It is almost obligatory and somewhat trite to begin this kind of message by exclaiming: This is an exciting time for our department! But indeed it is! We are in the midst of a major assessment within our unit about our future goals regarding our research, our graduate program, and our undergraduate teaching, and I expect our dialogue to produce a renewed vision for our department as we enter 2014. More details will be forthcoming.
In the meantime, I would like to highlight three recent developments. This coming Spring, we will be joined by Professor Mansoor Moaddel (Ph.D. University of Wisconsin), who studies culture, ideology, political conflict, revolution and social change. Previously at Eastern Michigan University, Professor Moaddel has a long trajectory of collaboration with the Population Studies Center and the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, conducting important value surveys in Africa and the Middle East. Besides working in our department, he will be collaborating with our University’s START Center. Professor Moaddel is one of a series of successful hires we have conducted over the past year (and will be officially announcing soon).
Our graduate students and faculty have been working productively on a Critical Race Initiative. This initiative aims to bring together people within our department and the university who incorporate a substantive interest in race and/or ethnicity in their research and/or teaching. The initiative is especially interested in identifying scholars who cast a critical eye on the use of race and ethnicity sociological research and practice, and is organizing various events and seminars providing a space for substantive discussion and collaboration around relevant issues. The initiative will have its official launch with a major event to be held in our department in April 2014.
Finally, our great office staff has been strengthened by the addition of two new members. Gaye Bugenhagen is our new Director of Administrative Services. Jessica Lee is our new Administrative Assistant. We extend a very warm welcome to both. And we also are grateful for the speedy recovery and return to our office of Mini Rajan!
On a sadder note, Professor Suzanne Bianchi passed away last November 4th. Suzanne chaired our department between 2006 and 2009 and was a founding director of the Maryland Population Research Center. Throughout her career she produced outstanding research on the intersections of gender, work and family. She was a great mentor of our junior faculty and graduate students, and a very esteemed colleague within our department and the university. She will be very much missed.