Mary Margaret Petersen '13
Randolph-Macon College student Mary Margaret Petersen ’13 was awarded a Best Undergraduate Poster Award at the 2013 Eastern Sociological Society (ESS) annual meeting, which took place March 21-24, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. The ESS is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting excellence in sociological scholarship and instruction.
Conference Winner Petersen, a sociology major and political science minor, says she was “terrified” at the prospect of presenting her poster, “A Unique Bond: Human/Equine Interactions in a Therapeutic Setting,” which represented months of research.
“I had no idea what to expect,” she says of the conference, “but I was excited to present my project and meet other presenters. The conference was wonderful. I watched other presentations, talked to students and professors, and heard about new ideas and projects. After my presentation, I was told that I had been awarded the top poster for my session. I was so surprised that all I could do was smile.”
Research In January 2012, Petersen approached Sociology Professor Beth Gill and told her she was interested in studying the impact of Equine Assisted Mental Therapy.
“She suggested I do a Senior Project, which then extended into a SURF (Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship) project,” says Petersen, who has ridden horses since she was a toddler. “I spent a year studying the bond between horses and patients in conjunction with Equine Assisted Therapy. I concluded that, for some patients, working with horses can be an experience in which they are able to express themselves without judgment or forced connections with humans. Equine Assisted Therapy provides the opportunity for patients to feel normal and have their disabilities (both mental and physical) accepted unconditionally.”
Mentorship “I could not have conducted research without the help of Professor Gill,” says Petersen. “She encouraged me to do independent research and was instrumental in guiding me through the process. She and Professor Amy Armenia (sociology) have been extremely supportive of me throughout my college career.”
Equestrian Team Petersen, who hails from Madison County, Virginia joined R-MC’s Equestrian Team in 2012. The Team welcomes riders of all levels who are interested in competing in hunt seat equitation.
“I love our team because we support each other both while riding and in other aspects of our lives,” she says. “I have been riding horses since I was old enough to walk and I wanted to rededicate myself to riding and showing. Because of the Equestrian Team, I have reconnected with competitive riding and my desire to have a career in the equestrian world.”
Future Plans In addition to her ESS award, Petersen has another reason to smile.
“I was recently accepted into a graduate program at Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona,” she says. “I will be working towards my master’s degree in counseling with a concentration in equine assisted mental therapy. I can’t wait to get started.” Read more Student Experience stories.