Second Annual PRYDE Purpose Conference

Rachel Sumner

Rachel Sumner

Dr. Rachel Sumner traveled to Washington University in St. Louis on October 26th to present Perceived and Actual Gender Differences in Purpose Content at the Second Annual Purpose Conference.

The Purpose Conference was initially begun in 2016 by PRYDE co-director Dr. Anthony Burrow, who heads the Purpose and Identity Processes Laboratory at Cornell. Last year’s conference in California inspired Dr. Patrick Hill, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University and close research colleague of Dr. Burrow’s, to host this year’s conference in St. Louis to continue the conference series. This year’s theme was “Purpose in a Diverse Society” to focus on how individuals’ diverse backgrounds and experiences impact their outlook on purpose and interactions with their world.

Dr. Sumner’s research with PRYDE investigates how children’s perceptions of social factors shape the development of their purpose. In her presentation, she shared that people’s ideas about purpose - what’s possible for them, what they should pursue, where they should look for meaning - are likely informed by our ideas about gender roles. She argued, however, that gender roles shouldn’t limit which purposes they choose to pursue. If there’s something that one is passionate about, he or she should try to find people who are supportive as they work towards that purpose in life.

In her reflections after the conference, Dr. Sumner said, “[The conference] provided an opportunity for me to learn from and connect with scholars who approach questions around purpose and diversity from very different perspectives. I loved being able to participate in conversations about how purpose and diversity might be related, why it’s essential to research these questions now, and what it would mean for us as scholars and for society as a whole if we continue to focus on these questions.”

For inquiries regarding Dr. Sumner’s work on purpose, please contact her at


By Esther Kim

Esther KimComment