project – Students created and carried out a baseline survey of all students in First Year Seminar classes on their experiences with interpersonal violence, stalking, and sexual harassment.  Results became part of a grant application for funding for a Green Dot education program here at PennWest California. 

Mid-Mon Valley Transit Authority – Collaborated with a consulting firm to carry out a route study in order to improve public transportation in the areas served. 

Healthy Habits -- Facilitated student team research project that examined the university's Healthy Habits program in order to determine how to attract more participants. 

California Borough Recreation Authority -- Facilitated student team research project that examined the wants and needs of California borough residents in terms of recreational facilities and opportunities.

  • B.A.: Economics, University of Virginia
  • M.A.: Sociology, George Mason University
  • Ph.D.: Sociology, University of Pittsburgh
  • Doctoral Certificate: Women's Studies, University of Pittsburgh
  • C.S.P., Certified Sociological Practitioner, Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology (AACS)
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Certification, 40 hours; Ethics, 3 hours, Alternative Dispute Resolution Service International Inc.
  • NCPM, Nationally Certified Professional in Mediation, National Association of Certified Mediators (NACM)

Email: larsen@pennwest.edu

Phone: 724-938-4149

Office: Manderino Library Room 450-H