Letter from the Chair by Reeve Vanneman, PhD

This is my last letter as chair.  On July 1, I hand over the office to Patricio Korzeniewicz who will bring new energy and new ideas to the department.  For me, it’s been a good ride.  I have enjoyed joking about the number of days left until I get back to my real work as a sociologist.  But, in truth, this is an easy department to chair.  We don’t waste time and energy on political divisions;  we take pride in each others’ accomplishments; and we are confident that our future will be even better than the present.  Each year our students are more accomplished and better prepared than the ones who came before.  We have expanded the faculty with eight new hires in these three years, and it has been exciting to see the new perspectives and new enthusiasm at faculty meetings.

There is, as always, much left to do.  New information technologies are coming our way.  They will reshape the way we teach and how we do research.  We need to prepare better for these changes.  The university is encouraging us to become better engaged with our surrounding communities – we are a land-grant university and need to live up to those commitments.  Sociology is especially well suited for better community engagement, but we have to organize this well to achieve all that is possible.  And new faculty mean new directions for our undergraduate and graduate programs.  Some of our specialty areas, in particular, look more like the Sociology Department of 2002 than the department of 2012.

This has also been a year of loss for the department.  Earlier we lost three former faculty, Emeritus Professors Ray Henkel and Bob Hirzel, and adjunct professor Mehrdad Mashayekhi.  More recently, Distinguished University Professor Harriet Presser has died.  Harriet was a commanding presence in Maryland Sociology.  As the citation for the ASA’s Jessie Bernard Award said, “Her work helped transform the field of demography by bringing a gender perspective to bear on the study of fertility and family processes.”  She had a great personal influence on my own research trajectory.  Her keen perceptions and good humor will be greatly missed.

And so, we move forward.  Here’s to the future…



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