Letter from the Chair: Reeve Vanneman, PhD

Letter from the Chair

Let me echo my last year’s letter: Whew!  It’s been quite a year (again!). We interviewed 12 candidates for positions in Sociology and hired four (again!).  The annual Rosenberg forum, this year with Mary Waters on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, was a great success (again!).  And we look forward to our second Annual William Form Alumni Lecture, this year with Liana Sayer from Ohio State University, a 2001 Ph.D. from Maryland.

But we didn’t just repeat past successes: new accomplishments provided the most excitement.  Graduate students organized the conference “Theorizing the Web,” drawing some two hundred participants to College Park and featuring noted speakers danah boyd, Saskia Sassen, and our own George Ritzer.  Comparative and theory specialty areas joined to form a new graduate concentration in “globalizing theory”.   Second year papers have now fully replaced master’s theses as an early focal point for the graduate student experience.  More of our graduate students are getting published even before embarking on their dissertation research.

And new efforts are underway that promise an exciting future.  David Segal, Meredith Kleykamp, and other colleagues are in the early phase of developing a longitudinal survey of how today’s military and veterans (and their family’s) are adjusting to 21st century deployments.  Environmental sociology has emerged as a new strength of Maryland Sociology; Dana Fisher and colleagues are developing a new Center for Society and the Environment.   A cluster of Maryland sociologists with interests in social networks are collaborating with computer scientists to build an interdisciplinary group to study how networks form around the internet.

Awards for Maryland faculty and graduate students continue to flow in.  We started the year with Harriet Presser’s Jessie Bernard award at ASA.  John Robinson received the William F. Ogburn Career Achievement Award from the Communications and IT section of ASA. Also at ASA, Meredith Kleykamp won an outstanding article award and Patricio Korzeniewicz won an outstanding book award (for his Unveiling Inequality). And at this May’s BSOS awards, Mini Rajan won the Outstanding Staff Award; Chris Andrews, the Excellence in Teaching Award for lecturers; Paul Dean, the Excellence in Teaching Award for Graduate Student instructors; and Gheda Temsah, the George M. Phillips Award for graduate student research on topics of public concern.Alongside these awards and new initiatives, we also have some bittersweet moments.  Joe Lengermann, long the steadfast core of Maryland Sociology, retires this year.  Joe has helped build our department since 1967.  That long and effective service was recognized by his award of the Dean’s Medal this year.    As Dean Townshend noted at the ceremonies, Sociology without Joe Lengermann seems unthinkable.  All of us will miss his steady presence, but nobody more than the person who sits in the Chair’s office.  We wish him godspeed and trust he will not be a stranger in his well-earned retirement.

Reeve Vanneman

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