Skip to content
April 13, 2014 / brockportsociology

Promoting Marriage May Perpetuate Inequality

Pro-marriage initiatives may well perpetuate the cycle of poverty, rather than arresting it.

attachmentBy: Haley A. Markham*

home_coverIn 2010, authors Wagmiller, Gershoff, Veliz, and Clements, reported their findings to the query: “Do Children’s Academic Achievement Improve When Single Mothers Marry?” in Sociology of Education. Since maternal marriage is often touted as a panacea for challenges endured by children in single parent homes, the researchers attempted to discern when and if this is so, and to what degree maternal marriage specifically impacts academic achievement, if at all. Their sample included 21,260 children enrolled in 944 kindergartners during the 1998-1999 school year. Data were collected by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). An average of 23 kindergarteners were selected from each of the sampled schools; their academic achievement was assessed annually using math and reading scores collected through fifth grade. They accounted for variables such as: parental education, financial status, and learning support/enrichment activities provided to the children. Wagmiller, Gershoff, Veliz, and Clements concluded that the benefits of maternal marriage to their children is so limited and circumscribed that federal and state marriage initiatives should be reevaluated for relevancy and appropriateness in the context of social policy.

Beyond the scope of governmental initiatives, this study provides new knowledge about the cycle of poverty. The study itself is hampered, in that there are far too many critical variables not identified or addressed in the data they rely on for their research, such as: siblings and step-siblings and their numbers/ages/genders/birth order/behavioral impact upon the family; extended family and their involvement with the child, including the biological father (if not the man who mother married, if indeed the mother married a man at all!); the neighborhood/school/external support system available to the child; the tangible goods and foodstuffs available to the child, his/her health and access to appropriate care; history of trauma, disability, developmental delays and temperamental variances, the ages of the parents, and their own histories, etc. Given the magnitude and number of such key factors not mentioned in the study, it seems doubtful that a strong correlation could be made between maternal marriage and academic achievement. The study does, however, afford the researchers the opportunity to discern a notable disparity within their sample: while maternal marriage amongst lower income and less educated people seemed associated with lower levels of academic achievement for the reporting child, maternal marriage among higher income and higher educated people seemed to produce a benefit, at least within the limited age range of the sample.

This may suggest that the marriage of two disadvantaged people has the potential to compound problems faced by their children (instead of lessening them, as the social strategists would suggest) whereas the marriage of two advantaged people might enhance their children’s achievements. It is a simplistic hypothesis, but provocative. If this is true—and further research will have to address this—the very governmental initiatives that purport to benefit the poor may in fact ensure that the well-to-do are buffered and the poor remain mired within the confines of the cycle of poverty with the challenges of one generation influencing and compounding the next.

Reference:

Clements, M., Gershoff, E., Veliz, P., & Wagmiller Jr., R.L. (2010). Does Children’s Academic Achievement Improve When Single Mothers Marry? Sociology of Education. 83(3), 201-226.

_______________________________________

*Haley Markam is a sophomore recently accepted into the Nursing Class of 2016 at The College at Brockport. This post was originally submitted in Dr. Eric Kaldor’s Introduction to Sociology course (SOC100) in the spring 2014 semester as a project helping students learn more about the process of searching for and evaluating social scientific research.

April 10, 2014 / brockportsociology

Jackson Katz Visits MCC!

lvspicBy Lindsay Stumpf

On April 2, 2014, Jackson Katz visited the Brighton campus of Monroe Community College to discuss masculinities, manhood, and his violence prevention program. Dr. Katz’s books The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help(2006) and Leading Men: Presidential Campaigns and The Politics Of Manhood (2012)address the facets of masculinities in the political arena and in personal lives of both men and women.

SocClubKatz

Dr. Jackson Katz with Lindsay Stumpf, Sociology department alumnus Tyler Sollenne, and one of our newest majors, Carmelo Crasi.

Dr. Katz began his lecture with a discussion of Women’s History Month and why women need a month to begin with. He then discussed his Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program and how it has been effective in a variety of arenas: sports teams, police departments, and even in the military. Dr. Katz spoke about one of the main problems with ending violence against women—the tendency to use the passive voice when discussing it so that men’s role in it is obscured. Instead of calling it a “women’s issue,” Katz recommends referring to this as “men’s violence.” In this way men will feel that they have responsibility to help end this problem.

The way that Dr. Katz suggests everyone in the audience can help end this violence is through addressing the role of bystanders. Instead of focusing on the victims or perpetrators, Dr. Katz believes that equipping those around a situation with the tools to confront someone for sexist remarks and behavior or to intervene in a negative or dangerous situation is a way that violence can be prevented before it occurs. Jackson Katz talked about men as a “default setting”—one to which we do not pay attention (similar to whiteness or heterosexuality). It reminded me of Michael Kimmel’s article, “Invisible Masculinity” that we read and discussed in my Sociology of Men and Masculinities course taught by Dr. Bridges last spring (2013). The privileged group rarely has the experience of being reminded of their status or having to compensate for it.

Because men are given privilege in our society, Dr. Katz mentions that it is especially important for men to speak out against men’s violence. Although women are the group that receives the most attention as victims of violence, Dr. Katz reminded the audience that many men can be raped or beaten by partners, that many boys as well as girls grow up seeing their mothers beaten by their husbands or boyfriends, and that even when men do not experience violence firsthand, many have had to deal with the aftermath of violence in their relationships with women who have. Another reason that Dr. Katz mentioned it is important for men to speak out is because of the tendency for society to “shoot the messenger” when women attempt to raise awareness for men’s violence. Women who champion equal rights and safety are often called slurs such as “bitch”, “feminazi”, and “manhater.”

Dr. Katz ended the night with some humorous clips depicting a not so humorous topic—street harassment. Street harassment and catcalling are ways that women are made to feel unsafe, and are one of the overlooked ways that men can intervene in the harassment and violence directed towards women. What seems like a harmless compliment or friendly banter can actually cause stress and fear in women who are unsure of a man’s intentions. Overall, Dr. Katz’s lecture was a wonderful introduction to thinking more critically about the relationship between men, masculinity and violence as well as rape culture, the bad reputation of the “f” word (feminism) and the bystander approach towards preventing violence. If more men can be made aware of their potential to help stop violence, both men and women can live happier and safer lives.

_________________________________

Lindsay Stumpf is a graduating senior at The College at Brockport. She is majoring in Sociology with a minor in Women and Gender Studies.  As a member of the Honors Program, Lindsay is also completing a senior thesis addressing representations of masculinity in children’s cartoons under the guidance of Dr. Melody Boyd. Lindsay was recently admitted into the Public Administration program for graduate study at The College and Brockport. She starts in the summer of 2014.

January 16, 2014 / brockportsociology

New Year, Same Inequality

peter 1by Peter Rydzewski*

I recently came across a calendar from a safety supply company: Condor. It depicts workers in various occupations, from construction to dentistry. Most of the images depict manual-labor jobs (lifting, working with hazardous chemicals, or operating dangerous machinery). The small sample of images speaks to the ways in which we rely on simplistic categorizations to share messages about safety through commonly-held beliefs about who will need it most.

paapIn Kris Paap’s book, Working Construction: Why White Working-Class Men Put Themselves – and the Labor Movement – in Harm’s Way, she explores gender and racial inequality in construction jobs. The calendar’s lack of racial diversity (only three minority groups are depicted) helps to illustrate some of Paap’s findings.  Women and racial minority groups are subtly discouraged from participating in this work setting, limiting their options for employment prior to a fair assessment of their abilities. In addition, this discussion contributes to the idea that masculinity – as with gender – cannot be easily defined. It’s situational, location-sensitive, and always in flux.

The most interesting of these twelve calendar images is the one that depicts a woman wearing safely glasses. Even though she is pictured in the calendar with men working various manual-labor jobs, calendar 1this image does not show the advertised safety gear in motion and, in fact, the description under this woman speaks not of safety from harsh conditions, but only about the customized lens colors. It reads, “choose from various lens colors and anti-fog or scratch-resistant coatings.” While most of the images in the calendar speak of “high-impact” protection and using safety to “improve productivity,” only three of the twelve images reference color as an important factor to the gear itself.

Read more…

November 8, 2013 / brockportsociology

Sarah Sobieraj—How and Why Social Movements (Fail to) Gain Media Attention

IMG_3154By Thalia Nunez
Thalia Nunez is a freshman intending to
double major in Education and Sociology.

On October 24, 2013 Dr. Sarah Sobieraj came to The College of Brockport to speak about her book, Soundbitten: The Perils of Media-Centered Political Activism (2011).  Dr. Denise Copelton worked with the American Democracy Project at Brockport to organize the visit.  Dr. Sobieraj started out her exciting talk by sharing a story of a protest she witnessed in Philadelphia that seemed incredibly massive.  Protestors successfully gridlocked the city for a couple of hours, people were dragged to police wagons passively letting their bodies hang slack, they locked hands inside of PVC pipes to make their human chain more difficult to disassemble.  She was awestruck.  Later, she was even more surprised to find that this massive event failed to gain media attention.  This sparked her interest in how activists’ voices get heard, particularly by the mainstream news media.

To study this interesting issue, Dr. Sobieraj worked with 50 different activist groups, covering an incredible range of political issues (anti-war, education, abortion, immigration, environmentalism, etc.) and across the political spectrum. The main focus of Dr. Sobieraj’s research was a consideration of how activists endeavored to get their message to the public (via news media outlets) and how journalists made sense of activists’ attempts to do just this.  The groups that Sobieraj studied received little coverage from the press. When the activists were mentioned in the media, their cause was given little attention. The media often trivialized their cause by focusing on fringe members or not giving the cause prime billing.

In Dr. Bridges’ Introduction to Sociology (SOC100) course, we learned about different theories of “collective action.”  Sociologists are interested in how groups of people come to act collectively with a common cause and offer more than one explanation for how and why this occurs. Once groups are able to act collectively, Sobieraj asks, “What happens next?”  There’s more than one way to talk about how social movements can and do affect social change, but, gaining media attention is a critical step in the process. Sobieraj’s research illustrates that this is a far more complicated process than we might initially suspect.

Sobieraj found that journalists do not always consider protestors worthy of media attention.  Most of the movements she studied were acutely aware that if they did achieve media attention, they were likely to only get a short excerpt from what they said on camera (a “sound bite”).  Sensitive to this, the movements Sobieraj studied practiced and polished the statements they wanted to share with the media to try to distill their message in as clear and succinct a way as possible (to guard against misrepresentation, among other things).  But, Sobieraj found that when journalists interacted with these polished performances of protest, they did not interpret the protestors as “authentic.”  Rather, they read those practiced performances as “staged”—perhaps just individuals looking for their 15 minutes, but not activists passionately committed to a cause.  Activists’ attempts to garner media attention and to ensure that their messages were heard, accurately interpreted and represented in the media were actually working against them.

Interestingly, although Sobieraj’s research was undertaken prior to Occupy Wall Street, she discusses the intense media attention this movement garnered in her discussion.  Consistent with her theory, journalists reporting on Occupy Wall Street interpreted the protestors as “authentic” in ways that many contemporary social movements are not.  Dr. Sobieraj discussed why this was the case and how this process worked to the advantage of the Occupy movement, but also may have produced a less than clear message about the movement’s origins, qualms, meanings, and intentions.

The discussion after the talk produced a lively discussion of what to do next.  We learned that Dr. Sobieraj’s book is being taught in courses on journalism at some colleges and universities.  Perhaps a new generation of journalists will learn to be more careful about prejudging what ought to count as authentic political participation and civic engagement.  Afterwards she spoke candidly with the Sociology Club about her research.  Thanks for joining us, Dr. Sobieraj!

photo

April 16, 2013 / brockportsociology

Violence on College Campuses: U.S. and Russian Perspectives

By: Lindsay Stumpf*

lvspic

For Scholars Day, I presented a Public Service Announcement that was created in my Honors Sex and Culture class in Fall 2012, taught by Dr. Barbara LeSavoy. This was a group project that I created with three other students in the class. Our focus was rape and sexual assault on college campuses, with a particular focus on shifting the dialogue from “victim blaming” to “perpetrator blaming.”

For this project, we created visual representation of our focus.  So we decided to make a video. In the video we departed from the traditional route of warning people how to protect themselves or offering resources to victims, but instead, in effect, directly addressed the “perpetrator” of the sexual assault. In doing this, we both made the audience contrast this experience to other PSA’s they may have seen in the past, as well as making them aware of what PSA’s about this issue would look like if they truly focused on the crime and not victims and perceptions surrounding their roles in the crimes committed against them.

A large part of our research explored preexisting laws about rape and sexual assault as well as campus policies concerning these crimes. We also briefly examined the similarities and differences in culture surrounding sexual assault in Russia and the United States, because our class was partnered with a class in Novgorod, Russia. Not only do legal definitions of rape differ in each country, but the attitudes about how prevalent or likely rape is to happen are a lot different in Russia than in the United States as well. We posted a brief survey on the classroom blog, and students from Russia were far less likely to think rape could happen on their campus, or to know anyone to whom it had happened.

Particularly in the light of the Steubenville case and others like it broadcasted nationwide, it is very sad to see that in our culture people still blame, question, and discredit victims of sexual assault rather than help, support, or seek justice for them. Our major message that we wanted to share with the audience is that the dialogue about sexual assault in our country focuses on the wrong issues and should be changed.

With the PSA, we emphasized myths about sexual assault that are still perpetuated, such as ideas about who the perpetrators of rape are, what defines consent, and whether or not being drunk, flirtatious, romantically involved, or wearing certain outfits changes the definition of rape. Overall, our PSA was designed to highlight cultural context, harmful rhetoric, and ultimately, reeducate the audience by offering an alternative framework for thinking about rape and sexual assault on college campuses.

Check out the PSA video here!

____________________________

*Lindsay is a junior Sociology major, minoring in Communication and Women’s Studies.

April 15, 2013 / brockportsociology

The “Paradox of Comfort” in Gay- and Trans-Friendly Workplaces

By: Peter Rydzewski

Peter RMovements for equal rights and recognition in the U.S. have achieved a great deal over the latter half of the 20th century.  Conversations about equal rights have become ubiquitous in mainstream media outlets.  Interested in research related to contemporary forms of inequality, I decided to focus on the workplace. Specifically, I was interested in learning more about the experiences of gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals in work settings they define as gay- or trans-friendly.  Was inequality related to gender and sexuality absent in these work settings?  If not, what new forms of inequality have emerged and how have they been studied?  I was interested in learning more about the changing forms of inequality choosing one specific location as a case study—the workplace.

My presentation for Scholar’s Day was an adaptation of a paper I wrote for the Sociology of Sexualities taught by Dr. Tristan Bridges—”From Bashing to Bumping: The ‘Paradox of Comfort’ in Gay- and Trans-Friendly Workplaces.” The following semester, we decided to develop a presentation that introduced a few new ideas, elaborating on some of the insights I made in the initial course paper.

Deciding how to study this topic was a challenging issue.  Due to time constraints, Professor Bridges and I agreed that meta-analysis would be a good methodological approach.  Meta-analysis is a method that relies on previously published research, treating previous research as data.  So, I looked at previous research on gay and trans experiences in the workplace, searching for common themes and patterns that cut across diverse research on the topic. The most compelling pattern I found related to emerging forms of inequality in work settings more sensitive to previous forms. For the purposes of my study, I concentrated on gay, lesbian and trans experiences related to appearance (dress, style) and performance (tasks, roles) at work.  Both of these topics illustrate the subtlety of inequality.

Previous research on elusive forms of inequality—namely appearance and performance—was a common concern in the research I reviewed. The most consistent findings stressed how heteronormativity structures the workplace. By using the word “heteronormativity,” I am discussing the ways that heterosexuality is institutionalized in ways that frame it as “natural.”  Findings related to appearance and performance norms in the workplace consistently dealt with this idea. Heteronormativity is the basis of workplace inequality, even—as I found—in spaces defined as gay- and trans-friendly. Due to these beliefs, the workplace becomes riddled with expectations of conformity to normative ideals that uphold systems of power and inequality in new ways.

One interesting focus of my research describes how gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals experience workplace inequalities differently. Although inequality exists for both parties, workplace expectations related to both dress and performance affect gay men and lesbians a bit differently than transgender employees. For instance, according to Williams et al. (2009), gay and lesbian workers are expected to remain “visible”—typically through norms related to appearance. Expectations and invitations to dress in ways that conform to stereotypical of gay and lesbian individuals were common among research on gay men and lesbians.

In contrast, trans workers are subjected to expectations of “invisibility” in the workplace, meaning that both appearance and performance norms are defined by the gender expectations of their co-workers. Trans experiences in workplaces are a profound illustration of how gender subtly structures workers’ experiences in the workplace.  As one example of this, a man might be expected to carry boxes in a factory, whereas women might be expected to work in the office of that same factory.  Subtle expectations like these are, in fact, common assumptions and they structure many people’s workplace experiences.  Trans workers are in a unique position, potentially enabling them to see these gendered norms in ways that cisgender workers are less able.  Expectations of performing in gender-appropriate ways perpetuates inequality, and may prevent mobility in regard to job placement as expressed in the quote below.

Before [transition] no one asked me to do anything really and then [after], this one teacher, she’s like, “Can you hang this up? Can you move this for me?”… Like she was just, “Male? Okay you do it” (Schilt and Westbrook 2009: 448).

I argue that, as a result of the workplace inequalities presented above, new forms of emotional regulation are placed upon gay, lesbian and trans workers. From this concept—defined by Arlie Hochschild (1985) as “emotional labor”—I found that workers actually face a subtle form of emotional conflict that seemed to be inescapable.  I define this as “the paradox of comfort.” The paradox exists because of twin pressures that face gay, lesbian, and trans workers in gay- and trans-friendly work settings.  If workers conform to workplace rules, they risk becoming alienated from their actual feelings. When workers decide to ignore these rules through the expression of their genuine emotions, on the other hand, they are subtly, but continually expected to conform.

As conforming or ignoring heteronormative workplace rules are the only two options, these forms of emotional regulation affect gay, lesbian and trans persons in ways that appear unavoidable in contemporary work settings. Thus, even as equality is increasingly supported, my research illustrates the ways that inequality is not necessarily disappearing.  It would be much more accurate to say that contemporary workplace inequality is taking new, less obvious forms.

March 13, 2013 / brockportsociology

Alumnus Spotlight–Peter Lista

Screen shot 2013-02-26 at 9.03.32 AMThis post continues our series on spotlighting Brockport sociology alumni after they leave.  We contacted Peter Lista to ask how graduate school is going and to ask him for some advice to our current students considering preparing for graduate education after they leave the College at Brockport.

Peter Lista is currently a first year graduate student at Indiana University where he’s pursuing a MA and PhD in sociology.  He graduated from The College at Brockport in May 2012 with a BA in sociology.  His research primarily focuses on studying organizations–how they respond to crisis and change in their environments and how the people embedded in them enable organizations to act.

Q: Briefly describe the research you’re doing with Dr. Eric Kaldor. How did you get involved in the project?

I have worked extensively with Drs. Kaldor and Moulton since the beginning of my junior year.  At first, I was a research assistant and collected financial data on 500+ Community Development Loan Funds (CDLFs) from their IRS 990 tax forms.  During that time, I was thinking about changing my major to sociology and wanted to do a senior thesis that would help me get into graduate school.  That next semester I started a new project, which eventually developed into my senior thesis and the paper Dr. Kaldor and I are currently working on together.

In that paper, we look at how CDLFs changed the accountability data presented on their websites between 2003 and 2012 in response to the 2008 financial crisis.  I collected financial data from IRS 990 forms and performed content analysis on 117 organization websites over four time points (using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine).  We found that instead of presenting quantitative measures of performance (amounts lent, clients served, etc) like they did prior to 2009, CDLFs began focusing on qualitative “trust building” measures like case studies and organizational histories.

Q: At what conference did you present the research? What was your conference presentation experience like?

We have presented this project at a bunch of different conferences:

We will also be presenting at this year’s Society for the Study of Social Problems conference and hopefully at ASA’s (American Sociological Association) annual meeting this coming summer in NYC.

Each time we presented we were able to build on our previous work and bring something new to the table.  Beyond just presenting your own research, going to conferences gives you the opportunity to go to interesting talks you might not otherwise have had the chance to see.  It’s a very important part of your professional training as a sociologist and having a project to present at those conferences allows you to engage with the other researchers in your field. I highly suggest students looking to pursue a career in academia start early and take any opportunity to present they can.

Q: How did your experience at Brockport prepare you for graduate school?

I was really lucky to start working with Dr. Kaldor relatively early on at Brockport.  I took his Introduction to Sociology course as a freshman and started working with him directly when I changed my major to sociology my junior year.  One of the great things about going to a smaller school like Brockport is that professors have more time to work with you one-on-one.  A lot of my friends in the PhD program went to larger schools and didn’t have the same opportunities I did to work on their own research as an undergraduate.

I was also a part of the Delta college program, which made it easier to work on research because I was already required to do internships and my senior thesis contributed to my required courses.  Being able to do research, either working on a professor’s project or doing your own, is really helpful.  It lets you see how sociological research is done and helps you think about whether graduate school is right for you.  But again, more than anything else, I had a great community of professors and other students to work with in the sociology department.

Q: Was there a particular experience or course at Brockport that prompted your interest in graduate school? Tell us about that.

I always knew that I wanted to get my PhD, but it took me a while to find a subject that really interested me enough to make the extra seven years of school worth it.  The one class that really encouraged me to look into sociology as a possible career path was Dr. Weininger’s Sociology of Culture course that I took as a sophomore.  That particular class really got me excited about both the empirical and theoretical aspects of sociology and gave me prospective on the range of subjects sociologists study.

Q: How did you choose your graduate program?

I really credit Drs. Kaldor, Weininger, Moulton, and Guptill (and a number of other professors outside the department) for helping me choose what schools to apply to and where to accept.  Applying to graduate schools is weird because you sometimes get into places you didn’t expect you would.  That’s what happened to me.  Indiana University was one of two programs of the nine I applied to that accepted me.  If it weren’t for the guidance of my professors I probably wouldn’t have thought to apply there.  The importance of having a network of people at your side throughout the process cannot be overstated.

I looked for schools where my own research interests fit well with the current faculty.  Having a good fit with the program you are applying to is very important because you want to know that your interests are well supported by the faculty.  I knew I wanted to get a research position when I graduated, so I chose programs with strong records for placing their graduates in other research universities.

It may seem a little petty, but program rankings are very important.  If you’d like to work at an elite program when you graduate, you will likely have to have gone to an elite university yourself.  This is dependent, of course, on whether you’d like to work at a research university or a liberal arts college.  Research universities tend to hire from other top ranking programs.  Likewise, colleges that focus on teaching look at your teaching experience, which you might not get at a top-tier university.

Finally, going to graduate school is expensive if you have to pay for it yourself.  The one thing I’d tell any student who wants to get their PhD is that they SHOULD NOT go if they have to take out loans to do so.  It’s just not worth the cost.  Luckily, most PhD programs offer living stipends, health insurance, and tuition waivers so that you are supported while you are studying.  Thinking about what type of assistance is offered is important to what schools you decide to apply to.

Q: What has been the biggest difference between undergraduate and graduate school?

The biggest difference is that most of your time is spent on projects you are directly invested in.  Final papers are tailored to your interest area, methods courses can be applied directly to the work you are doing, and your time outside of the classroom is spent working on your own self-directed projects.  There is a lot of freedom to do your own thing and work on the projects that are interesting to you.  And that’s a great feeling.

Q: What projects you currently working on?

I am primarily working on my MA Thesis right now.  The thesis pulls from the organizational ecology literature to look at how an organization’s age affects a variety of organization-level outcomes like structure, organizational culture, and various decision making processes.  This is the first big project you write in my program and it gets the most attention.  Of course, the final papers you write for class are usually the introduction, literature review, and methodology sections of a paper you could potentially be writing.  So, you always have something you could be working on or getting ready to turn into a new research project.

Q: What advice would you have for sociology majors who are considering PhD programs?

I think the best advice I can give is more of a caution to potential PhDs.  Graduate school is difficult and before you commit you NEED to know that you are ready to spend the next 6-7 years in school.  That’s not to say that getting your PhD isn’t fun, or important, or fulfilling, but it can also be extremely stressful at times and it takes a lot to complete a program.  Especially in today’s market, where there are way more PhDs than there are jobs in academia for them to fill, it is important to be sure you are making the right decision.  I encourage a lot of my students to consider graduate school—I personally find it very rewarding—but there are plenty of other places to use your sociological imagination outside academia as well.

If you want to apply to graduate programs I suggest talking to your advisor immediately.  Applying to graduate school (to a PhD  program especially) takes a lot of time and effort and you should make sure to start as early as possible.  Seeking out graduate students already in a PhD program is important too.  We can answer questions about particular programs or more generally about the process, what to expect, etc.  There is a network of Brockport graduates who have gone on to graduate school who would be glad to talk to you—myself included—just ask your advisor.