Letter from the Chair (by Patricio Korzeniewicz)

pkorzeniewiczWhile the academic year ends in just a few days, we will have a busy Summer in our department. As usual, many of our faculty and graduate students will take advantage of the slower pace of campus responsibilities to advance their research. A few will be teaching Summer courses. But with the faculty who are responsible for administrative responsibilities, such as the Associate Chair (John Pease), our new Director of Graduate Studies (Liana Sayer), the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Linda Moghadam) and the Director of Research (Jeff Lucas), we will be working on coming up with strategies to address some of the concerns raised during our recent departmental retreat last March.

One of these concerns is how to continue enhancing the quality of our Graduate Program. For example, many of our faculty, students and alumni have encouraged us to recognize that our graduates pursue a broad range of professional opportunities beyond jobs in research universities, and to use this recognition to reevaluate the content and goals of our training programs. This certainly will be one of the issues that we take up for discussion during the Summer, and parallel concerns involve all aspects of our department, from undergraduate training to research efforts and future faculty recruitments.

Such an evaluation is made more important by the fact that our department will undergo some important changes in the coming months. After many years of playing a crucial role in our department, some faculty members are retiring into Emeritus status: Bill Falk, Melissa Milkie and John Robinson (who retired at the end of last year). We wish them all our very best: they have all made invaluable contribution to our department, and we will work hard to ensure that we continue pursuing the high standards of excellence they have set through their work and example.

Just to mention one new initiative, we hosted a great event just a few days ago, commemorating the contributions of Congressman Parren Mitchell to our department and the University of Maryland. In 1952, after suing the University to gain admission, Parren Mitchell became the first African American to attend graduate school at the University of Maryland, receiving a Master’s degree in Sociology. Congressman Mitchell stated later in his life that his sociology training shaped his activism in politics and social change. To celebrate his memory, the Critical Race Initiative, led by Assistant Professor Rashawn Ray, held a symposium and reception, both of which were well-attended by members of our department, the university and the broader community. We hope that in the future, we will hold similar events commemorating Congressman Mitchell on a regular, annual basis.

We are looking ahead for another great year for the department! In the meantime, I hope you have a productive summer (come see me, I’ll be around)!

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