Imagine. sociology news volume 7 . issue 1. Fall 2012 department of sociology university of maryland
“BEFORE YOU ARE THROUGH WITH ANY PIECE OF WORK, NO MATTER HOW INDIRECTLY ON OCCASION, ORIENT IT TO THE CENTRAL & CONTINUING TASK OF UNDERSTANDING THE STRUCTURE AND THE DRIFT, THE SHAPING & THE MEANINGS, OF YOUR OWN PERIOD, THE TERRIBLE & MAGNIFICENT WORLD OF HUMAN SOCIETY.” - from THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION by C.W. MILLS
LESTER ANDRIST MARGARET AUSTIN SMITH BRYANT BEST CARRIE CLARADY ANYA GALLI CLIO GRILLAKIS ANN HORWITZ MEREDITH KLEYKAMP, PHD ORIENTA HUGER DENAE JOHNSON PATRICIO KORZENIEWICZ, PHD ROSE KREIDER, PHD JEFF LUCAS, PHD MANDI MARTINEZ MELISSA MILKIE, PHD BEVERLY PRATT CHRISTOPHER QUACH RASHAWN RAY, PHD LIANA SAYER, PHD SARAH WANENCHAK THE 2012-2013 COHORT
As incoming editress, I want to start by thanking Beverly Pratt and Meg Austin Smith for their outstanding work on the newsletter in past years. I am honored to follow in the steps of such fabulous and talented women. With so many transitions in our department this year—Dr. Patricio Korseniewicz as incoming chair, Dr. Phillip Cohen as incoming graduate director, and the arrival of assistant professor Dr. Rashawn Ray, and an incoming graduate cohort of 17 students, to name a few—I hope this issue of the newsletter provides readers with a lively snapshot of our University of Maryland Sociology community.
In this issue, look for spotlights on 2003 alum Rose Kreider, staff member Orienta Huger, graduate student Denae Johnson, and sophomore undergraduate Christopher Quach, as well as a profile of our diverse group of new graduate students. We report on recent and upcoming events in the department, including the Rosenberg Forum and exciting goings-on with the Sociological Cinema, with a reflection from Lester Andrist, one of the editors of the site. Additionally, four faculty members offer their responses and generous advice on the topic of “balancing work and family.” This issue ventures into new territory by highlighting some of the undergraduate work happening in our department with a piece on the McDonaldization of secondary education by sophomore Clio Grillakis.
Anya M. Galli
letter from the editress As always, I am grateful for the intellectual strength, generosity, and humor of our department community. Many thanks go to all who made this issue of the newsletter possible, especially our contributors.
Best Wishes for the New Year,
Anya M. Galli, email@example.com
Last year ended on a sad note, as we experienced the loss of Harriet Presser. Reeve (with the assistance of others) wrote a very thoughtful obituary in the last issue of Footnotes [http://www.asanet.org/footnotes/septoct12/obit_0912.html#obit4]. Harriet Presser made a huge contribution to the reputation of our department, and it was comforting to see, at her memorial, how many lives she had touched.
We begin a new academic year with lots of news. After fulfilling a two-year Robert Wood Johnson post-doctoral fellowship at U.C. Berkeley, Rashawn Ray has now joined us in-residence as our newest Assistant Professor. Soon, we will be receiving Liana Sayer (currently at Ohio State), who will be joining us starting next Spring as an Associate Professor. We have admitted a (large) cohort of wonderful new students into our Ph.D. program. We have welcomed Erika Hoff (Administrative Coordinator) and Lindsey Lennon (Program Management Specialist) as the latest additions to our staff. And some of the office space in our department has been (or is in the process of being) renovated, providing a greatly improved setting for the Program on Society and the Environment (PSE, coordinated by Professor Dana Fisher) and the Time-Use Lab (to be coordinated by Professor Sayer).
Patricio Korzeniewicz, PhD
Letter from the chair
I am very excited about the accomplishments of our faculty and students. Iâ€™ll mention three noteworthy events. Recently, Stanley Presser was recognized as a Distinguished University Professor: he joins in that rank our existing DUPs, Patricia Hill Collins and George Ritzer. Melissa Milkie was able to secure university and college support for a new Culture Lab that will focus on content analysis. And David Segal was instrumental in facilitating a $1 million donation to our university, to be used as a full veteran scholarship. These are very good news, and they have served to enhance the prestige of our department. I would be remiss in this brief letter as new chair if I failed to acknowledge the very effective leadership that Reeve Vanneman provided to our department for the past three years. His act will be very tough to follow. Thank you, Reeve!
Patricio Korzeniewicz firstname.lastname@example.org
Our newest faculty member, Dr. Liana Sayer, received her PhD in Sociology here at The University of Maryland, and will be returning to the department in the Spring of 2013. Though Dr. Liana Sayer is currently finishing up her position at The Ohio State University, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know her over the past few months. I recently had the opportunity to interview her about her research interests, career, and time here at Maryland. Liana lives with her long time partner, Bryan, her mother, Mary Ann, and their 3 cats: Simone (after Simone de Beauvoir), Dexter, and Isabella. As an undergrad you majored in Government and got your MA in political science. How did you end up pursuing a PhD in Sociology? My first experience with graduate school -- pursuing a PhD in political science -- was a disaster because I hadn’t yet realized I was really a sociologist. I wasn’t connecting intellectually with the material in the program and -- in part because I was 22 and clueless -- interpreted this as an individual failing instead of lack of disciplinary fit. So I left the program, moved to the DC area, and started working at the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation as a researcher on “women’s issues.” I’d long had an interest in “gender” -- perhaps from experiences like seeing my full-time employed mom’s credit card application to a local department store be rejected, unless my Dad’s name was on the card -- and preparing briefs on issues like reproductive rights and the wage gap exposed me to a lot of sociological research. So I took a Gender, Work, and Family class with Bobbi Spalter-Roth at American University, to see if I could really make it in graduate school, and then decided to apply to PhD programs in sociology.
Faculty Spotlight: Liana Sayer
What were your research interests when you started grad school? What did you write your dissertation on? (If your interests changed, how did they evolve into your dissertation topic?) I started out interested in gender, specifically employment discrimination. I became more interested in gender, work, and family because of courses like family demography and Sonalde Desai’s Population and Society. I wrote my dissertation on changes over time in women’s and men’s time use -- paid work time, housework, child care, and leisure. I didn’t start graduate school with a sociological understanding of “time.” Courses and working as an RA for Suzanne Bianchi piqued my interest in time as a social phenomena. What does your research focus on now, and what drew you to that topic? I have two strands of research: 1) cross-national and historical determinants, patterns, and consequences of gendered time use; and 2) gendered associations between economic resources and relationship processes and outcomes. The first strand developed out of my dissertation and recognition that comparative work could provide some insight into time use as a circuit between micro interactions and macro institutions. I have a few ongoing projects examining housework, childcare, and leisure variation in Western industrialized countries and several projects focusing on gendered time use and health behaviors and outcomes. And, I’ve just started a new comparative project with an Ohio State graduate examining how gendered divisions of work and family are associated with marital quality in Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan. The second strand developed out of skepticism I had about Gary Becker’s theoretical perspective. I used that to motivate a family demography seminar paper that eventually got published. I have fewer projects that are ongoing in the area of gendered relationships, more from lack of time to start those. One pull of Maryland’s program is my hope that I can start some new projects in this area -- through collaborations with graduate students and faculty.
You will be starting a Time Use Lab here at Maryland. What are the goals of this lab? The goals include: A) Conducting innovative research on time use on under researched sub-populations and using new methods (analytic tools and data collection). For example, an early project is designing and fielding a small pilot study that will explore the feasibility of using data from “smart clothing” and smart phones. B) Training the next generation of time use scholars C) Positioning Maryland’s Time Use Lab as a resource for academics, policy makers, journalists, and the general public, on time use statistics, studies, and events. D) Providing networking and perhaps seed grant funding opportunities for time use researchers (established researchers, post-docs, and graduate students). Are you teaching any courses in the spring? Do you have a favorite course to teach? I’m teaching an undergraduate course, “Sex and Love in Modern Society.” This is a fun course to teach; it’s probably my favorite undergraduate course. First, students like to talk about sex -- unlike say statistics -- and often feel they have more expertise in the area than their professor. Second, the course is a good vehicle to cover material on social, demographic, and economic change and how these shifts relate to evolving ideas about gender and sexuality. Do you have a favorite memory from your time here at Maryland? Getting together with other graduate students. Are you looking forward to anything in particular about being back in the area? I’m excited to be back in Maryland for a lot of reasons -- the good friends there, the political and cultural awareness, being in a blue state, the Takoma Park farmer’s market Do you have any advice to share with current graduate students? Find good mentors in your first or second year (advanced graduate students and faculty). My success in graduate school is due in no small part to the good fortune of being Joan Kahn’s undergraduate statistics TA my first year and working for Bill Falk and Suzanne Bianchi as an RA. Also, if 10 hours of Angry Birds is more appealing than working on your research, something’s wrong.
foucault theater Cinema! Congratulations to the Sociological MERLOT Sociology classics Award Congratulations to Paul Dean, Lester Andrist, and Valerie Chepp, recipients of the 2012 MERLOT Sociology Classics Award, for their work on the Sociological Cinema (www.thesociologicalcinema.com). The Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) Award for Exemplary Online Learning Resources “recognizes and promotes outstanding peer reviewed online resources designed to enhance teaching and learning.”
Les and Valerie, both advanced PhD students, accepted the award in July, 2012 at the MERLOT/Sloan-C Emerging Technologies Conference in Las Vegas. The editor of the MERLOT Sociology Editorial Board praised the site as being “comprised of a rich and growing aggregate of online video clips for which discussion is provided relative to both sociological application and classroom use. The site filters through the enormous amount of online video to bring instant access to a host of sociologicallyrelevant video resources. This should significantly enhance concept relevance, enabling users to simplify, deepen discussion, and promote understanding of key ideas. [...] The creators are to be commended for making this valuable resource available for sociology instructors.”
Beverly Pratt, an advanced PhD student and former Newsletter editress, caught up with Rose Kreider, an 03’ alum who now works at the Census Bureau. Beverly asked Rose about her background, how she came to UMD, her life and career after graduate school, and her perspective on “intellectual maturation.”
I came to the UMD graduate program in Sociology after having worked for a few years after getting my undergraduate degree in another field. I’m a Marylander, so it made sense to go to graduate school locally, especially with a strong program available in my back yard. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at UMD. I took Suzanne Bianchi’s Family Demography course in my first term, and have pursued related topics ever since. My work has focused on subjects like interracial marriage, living arrangements of children, adoption, cohabitation, and marriage and divorce patterns in the US. I grew up in a suburb of Baltimore as part of an identifiable religious minority. Before going to grad school, I worked at a nonprofit in DC, so I had often thought about norms, social sanctions, interaction among divergent social groups, social inequality and other issues related to group patterns of behavior. After graduating from UMD, I went to work as a demographer at the US Census Bureau. I still work there, in the same area--the Fertility and Family Statistics Branch. We cover topics from households and families to childcare, marital patterns, living arrangements, coupled households, and child wellbeing. Jobs in the federal government are less research focused than in academia, but we get a chance to truly understand the data inside and out, since we are responsible for processing it and making it available to the public. I like being able to assist others in using Census Bureau data, and being involved in working to revise and improve data collection and dissemination.
alumni spotlight: Rose Kreider, PhD ‘03 The “sociological imagination” is not something you can turn off once you’ve started looking at the world that way. Although demographers are sometimes accused of lacking imagination of any kind, given our tendency to focus on data, it’s easy to find a sociological approach in everything from sci-fi literature to comedy that comments on society. If I had any advice for current graduate students, it would be to build connections with others. Regardless of the type of job you end up in, you will benefit from your links to fellow researchers. I still turn to members of my cohort at UMD to help me sort things out in analytical projects, or to help generate new ideas. It’s fun to work on projects you can complete yourself, but a lot of the best work comes out of partnerships that allow a broader understanding of the research problem and a wider array of possible analytical approaches. Recently more attention is being paid to potential gains from projects that involve researchers from various fields of study. So get to know the people you sit next to in class at UMD--you’re likely to be working with some of them in one capacity or another throughout your career. Rose Kreider, Ph.D. Chief, Fertility and Family Statistics Branch Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division US Census Bureau
On the evening of September 20th, The Sociological Cinema screened First Generation, a documentary following four high school seniors who each hope to become firstgeneration college students. The screening promised to be followed by an interesting conversation, and because these screenings are open to the public I could bring my 12-year-old son along. After all, my own college application story is closer to that of the kids in the film than it will be to my own son’s, and my own class mobility frequently leaves me wishing that my children understood more about how variable the experience of kids is across the country. Maybe the film could help with that.
In the film four teenagers – two female, three of color, two from families with a recent history of immigration to the US – celebrate their last year of high school and negotiate the increasingly complex college application process, all while continually reevaluating their own wishes for their lives and everything that those wishes may cost. The costs range between the students – they all worry about paying for it, but more than that there are family and cultural ties that feel threatened by their ambitions to try something new, something more and a little foreign. Interspliced throughout the narratives of the students are commentary from teachers and guidance counselors struggling to support a large student body with diverse needs and education experts who understand all too well the challenges faced by these students, the limitations that school support systems can offer them, and the consequences for those students and the country as a whole. After the film a brief but vibrant conversation traced the difficulties each of the four students faced, with the audience sharing their own stories of first generation higher education. The audience pushed back a little at where the stories end and wished the film could have explored the ways post-secondary institutions could decrease the attrition rates of first generation students; getting to college is only the first part of the job, after all. Nicole DeLoatch, a graduate student in the department of sociology, also found the discussion of the supportive mentorship that guidance counselors and high school teachers can provide particularly compelling.
Film Review: “First Generation” We missed the conversation, of course, because after 95 minutes my son had taken in just about all he could; the film recounts accurately mixed outcomes for the four students, and there’s only so much understanding and compassion a 12-year-old boy can muster before he needs to get out of his seat and return to his own bubble of selfabsorption. On the drive home, though, we talked about my own experiences at that age, and he was surprised to learn just how much I identified with the students who feared leaving their families behind to go on to something a little bit different. As the son of two over-educated parents, college has always been assumed to be part of his future, and attending Bethesda-Chevy Chase public schools has done nothing to convince him that life could be otherwise. But we also talked about what all the students in the film had in common, and what he is just beginning to understand – fear of the future mixed with hope for something new.
Information about the film, including a list of upcoming screenings around the country, can be found at http://firstgenerationfilm. com/index.php. Thanks are due to Nicole DeLoatch for her summary of the discussion following the film. Carrie is a 2nd year PhD student.
The Sociological Cinema turned two this year, and in recognition of this milestone, Anya Galli invited us to write this reflection for the department newsletter. We are occasionally asked where we got the idea for the site, and we have often quipped that like most good ideas, the idea started in a bar, but that answer is a bit misleading. In fact, the site didn’t materialize as a fully formed idea. It has been a work in progress, and two years on, the site is far different in many ways than the one we set out to build. The one thing we agreed on was that our students lied. That is, we knew our students offered affirmative nods in class when we explained to them that intersectionality theory draws attention to the relationship between multiple dimensions of inequality. They nodded too when we explained that such things as teenagers and race are social constructs. But as many sociology instructors can attest, nods aren’t always reliable indicators of comprehension. We want students to nod when they understand, but the problem is it’s too easy for them to fall into a trance where on some level they come to believe that they’ve understood something simply because they’ve nodded. The task is—and has always been—to penetrate that thin deflector plate that resides somewhere between an external stimulus and the brain, between class content and student cognition. Valerie, Paul, and I simply had the idea that film offers a powerful way of breaking the trance and shattering that brittle brain plate. Initially, our notion was that The Sociological Cinema would simply be a digital warehouse of short videos and descriptions, and our visitors would primarily be sociology instructors, who were looking for clips to supplement their lectures. We wanted to build a teaching community, so the original blueprints called for one other page where visitors could submit their own videos to be featured on the site. Later, members of a focus group suggested we add a home page, and somewhere along the way, we integrated a traditional-looking blog and a few other pages we thought might be useful for sociology instructors. Finally, in September of 2010 we published the site and obsessively tracked what was at first a very slow trickle of visitors.
Reflections at the intersection of cinema and sociology It’s a humbling experience to see Google’s impressive suite of analytical tools monitor and quantify the online interactions of a paltry 15 new visitors each day, which was our daily average the first week. But soon enough the trickle of visitors became a steady stream. Average site visits began to climb, and before long, we realized that the site we envisioned wasn’t the site that The Sociological Cinema was becoming. To be sure, we were reaching the sociology instructors we set out to reach, but the increase of visits to the site and the feedback we began receiving indicated that we were engaging a much broader public. While the site analytics offered no definitive explanation for this growth, we have a theory. We’ve come to believe that the upsurge in popularity of The Sociological Cinema stems in part from a creeping uncertainty people feel in their everyday lives. The recent recession has revealed again that capitalism is no more eternal than so many of the homes built on sand along the New Jersey shore. Similarly, the Arab Spring reminded the world that despite the proliferation of secret prisons and high tech surveillance, revolutions still occur and may even spread. The world has horrifically drifted into another decade where passages like those from C. W. Mills’ “The Promise” seem fresh, despite being written more than fifty years ago: “What they feel they need,” Mills surmised, “is a quality of mind that will help them to use information and to develop reason in order to achieve lucid summations of what is going on in the world and what may be happening within themselves. “ Thus, The Sociological Cinema is looking more and more like a water hole for a thirsty public, rather than a narrowly focused teaching website, but it’s not just the sociology that brings people to the site; it is also the cinema. Our site features YouTube-style clips, the majority of which range from thirty seconds to a few minutes. Such clips now constitute a new mass medium, and increasingly, a new language. Looking across the reams of footage that clutter the digital landscape, it’s possible to detect patterns, and to formulate a typology. For instance, one finds that some types feature new styles of computer animation used to enhance familiar narratives, and new techniques of data visualization that allow filmmakers to tell complicated stories quickly.
(One also finds a host of amateur interviews featuring candid moments and heartfelt reflections from people usually rendered invisible by traditional mass media. The creators of these new video types are increasingly engaging our students and the broader public, and we think the growth of The Sociological Cinema is due in part to the fact that we are engaging these new video types. As we reflect on the last two years, we think we placed a good bet by positioning our site at the intersection of sociology and cinema, but we are well aware that we are not the sole occupants of this space. In 1932 an entire issue from The Journal of Educational Sociology was devoted to “objectively” understanding how “moving pictures” effect the “knowledge, attitudes, emotions, and conduct of children” (199). To this end, sociologists, psychologists, and educators administered a battery of cutting edge techniques on moviegoers, including an electronic galvanometer to measure emotional experiences. To determine what kinds of movies constituted “bad influences,” researchers asked their audience subjects to rate certain actions, among them “aggressive lovemaking by women” (Charters 1932)1. The broad conclusion of this work and similar investigations is that films can have a profound impact on what people think, and consequently, how they act. This conclusion has not been lost on advertisers and others with more maniacal ambitions to conquer or control, and it’s worth noting that only three years after the publication of the aforementioned journal issue, the Nazi propaganda film, Triumph of the Will, was released. Even today, Triumph is widely regarded as one of the most influential propaganda films ever created, and many of its pioneering techniques can still be spotted in contemporary documentaries. It seems somewhat unlikely that The Journal of Educational Sociology was directly consulted by propaganda filmmakers, but the broader point is that we’ve begun to take stock of the kind of history making that has occurred and continues to occur at this intersection of cinema and sociology. So much energy and so many resources have already been invested in an attempt to learn more about how people are influenced by the media, and so much has been invested in actually attempting to influence people with film; we’ve reevaluated the goals of the site. We’re not strictly a site that promotes teaching and learning; nor are we simply a site that identifies what sorts of videos are effective for teaching various sociological concepts. Since that initial idea in the bar, we are working to become an outlet for public sociology as well, and in the service of offering “lucid summations of what is going on in the world,” it is our hope that The Sociological Cinema can be a destination for helping publics to see past the smoke and mirrors and become more sophisticated consumers of cinema. Lester Andrist is an advanced PhD student. Co-editors Valerie Chepp and Paul Dean are an advanced PhD student and recent alum, respectively. www.thesociologicalcinema.com 1. Charters, W. W. 1932. The Journal of Educational Sociology: A Magazine of Theory and Practice. “A Technique for Studying a Social Problem,” Vol. 1, No. 4. * Thanks to John Pease for passing along this issue of The Journal of Educational Sociology.
2012 ROsenberg Forum: DALTON CONLEY The 2012 Rosenberg lecture was presented by Dr. Dalton Conley of New York University. Dr. Conley is an esteemed researcher whose interests focus on economic opportunity, racial inequality, and health and biology. His list of supporters includes the National Science Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Dr. Conley discussed his thoughts on genetic differences and how they affect children within immediate families. He prefaced this discussion with reference to his own works, including Being Black: Living in the Red, an analysis that debunked the theory that racial differences in wealth are due to race. He also acknowledged the influence of other scholars’ work, like Susan E. Mayer’s What Money Can’t Buy. Dr. Conley was polished in his knowledge of the topic and its surrounding areas, and he constantly referred to outside works throughout his presentation. The Blau and Duncan model of status attainment is very popular among sociological literature. However, Dr. Conley questioned whether or not it showed a certain bias that affected its outcomes. Many critique the model for taking too much data from the father of the child, instead of both parents. One of Dr. Conley’s personal critiques was that it held little explanatory power, particularly because factors such as Parental Net Worth, Parental Education, and Parental DNA all affected the Respondent’s Education. He used this finding to drive home the idea that genes interact with one’s environment to determine the life course. Dr. Conley studied the data from several previous projects to come to this conclusion. He paid special attention to genetic and environmental differences among twins, the gender of the child as it relates to parental investment, and the influence of cultural capital on the development of the child. Although there is significant overlap with Dr. Conley’s present research aims and status achievement among children, he is focusing currently on demographics and biological indicators such as medical outcomes. Overall, Dr. Conley presented his work in detail and with the personal flavor that can be found in most of his publications. He was “unapologetically Democrat,” making several references throughout the lecture to President Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney. He took a refreshing approach that combined current events, deep theoretical perspectives, and empirical evidence. Many thanks to Dr. Conley for leading the 2012 Rosenberg Forum Bryant is a 1st year PhD student.
When two Carolina fans get together, talk of football rarely results in positive imagery. Unless, that is, they come from the place the present author learned as a child to think of as “the Other Carolina.” And indeed that’s where Orienta Huger hails from. She’s a South Carolina Gamecock: she knows and appreciates good football. But Orienta is clearly much more generous about her Carolinas than I. She loves basketball, too. And she knows which Carolina the sun shines on there.
Orienta grew up in Cross, South Carolina, a town in Berkeley County – approximately seven hours down I-95 on a “good” traffic day followed by a few extra miles east. Orienta’s appreciation of football excellence stems in part from plenty of exposure to SEC play. In fact, if she had to name one drawback to living in the DC area, it would not be the traffic on 95 or 495 or anywhere else around the Beltway: it would be the lack of SEC coverage on TV. One of the best things, however, about being up here is that if ever she has a little free time, there is a chance that there might be an exciting team in town. (Alas the Wizards and the Redskins don’t often meet this excitement criterion, but their visitors sometimes do – especially if those visitors happen to be the Heat or the Jaguars. Alas again, the poor old Carolina Panthers don’t tend to count as exciting either, and might well have built up better football karma if they’d located themselves on the other side of the Carolina border.)
Margaret Margaret Austin Austin Smith Smith
Staff staff spotlight: Orienta Huger Orienta arrived in College Park in May 2011 after five years in Nashville, Tennessee doing IT work quite similar to the work she does here for a smaller university. While the issues she deals with in the Sociology department are not so different from the issues she encountered in prior work, she does note that she sees fewer problems here with viruses here than she did there. The users here, she says, are good about staying away from virus-carrying sites. Orienta enjoys her work, particularly because she gets to help people solve the computer concerns that they have so that they can better enjoy their work. Thus sheâ€™s a generous a colleague as she is a Carolina fan. And that means the rest of us are pretty darn lucky. Margaret is a 4th year PhD student.
Where did you attend for undergrad, and how did your experience there contribute to where you are now? I attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Indiana, PA for my undergraduate studies, focusing on racial inequality and Pan-African studies. Having attended an institution in the Pennsylvania Appalachians and feeling very isolated at the beginning of my studies, I learned how to reach out to like-minded people and develop a sense of community. I am grateful for that experience. What made you decide to come to Maryland? Besides the universityâ€™s standing and some of the excellent faculty, University of Marylandâ€™s proximity to my hometown, Philadelphia, was a major deciding factor. Also, I am absolutely infatuated with the DC-MD-VA area.
What is the best thing about being part of this department? The best thing would be the people. I have come across some excellent minds and personalities in such a short amount of time!
What motivates you most in your academic life at this point? What do you think is the foundation that keeps you moving forward? My nieces and nephews motivate me more than anything. They give me hope, and I want them to have opportunities that were never an option for me. My family is and always will be the foundation of every aspect of my life.
graduate student spotlight: DENAE Johnson What is one thing that you especially enjoy and find fulfilling outside of grad school? My work for The CHARLES Foundation (Creating Healthy Alternatives Results in Less Emotional Suffering), named after my deceased brother, is also a large part of my life. The CHARLES Foundation, based in Philadelphia, PA, seeks to reduce gun violence through offering and supporting local events and fundraisers, partnerships with city and state authorities, community-based organizations and schools, and the construction and eventual opening of a foster care home for adolescent boys. Please visit our website at http://www.thecharlesfoundation.com/ (soon to be renovated!). Denae Johnson is a 3rd year PhD student. Her research interests include intersections of gender, sexuality, and race. Sarah is a 4th year PhD student.
Meredith Kleykamp, PhD When asked to talk about how I balance academic life and family, my first thought is that there is no balance in my life (sorry to disappoint). To me, balance suggests a state of equilibrium, stasis, calm, harmony. But things are never in an instantaneous state of equilibrium and I don’t expect they ever will be. My goal is to ensure that over time, not instantaneously, family and work are “balanced”. As a mother I’m expected to “think of my family first” but the truth is I don’t always put my family first. I have a husband who is more than an equal partner in parenting and house-holding and when I need to put work first, I rely on him to take on the extra load of parenting and partnering. I am unapologetic about that--he’s a wonderful father and we jointly parent, even if not equally on a daily basis. I do homework with my son every night I’m home, volunteer in his class every week, and participate in a book club with him. But my husband does a lot more on a daily basis to keep our household running. However, in the past I have sacrificed a great deal with respect to work and career to have a baby and raise him alone, while he was deployed to Iraq for 14 months. There was no balance then either, and the scale tipped toward his work needs. Our life has never been balanced and probably never will be balanced. It has always been and will continue to be attentive to trade-offs, turn-taking and equality over the long run, but without score-keeping. So how do I make it work? I’m not sure that I do, frankly. But to the extent that I make it work, it comes down to having a supportive partner who takes on an extra share of family care when I need it. After a 20 year Army career, he has also sacrificed his career progress for my turn at it. I also don’t spend a lot of time fretting over how to balance work and life because as an academic I’ve got it good. An academic career is tough, but it is also much more flexible than most professional careers. I do try to treat my work like any other job. I expect to
Advice from Professors
Balancing Work & Family log between 40-60 hours a week, actually working, not just web-surfing, reading Twitter, etc... If you want to be more productive try the Pomodoro technique for time management. You can get a lot done when you set out a task and devote a specific amount of time to it. A former colleague used to write for 2 hours a day every day, but no more. She completed her 3rd book in 6 years. Managing your time well and working consistently and efficiently is a habit you can cultivate now, regardless of your work/ family/life balance concerns.
Rashawn Ray, PhD Balancing work and family can be daunting no matter what the family arrangement. However, there are certain segments of the population (e.g., single mothers and working class families) that have a much more difficult time than professors and graduate students. We have job flexibility and autonomy to set the parameters of our daily schedules. Despite this flexibility, I aim to come and leave the office at the same time each day in order to spend the evenings with my family. Before leaving the office each day, I set tasks and priorities for the following day as well as how much time I think each priority will take to accomplish. It is then my job to complete those priorities within the allotted time I have scheduled. If I do not finish the priorities, the penalty is that I have to work once my boys go to sleep (which means cutting into my sleep time). This checks and balances system forces me to use my time wisely, while not sacrificing the importance of quality time at home.
My current book project with Dr. Pam Jackson explores balancing work-family life among Black, White, and Mexican-American families. We argue that the concept of “balancing” does little to express the ways individuals negotiate the constraints of work and family. By using an intersectionality perspective, we show that conceptualizing work-family life as “checkers or chess” games allow for the cognitive process of decision making (e.g., time pressure, mental spillover, role strain, role conflict) to be assessed more efficiently across work-family domains. We find that more socioeconomic status and marriage provide social and economic capital to more easily fulfill role obligations. Individuals with more capital have more choices and are offered a chess board and a variety of pieces to facilitate the goal of creating work-family harmony. Individuals with less capital end up with less job flexibility and play checkers through rigid concrete roles because work decisions are in the hands of their employers instead of their own.
Jeff Lucas, PhD I don’t know that I am a good model of “making family and academic life work in tandem,” but I have developed a lot of experience trying to do it. Being an academic is a strange job to balance with having a family. In most respects, it’s terrific. I almost never have to be working, and that results in tremendous flexibility. This morning I stayed home with the kids while my wife went to vote, and I’ll leave work early to vote on my way home. I don’t have to ask anyone permission to do these things, and I take the flexibility for granted. I also don’t have to count vacation or leave days-I just take them when I choose to. I have a nine year-old son with significant disabilities, and my wife and I often wonder how we could have managed the past nine years if I had a regular job. I really don’t know how we could have done it. When he’s hospitalized, for example, I’ll sometimes miss a week of work, only coming in to teach, and no one seems the worse for my absence. Although the plusses far outweigh the negatives, there is a downside. Although I rarely have to work, there is always work I have to get done. Being an academic is a job that is not often “occurring” in any formal way but also one that never stops. I coach a youth baseball team, and on Sunday we had our final game of the year and end of the year party. During the game, I received a handful of emails from students with questions about a paper due in class on Monday, a request from a co-author on a proposal due Monday for me to send him a current draft of the proposal, and a request from another
co-author for feedback on a paper draft. I got these emails on my phone while coaching third base. As I went through the game and subsequent party, lingering in the back of my mind was that I would need to attend to all of these emails when I got home. Yesterday (a Monday), I left work at 3:30 and would say that I spent the rest of the day with my family. But, I just looked at my sent items folder and see that I sent emails,all related to my job, at 4:08, 4:34, 5:13, 5:44, 8:11, 8:12, 9:41, 9:45, 10:49, and 11:51 PM. Perhaps the worst part of the job never stopping is that I can always convince myself that I don’t have time to do things that I would enjoy, because I could always be working instead of doing whatever those things are. Almost as bad is that it’s hard to convince other people I have to work when there’s nowhere I actually have to be. A couple years ago my mother suggested that I get a job at Home Depot over the winter break. I don’t know if she’ll ever understand that I’m still working even when I’m not teaching classes. It’s even harder to make my kids understand this. As you can see, I haven’t found a perfect balance. However, I feel incredibly lucky to have a job that gives me the kind of flexibility that my job does, to say nothing about how much I enjoy the work when I’m doing it. My advice falls into the do as I say, not as I do category. I really need to get email off my phone, or at least turn off the ding that signals every arriving email. I think the best strategy is to check email once or twice a day and otherwise ignore it. Something I do manage well-always reply promptly to emails. I tell my students that every email they receive should get a reply, and get one within 24 hours, even if it’s just to acknowledge receiving it. I am in my 9th year at Maryland, and I think in that time I have only once ignored an email directly addressed to me. Also, don’t use your inbox for holding emails that need attention. I think that doing that allows your inbox to take over your life. Attend to things when you get them or put what you have to do on your to-do list and move the messages somewhere else. The biggest challenge to balancing work and family for me is carving out the right kinds of time for really dedicated work that requires periods of intense concentration. One way I do this is by coming to the office on many Sunday evenings when few other people are around; I spend the day with my family and then come to work when my kids start moving toward bed. I sometimes think I get more done in those 6 or 7 hours in the office than in the entire rest of my week at work. You should find times that you are productive and make use of those times for writing. If you can find an hour a day to write (I mean writing, not searching literature, summarizing articles, etc.) with everything else (e.g., email, Internet, etc.) turned off, you should have a productive career. That said, something it took me more than half of graduate school to learn was the significant advantages of working a standard work day. It requires adjustments for most graduate students, but there are a lot of benefits to working on the schedule the rest of the world
is working on. For one thing, it usually helps a whole bunch for managing the work/ family balance. And, in terms of that hour a day for writing, I think the best time for this for most people is the first hour of the work day in the morning. I wrote my dissertation in about ten weeks by getting to the office early and spending the first two or three hours of the day writing before other graduate students started showing up. I was asked to “contribute a few words” on the work/family balance, and I have to be getting close to 1000. It’s something I struggle with every day and that requires constant compromises. I hope that learning about my experiences with the balance, if not providing a blueprint for doing things the right way, has shed some light on the issues that sometimes come up in managing work and family in an academic job.
Melissa Milkie, PhD Some researchers in the GWF area do not like the term “balancing” much (though I’ve used it myself in publications); essentially, what most people are doing is trying to prevent work from interfering with family life. And “balancing” in most other countries is easier because of systematic family leave policies and more sane work schedules and cultures. Given we are in the States, being an academic can be a privileged and flexible space to be able to create a fabulous work and family dynamic. A down side of this career, however, is that geographic mobility is highly restricted, which can be very difficult for two-career partnerships or for couples who want to live near the grandparents. And the tenure window is narrow and miserably timed for most who want to be parents. I am quite a deviant, having three kids and a pretty intensive academic career (this is especially unusual for women). This combination is not for the faint of heart, but if you go the multiple kids route, the best way to effectively “balance” work and family is to set yourself up with many resources on the family front and to clearly ask for what you need on the work front. I’ve had a very involved partner who works from home some of the week, and does cooking, dishes, packing lunches, school pickups, etc. Also, I have been able to obtain high quality child care, flexibility in scheduling courses, and more. It helps to have very clear values and for me, I privilege my kids over work. Choices are fairly easy when push comes to shove, and I don’t agonize too much about what I give up career-wise for them. To balance, you also need to let go. With tons of time and effort given to both kids and work, most of the short shift goes to the home being as orderly
as you want, to sleep, to leisure and to partner time. For us, couple time can be with laptops, working together at 5. a.m. so we can be available for kids later in the day. Not terrible, but not your typical romantic date either! I read about one novel a year, when I’d love to read more fiction. I have watched virtually no TV or movies for years and years. And there is the exercise I rarely get to. And then there is the .......................sorry, I was nodding off. There are definitely tradeoffs in the juggle, such as, will you give every talk you are invited to give or go to every conference when you have a young child? Probably not, and that is OK. Will you be sleep deprived, frustrated, overwhelmed, exhausted, and feeling like everything you do is good enough but not perfect? At times, yes. Can you live with these things, knowing the big picture that both the kid and career are most likely going to be fine, long term? That acceptance is a big part of it. In terms of timing, especially for women academics who have narrow windows of tenure clock and fertility that overlap in a bad way, my advice is to really front load the career, i.e., get many things going very early on in grad school, work especially hard at stacking the deck favorably, so when the inevitable temporary slowdown comes with a baby, your CV is strong and publications still keep coming out through the critical points of being on the job market and/or during the asst. professor years. If you examine my record, you probably could not guess which years my kids were born (2 pre-tenure), because it looks very steady in terms of output. Co-authors help. I found it was hard to start a new solo project with a baby, but finishing ongoing ones or working with coauthors was easier. In the end, you must ask yourself, what will I absolutely *not* give up? living with a partner in the same city? having a child by age 35? having a certain number of kids? having a certain type of academic job? etc. Once you know this answer, you will be prepared to prioritize in specific ways. And if you have kids, it’s good to remember the big picture—that your career is 40 plus years long, parenthood even longer. That is a lot of time to get things right even when, at any given stage you will be dropping the ball on the family end or the work end regularly. I decided to integrate work and family by conducting some research into how I am doing at the work-family balancing act. First, with the 8-year-old son: Melissa: how would you rate me on a scale of 1-10, as a mom? Son: is there a zero? Melissa: ... Son: just curious. Moving to the 10-year old-daughter: Melissa: how would you rate me on a scale of 1-10, as a mom? Daughter: mom, stop being weird. You don’t rate people. Melissa: ... Daughter: I’m just saying. And the 14-year-old son: Melissa: (after a day I taught class and arrived home relatively late) did you miss me today? Son: you were gone?
The incoming cohort for the 2012-2013 school year brings a whopping seventeen new students to our department. This diverse group includes first year students from eight states and four countries. Read on to learn about our new students’ interests, from sociology to late-night snacking and study tunes.
Bryant Best Hometown/country: Wilson, NC Previous degrees: B.A. Psychology and African American Studies University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Chose Sociology for graduate school because: Growing up in a racially segregated Southern town that opened my eyes to the complexities of economic and educational disparities. As such, I chose to study identity through race, ethnicity, and gender, three factors that I feel are central to one of the complications. Favorite late-night study snack: Ramen noodles, AKA poverty’s pasta! Survival tactics 101 Dreams of a coffee date with: Dr. Patricia Hill Collins *wink, wink* First cassette/CD purchase: Sisqó- Unleash the Dragon (great CD! Don’t judge me! Lol) Choice of music if trapped in the data lab: You can’t go that long without spiritual encouragement, so I’d be fine with a CD featuring Marvin Sapp, Fred Hammond, and other gospel singers.
Introducing the 2012-2013 cohort Esha Chatterjee Hometown/country: India Previous degrees: B.S. Economics, Calcutta University, M.A. and M.Phil Economics, Jadavpur University Chose Sociology for graduate school because: A project I did for my M Phil (it was on demography). I was interested in the work done by faculty in the department, especially in the field of demography. Favorite late-night study snack: Chicken Nuggets. Choice of music if trapped in the data lab: Any good Hindi music.
Jonathan Cox Hometown/country: Dayton, Ohio Previous degrees: B.S. Health and Physical Education, Hampton University, M.Ed. College Student Affairs, The Pennsylvania State University Chose Sociology for graduate school because: I want to teach at the college level and that requires a PhD. I decided on sociology because I have varied interests and the point of intersection was sociology. Favorite late-night study snack: Pretzles and an Izze [soda]. Or nachos and salsa. Iâ€™m undecided. Dreams of a coffee date with: Malcom X First cassette/CD purchase: New Kids on the Block- Hanginâ€™ Tough Choice of music if trapped in the data lab: John Legend- Once Again
Chih-Chin Chen Hometown/country: Taipei, Taiwan Previous degrees: B.A. Sociology, University of Maryland College Park Chose Sociology for graduate school because: Iâ€˜m interested in social theory, globalization, and consumption of the world. I would like to study them in depth, systematically and create my own theory.
Hsiang-Yuan Ho Hometown/country: Taiwan Previous degrees: BA in International Business, National Taiwan University Chose Sociology for graduate school because: I changed my major from business, so thereâ€™s a lot I need to learn in Sociology. And getting a graduate degree could help me not only in academic achievement but in bridging academics to practices. Favorite late-night study snack: Chocolate and cookies Dreams of a coffee date with: Queen Elizabeth the first First cassette/CD purchase: Titanic theme songs Choice of music if trapped in the data lab: The second album of MayDay (a Taiwanese rock band)
Kristen Kerns Hometown/country: State College, PA Previous degrees: BA Sociology, Penn State. Psychology minor and Law, Crime, and Society Certificate. Chose Sociology for graduate school because: I wanted to keep going and branch out and expand on everything I learned as an undergrad. Also a good career move, allows for several options in the future. Favorite late-night study snack: Pizza, Pop Tarts, and Pretzel M&Ms Dreams of a coffee date with: Nikola Tesla First cassette/CD purchase: Backstreet Boys, perhaps? Choice of music if trapped in the data lab: Brahms German Requiem
Wendy M. Laybourn Hometown/country: Memphis, TN Previous degrees: B.A. Sociology, University of Memphis Chose Sociology for graduate school because: I love the discipline and I want to contribute to the research and the public’s understanding of my field. Favorite late-night study snack: Green seedless grapes. Dreams of a coffee date with: I’d love to have a cup of coffee and conversation with Oprah. First cassette/CD purchase: Hmm…not exactly sure, but probably Garth Brooks or some other country artist. Choice of music if trapped in the data lab: John Legend- Get Lifted, OR a mixtape by Memphis based DJ, DJ Houston
Jae-In Lee Hometown/country: Seoul, South Korea Previous degrees: B.A. and M.A. Sociology, Korea University Chose Sociology for graduate school because: Because I want to make my specialization respond to society. Favorite late-night study snack: Pringles Dreams of a coffee date with: Abraham Lincoln First cassette/CD purchase: Michael Learns to Rock Choice of music if trapped in the data lab: Chris Tomlin
Phil Lennon Hometown/country: Warwick, New York Previous degrees: B.S. Sociology, Florida State University. Minor in Philosophy. Chose Sociology for graduate school because: Fortune & fame Favorite late-night study snack: Almond butter Dreams of a coffee date with: Jack Kerouac or Ghandi First cassette/CD purchase: Pennywise, “Full Circle” Choice of music if trapped in the data lab: Silverstein’s “Decades”
Hometown/country: Baltimore, MD Previous degrees: Coppin State University Chose Sociology for graduate school because: Sociology provides the most comprehensive lens for analyzing the causes and consequences of social phenomena. Favorite late-night study snack: Gummi Bears and Butterfingers! Dreams of a coffee date with: W.E.B. Dubois First cassette/CD purchase: The soundtrack from Teddy Ruxpin Choice of music if trapped in the data lab: Drake--Take Care
Jessica Peña Hometown/country: New York Previous degrees: B.A. Sociology, CUNY Hunter College Chose Sociology for graduate school because: As a sociology undergrad, I read tons of work on immigration, gender inequality, and many other areas, and I realized I could apply my knowledge and experiences to create knowledge. Being able to influence the field is extremely important to me. Favorite late-night study snack: Popcorn and strawberries Dreams of a coffee date with: Audre Lorde
Joanna Pepin Hometown/country: Seattle, WA Previous degrees: Human Development and Family Studies, Colorado State University Chose Sociology for graduate school because: My background is in couples’ therapy and domestic violence. I’m interested in how culture shapes the spectrum of intimate partner relationships- idealized weddings to intimate partner fatalities. Favorite late-night study snack: Hot chocolate Dreams of a coffee date with: Anne Frank First cassette/CD purchase: New Kids on the Block Choice of music if trapped in the data lab: Can I cheat? Podcasts of This American Life
Robert Reynoso Hometown/country: Bronx, New York Previous degrees: B.A. Forensic Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, M.A. Organizational Psychology, Teachers College, Colombia University Chose Sociology for graduate school because: Perspective. I believe the collision of sociology and psychology is stronger, more powerful, and will offer me an opportunity to approach issues in life with a robust perspective and approach. Favorite late-night study snack: Whatever’s available Dreams of a coffee date with: My Dad, someone who did something great First cassette/CD purchase: Good one, probably Puff Daddy, Forever (don’t judge me!). Choice of music if trapped in the data lab: At the moment, Crystal Castles (2010)…if that magically breaks, then the XX
Shengwei Sun Hometown/country: Shanghai, China Previous degrees: B.A. Politics and Gender and Women’s Studies, Scripps College Chose Sociology for graduate school because: While in college, I was actively engaged in the civil society within the sphere of women’s organizing through my internships with various kinds of women’s NGOs both in China and the U.S. My senior thesis seeks to explore the puzzle of an emerging civil society within an authoritarian setting through a case study of women’s organizing in China. I examined how local groups adopt certain strategies and prioritize certain issues over others under the political, economic, and social constraints of their living environment. In my future studies, I am primarily interested in the issues of gender, demography and development. Favorite late-night study snack: Fruit Dreams of a coffee date with: Hannah Arendt First cassette/CD purchase: Savage Garden
J. Ross Yastrzemsky “Yaz” Hometown/country: Baltimore, MD Previous degrees: B.S. Civil Engineering, U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY and M.P.A. Public Administration, John Jay College of Criminal Justice Chose Sociology for graduate school because: My following assignment in the Army is to serve as the course director for “officership” (ie leadership) in the Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic at West Point. This degree will prepare me for my future assignment. Favorite late-night study snack: Mike & Ikes Dreams of a coffee date with: Coach K First cassette/CD purchase: Huey Lewis and the News Choice of music if trapped in the data lab: Miley Cyrus –Party in the USA
Sojin Yu Hometown/country: South Korea Communications, Sogang University Chose Sociology for graduate school because: I did a master’s degree in Sociology in the UK and I did enjoy the discipline. I want to study gender and possibly globalizing theory indepth and continue my research on these issues. Favorite late-night study snack: Any kind of chocolate Dreams of a coffee date with: Michael Jackson Choice of music if trapped in the data lab: Curtis Mayfield
Yangzi Zhao Hometown/country: Chengohi, China Previous degrees: B.A. Sociology, SUNY Stony Brook Chose Sociology for graduate school because: I want to study the social phenomena with my approach and to know this field with my explaining. Not just want to read other sociologists’ knowledge from books. Favorite late-night study snack: Taro cake. Dreams of a coffee date with: Virginia Woolf First cassette/CD purchase: Sound track of the movie “The Piano”
Academic Achievement: It’s Not So Black and White
Save the date! Academic Achievement: It’s Not So Black and White, brings together four experts in the Sociology of Education whose research addresses questions of 1.) why gaps in academic achievement persist between racial and ethnic groups and 2.) what works to eliminate these gaps. This panel discussion will take place on Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 12pm in the Carroll room of the Stamp Student Union. Panelists include: -Dr. Angel Harris, Princeton University, author of Kids Don’t Want to Fail -Dr. Karl Alexander, Johns Hopkins University, author of Children, Schools, and Inequality -Dr. Odis Johnson, University of Maryland, Primary Investigator, NSF and AERA grant “Ecological Determinants of the Achievement Gap” Moderated by Dr. Patricia Hill Collins, author of Another Kind of Public Education Please consider attending and also including this session in your syllabi for next semester. To help prepare undergraduate classes for full participation in this session, we have created a slide set and a classroom activity that can be adapted for use in your course for teaching about education inequality and education justice. Please email Meg Austin Smith (email@example.com) for these materials.
Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down to talk with Chris Quach, a sophomore Sociology major from Nathan and Les – Germantown, as two rogueMD. social scientists – sociologically describe and analyze their experiences at John Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity. Enjoy! What made you decide to declare as SOCY your major? I came in as a soc major. I’ve always been interested in looking at the different ways in which people think and function, and the way groups and whole societies function…I knew coming in that Maryland had a reputable Sociology Department, and once I got in, it felt small enough that I felt very nurtured, that I was being taken care of by this Department…I felt like I could make a name for myself once I got here.
So you already knew, coming in, that you wanted to be a soc major. High school is pretty early to know the path you want to take! I’m Asian and gay, and so growing up, in high school, I always had that intersection to deal with. And so I knew that coming here and majoring in Sociology, I wanted to do something that incorporated that.
When did you come out? I came out to close friends in my sophomore year of high school. But I was actually outed to my parents just last year, which was very scary in the moment, but now we’re—long story short—we’re in a good place. We don’t address it directly, but there’s sort of that silent understanding between us that I’m their son and they love me no matter what.
undergraduate spotlight: CHRISTOPHER QUACH Tell me more about the research interests you mentioned before, looking at the intersection of being Asian and gay. I’m half-Vietnamese and half-Chinese, but both of my parents were raised in Vietnam, so culturally I feel more Vietnamese. I really want to research coming-out narratives within immigrant families, and more specifically post-Vietnam War refugees. My parents are both Vietnam War refugees, as are the rest of my family. And I want to look at the intergenerational relationships within those families that sort of complicate the narratives. Me, being not just an only child, but the only only child in my extended family, there’s a lot of expectations thrown on me, and expectations from immigrant parents in general that are dramatically different from someone who’s rooted in this country and who’s had family here for generations.
What are some of those expectations that you feel on your shoulders? There’s the usual, like any parents, they want you to get married and have kids, a family and the big house and picket fence and that whole thing. But, also, to do better than them, there’s an expectation that, ‘We came to this country—it’s all for you, and having a family, a job, and a successful career is not just something you do for yourself, but it’s your way of repaying us,’ essentially. So, I feel not just the burden of succeeding for myself, but succeeding for them and not letting them down. And, in coming out as gay, I felt like I’d already let them down in a sense. Sociology helps me to grapple with those feelings. And it’s definitely not a process that’s complete yet or will ever be complete. I feel like all of us are works in progress.
What are some of your favorite courses that you’ve taken in the Department? That’s tough. I’d probably say the one I’m in right now, Sociology of Gender. It’s a lot more work, a lot of reading and the readings are more in depth. My instructor, Zach Richer, he’s great. He expects a lot out of us, but he gives us a lot, too. (continued on next page)
(continued from previous page) He makes sure that we really get it. I like the fact that he doesn’t teach from a textbook, that our readings are from different authors, from different backgrounds, and it makes me feel like I have that much more of a teacherstudent relationship with him. He’s really thought through what readings will work, in what contexts, at what times in the semester.
And do you have a plan of action for other courses you’ll be taking in the Department? Yes. I’m a stratification concentrator, but also sociology of education and race relations are interests.
Do you have any long-term career goals? I am actually in the Joint BA-MA Program in Public Policy through BSOS, so I’m looking to go into either education policy or immigration policy. I’m also getting an LGBT Studies certificate, so incorporating my LGBT Studies background into either of those policy fields.
Are you enjoying your time here at UMD? I love it. It couldn’t be better. I love my classes, I love the professors. My roommate has been awesome.
What do you like to do outside of academics? I love to eat. And tweet. And travel. And explore D.C. whenever I can, and try new things, new restaurants, and go to places I haven’t been.
And when you tweet, what do you tweet about? Mostly it’s just rants. But there’s the occasional quote I’ll find that I find really inspiring and I’ll put it out there.
As a sociologist, how do you think that social media like Twitter are changing our social world, if at all? I feel like I can only speak for myself in that, but what I feel personally is more of a connection to the world. Some people think that social media creates more of a detachment from life and current events and daily happenings, but I feel more connected than I’ve ever felt. I get to follow CNN and Washington Post and ABC News and other
news media. I just wouldn’t have time to sit down and watch an hour of a news broadcast, but I can see what’s going on before me in 140 characters or less. It’s just brief and instant and I can keep on top of things that are going on in the world without having to sit down and take it all in.
As somebody who’s interested in stratification, do you think that things like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. are making people in general more connected—that they’re ameliorating stratification—or that they are sites where stratification gets reified? I would say that it depends on the social media site itself. Facebook, even people in Third World countries have access to that. A site like that is bridging the gap. Same with Twitter. But then I think of something like Foursquare, or other apps, things like that perpetuate inequalities because you can’t get access to them unless you have enough money to buy an iPhone. I’m guilty of it, too. Sometimes I’ll check into multiple places a day on Foursquare, and I almost feel like I’m bragging to people, like, ‘Look at all the places I can go to and check in to, because I have this cool phone with all these cool apps on it.’ So, there are definitely pros and cons.
Anything else you want to add about SOCY? I really love this Department. I definitely feel like I have the potential to go far here. Nicole, in the undergrad office, I love her. She’s been able to get me in touch with grad students, faculty that might be able to help me get to where I want to go eventually.
Last question: who’s your favorite sociologist? Does Audre Lord count? We’re reading a lot of her in Soc of Gender right now, and I really like that she doesn’t have a soc background necessarily, and so she’s not steeped in academia. It brings a different perspective to the table. I just love her way of thinking. She pushes a lot for incorporating one’s lived experiences into the sociological imagination. One of my favorite quotes by her is, “Unless one lives and loves in the trenches, it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanization is ceaseless.” I just live by that.
Ann Horwitz is a 2nd year graduate student.
This semester, the newsletter is highlighting the outstanding work of one undergraduate student, Clio Grillakis. A sophomore Anthropology and Art History double major, Clio took Lester Andrist’s SOCY 100 course in Fall 2011. This piece is a revision of an assigned essay she wrote on rationalization and McDonaldization in the United States.
Whether we know it or not, we are part of a social structure that, while allowing certain opportunities, systematically enacts restrictions and controls the flow of information. Everyone is a member of some bureaucracy that enables or constrains him or her in different ways. According to George Ritzer, a bureaucracy is composed of a hierarchy in which “people have certain responsibilities and must act in accord with rules, written regulations, and means of compulsion exercised by those who occupy higher-level positions.”1 Today’s bureaucracies often employ Max Weber’s concept of rationalization in an effort to establish the most efficient ways to achieve a given end.2 Ritzer developed the term McDonaldization, which draws on the same principles as rationalization while emphasizing the presence of capitalism and efficiency in Western society, as evidenced by the huge corporation of McDonald’s.3 A prevalent bureaucracy comes in the form of secondary education. Rationalization is present in secondary education as exhibited by individual high schools, the government, and companies’ efforts to make teaching and learning more efficient with required courses, GPAs, formulaic essay formats, standardized tests, and textbooks.
The Mcdonaldization of Secondary Education As Weber asserts, “bureaucratic administration means fundamentally domination through knowledge.”4 High school is an essential step in our education in the United States. However, it is necessary to acknowledge how the process of secondary education and the knowledge it provides is strictly regulated. As a bureaucracy, public secondary education is a hierarchical organization that controls rules and regulations. First, we can focus on how the individual schools themselves employ formal rationality; second, how the federal government uses it to control education nationwide; and finally, how organizations and companies control the public school system through the pursuit of profit. As shown below, these factors are intertwined and influence each other in various ways. The purpose of high school is to get as many students to graduate as possible. Graduation requires that students meet urricular requirements and achieve certain grades. Required coursework is one form of rationalization; we want high school students to know certain facts and skills when they graduate, so we make the courses that teach this knowledge required, and we give them four years to complete the required courses. This is an efficient way of producing knowledgeable and capable members of society: reduce all the students’ hard work into a few letter grades, then reduce those further to a quantifiable GPA number, which determines graduation, as well as admission into college. This rationalization of education makes high school graduation efficient, calculable, and predictable. If a student gets a certain number of credits, he or she will get a diploma. Offering these courses and ensuring that each student learns the same information aims to produce high graduation rates. Nearly every high school student is aware of which classes are the “important” ones, and which are not as important. The latter tend to be electives, which allow students to pick from an array of optional knowledge bases, including art, music, and more. Consequently, the important courses, which receive the most funding, require the most work, and are almost always required to graduate, tend to be math, science, English, and history classes.
A more specific example of rationalization in high schools can be found in the strict essay format that students learn. This format control occurs on the individual school level, though it is taught in high schools across the country. We all learned to write in a “five-paragraph” format, with three body paragraphs in between an introduction and conclusion. This format gets more detailed with the requirement of the thesis being the last sentence in the introduction, as well as having introductory and concluding sentences in each body paragraph. Teaching all students to write the same way offers a good introduction to formal writing; additionally, it streamlines both the teaching and the grading processes. If all students are writing in the same style, it is easier and faster to find strengths and weaknesses and subsequently apply a final grade. In some cases, teachers make this format absolutely required, or else the student would be deducted points. This format, drilled into our brains over years of education, is often criticized because it encourages all students to write the same way, which may stifle creativity, an idea further developed below. Thus, control over students’ writing makes grading and teaching more efficient because all students are writing the same way. Secondary education is further rationalized through the use of textbooks in classrooms across the country. Information from many different sources is all compiled and summarized into one book, making teaching the material easier and faster. This method is not inherently defective; nevertheless, we must still ask ourselves where these textbooks come from. They are written by people and published by companies, all trying to make a profit. We have to consider where these companies are based, and to which schools they primarily market their products. A fundamental discrepancy in this process appears in history textbooks, which include only certain aspects of, for instance, American history, and leave out everything else. Though rationalization in secondary education is necessary when assessing huge numbers of students, we must also consider how it affects the kind of information taught in schools, students’ individuality across the country, and the intrinsic worth of knowledge. We may now turn to the involvement of the federal government in the public school system. In order to boost education statistics of the United States such as graduation rates and literacy rates, the government has been becoming increasingly involved in regulating the uniformity and predictability of high school education. This control is necessary due to the sheer number of students in the U.S. that attend high school: education needs to be quantifiable and reputable. However, the need to record facts and increasingly produce more students who have acquired the “necessary” knowledge has brought up some ethical questions, as secondary education becomes evident as just another product of capitalist efficiency. Standardized tests are yet another example of rationalization in secondary education.
Following the enactment of No Child Left Behind, high schools across the country are required to take standardized tests to assess how well the schools are doing. These tests are an incredibly efficient way of deciding what students should know by a certain age and assessing them all in a uniform fashion, regardless of individual differences. Intelligence is reduced to numbers, which can be assessed accordingly. The pressure that the government puts on schools to perform well on standardized tests does not always lead to more productive teaching techniques. Ideally, teachers should value expanding students’ knowledge above all else. When required standardized tests are introduced into the picture, public school teachers may begin to prioritize students’ test proficiency in order to maintain their job security. In these cases, teachers begin to “teach to the test.” This practice leads students to memorize information rather than actually comprehending and internalizing the material. Merely memorized facts can be easily forgotten, and memorizing details does not reflect actual understanding. This leads to the “irrationality of rationality” that Ritzer describes as part of McDonaldization: when a process becomes so rationalized that it actually accomplishes the opposite of its original purpose it becomes characterized by “inefficiency, unpredictability, incalculability, and loss of control.”5 The obsession with standardized test scores causes students to lose the inherent value of knowledge: students should learn for the sake of learning, not for the sake of doing well on an exam. The institution that initially sought to educate students actually ends up pressuring them so much with tests meant to increase efficiency, to point where they do not learn anything. Education is further determined by organizations and companies working separately to achieve their own goals, but ultimately dramatically influencing the public school system. A prominent example of this is the College Board, an organization that administers the test that nearly every high school student takes to be admitted into college, the SAT. Though College Board is “not-for-profit,” it still needs to make money so it can uphold its duties and continue to provide services. The SAT test costs 50 dollars per student.6 College Board also administers SAT subject tests, as well as Advanced Placement (AP) exams, which cost additional money. Furthermore, many students pay for classes just to learn how to do well on the SAT from corporations like Kaplan and The Princeton Review. These companies also write review books that students buy to study for the SAT and AP tests. All in all, many organizations and corporations are profiting from students’ efforts to perform well on exams and apply to colleges, and in their efforts to make money they serve to further rationalize teaching and assessment processes. The SAT and AP tests are yet another example of standardized tests referenced earlier; they are an incredibly efficient and predictable way to assess a huge number of people and compare them to each other quantitatively. However, the fact that there are now companies seeking to make money off of this efficiency makes the question of who
creates these exams even more important. We must ask who establishes the criteria for being intelligent and how this affects education outcomes. The efforts to streamline and rationalize education place emphasis on certain material and information, which is based on the interests of the school itself, the government, and often corporations. In conclusion, rationalization and McDonaldization are present in public schools in the form of required courses, GPAs, formulaic essay formats, standardized tests such as the SAT, and textbooks. These methods of teaching and assessing proficiency make educating students very efficient, and are determined either by individual public schools, the government, or organizations and companies seeking to make revenue. However, teaching students is not as simple as making a hamburger. Knowledge has inherent value, and rationalizing education can often result in the inverse of its intended effects. In many cases, the efforts to make public school education more efficient and predictable can lead to unintended consequences that include students learning the material inadequately, or not learning it at all, which entirely contrasts the primary goal of attending school. Streamlining education can also narrow students’ potential knowledge base and capacity for creative thought by emphasizing only a few subjects, encouraging uniform ideas, and omitting certain information. Because students are such an important part of our future, we must consider how the bureaucracy of secondary education is determining what our students learn, and reevaluate whether this approach sustains the well-being and knowledge of students.
Notes: 1. George Ritzer. The McDonaldization of Society. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2004. P. 24. 2. Ritzer, 25. 3. Ritzer, 1. 4. Swedberg, Richard. The Max Weber Dictionary: Key Words and Central Concepts. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005. Ritzer, 134. 5. “SAT Services and Fees.” CollegeBoard.org. N.p., 2012. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. <http://sat.collegeboard. org/register/sat-fees>.
Graduate students & our furry friends Lucia Lykke: This is Junie, a rescue pit bull who thinks she is a lap dog. As you can see from her graduation hat, Junie is a scholar and enjoys having study dates with me at home. When she’s not reading feminist theory, Junie can usually be found flopped on her back, begging for belly rubs.
Meg Austin Smith: This is Batman, our kitty, visiting our housemate’s computer
Nathan Jurgenson: Sociologists should aspire to be at least half as curious about the world as Empress Josephine.
Mark Gross: Baxter the dog shows the leisure class how it’s done.
Marek Posard: Here is a picture of my cat, Cali. For some reason, she is particularly fond of lying on Social Psychology Quarterly articles. As for the backstory, fellow grad student Amy Baxter found her as a kitten outside graduate hills during a big snow storm some years back. Both Amy and I are social psychologists- maybe that is why Cali sleeps on my SPQ articles. Joanna Pepin: Teddy is a 13 year old Toy Poodle. I’m not sure he helps me with graduate school so much, but he sure is happy that I’m at home reading a lot. While he has lots of quirky habits, my favorite habit of his is his insistence on wiping his feet on the front door rug when he comes in from outside. Anya Galli: Frankie is our 7-pound mini dachshund. When I work from home, she disrupts her daily schedule of marathon napping to keep my lap warm. Frankie enjoys burrowing into warm laundry, taking over yoga mats, riding with the car windows down, hiking (especially if she gets to ride in Joe Waggle’s backpack), visiting Beverly Pratt’s apartment, and watching her humans cook dinner.
Sarah Wanenchak: Sadie (bottom/left) and Evel (top/right). Sadie loves snuggling with absolutely everyone and the top of her head is the flattest ever. Evel is very bad and hungry and loud. They are best friends, obviously.
Bill Yagatich: This is Drifter and Tiny. They have been a large part of my staying sane while in grad school! They give me a reason to go outside every once and a while and enjoy some fresh air. Plus, theyâ€™re pretty cute!
Nicole DeLoatch: I have three amazing fur babies. Gizmo is a long haired Chihuahua who loves his cat sisters. Ruby is the boss! She is an excellent hunter that knows just the right time to run out of the door, so that no one can catch her to stop her delinquent charades. Autumn is the female version of Garfield. She loves to eat, and so incredibly sweet. They all help me get through long nights of reading and writing by laying directly on top of my laptop, chewing my papers, and deciding that my lap is the best place to lay down (especially when I have a great thought that needs to be articulated immediately).
sociology news . volume 7 . issue 1 . FALL 2012 department of sociology . university of maryland
Published on Dec 3, 2012