This December, the department welcomed Milton Costen III as our new Graduate Program Coordinator. He graciously agreed to participate in an interview with me during his first week on the job, and I am excited to share more with you about our newest staff member!
What brings you to the department?
I’m coming from the Registrar’s Office and the Graduate School doing graduate clearance for graduate students. Primarily, that deals with records, registration issues, special exception policies, and for graduate students, making sure that dissertation requirements [or] formatting issues are all set, and making sure that you get your diploma and get out of here! I assisted the graduate coordinators of over 60 programs. I worked with the department liaisons, the department coordinators, so it was sort of a natural progression to specialize in one department.
Was there any reason in particular that you chose the Sociology Department? Was it that the job came up or did you have a particular interest?
Most definitely. One, yes, the job did come up. Two, in choosing which department to work in, I do have a particular interest in sociology, particularly demography [and] racial inequality. So those things are interests of mine, which since I’m here now can grow and blossom. [Also,] in my relationship with Karina as the [former] coordinator here, the department seems to have a really good reputation for having their things together, so I figured it would be a good transition.
What brought you to this line of work?
I guess I have always had higher ed career intentions. Ultimately, my career focus is to be on the faculty side of things, so eventually I will get my PhD, but right now I’m working on a Masters/MBA. My prior experience has been in the nonprofit realm, so that’s what my Masters is going to be in: nonprofit association management/MBA [from UMUC]. I thought it might be good, in regards to educational background, to be able to bring the connections for graduate students with the nonprofit realm, of course with the ASA and all those things, to strengthen those opportunities. So we’ll see what happens as time goes by.
What other nonprofits have you worked with?
All of them have been educational institutions, not [all] at the higher ed level. UMD was my first opportunity to take part in the higher ed academia. Connected with sociology, my immediate position before coming here was with an organization called Phillips Programs. They support the educational, family, [and] social development of students with disabilities, primarily emotional disabilities, but there are also students who are on the autism spectrum and so on. Supporting them, they had two schools, which ranged from elementary on to secondary. They also had social work departments, such as foster care. Otherwise, I work with a nonprofit organization called Community Systems, and they work with adults with emotional disabilities, but most of them have developmental disabilities and [they] also [work with] people with brain injuries. There are a number of things in the mix and really could be connected to the work that you guys are doing here.
So, you’re working full-time and going to classes. How does that work?
It’s a juggle. I also have a pretty large family. I have three children, a wife, and another child on the way. It’s definitely a juggling act with that, but I’m definitely determined to get it all done.
Are you and your family from Maryland originally?
Actually, I am from the Washington D.C area and Maryland because I’ve lived in both. But, although I do claim D.C. and Maryland as home, I also claim North Carolina because I spent junior high school, high school, and my first undergrad degree in North Carolina. We have some alumni in the department from UNC—Chapel Hill, and that’s where I went for my first undergrad degree. So now I’m back in the area after I finished school at Chapel Hill.
You mentioned “first undergrad degree”—are there more?
I have an undergraduate degree in English from UNC, and when I came back after working for a while, I decided to go back for a music degree. That’s another side of me: performing arts. I got that degree and then a couple years later I started here.
I’d love to hear more about this performing arts side!
My degree is in flute performance. My primary areas are, of course, classical and orchestral, but also jazz and gospel. I’m also vocalist, so I’ve worked with choirs and orchestras. I also do a bit of composing and arranging and songwriting. Everybody in my family is pretty musical.
How are you finding the time to perform? What are you up to currently?
Because we have a child coming, I’ve sort of slowed down with the performing a lot, and with school, my practice time has gone drastically down. But, I do have a website (www.jubalsmusic.org), and from there we offer music for events like weddings or services and also a teaching studio for students. Again, I’ve slowed down and put everything on hold for a second, but my website is still up and there are YouTube videos on there, and all types of neat stuff and information.
I haven’t decided on what I want to get my PhD in, but one of the things I want to focus on is how music has been defined or used as an expression of freedom in several social movements. You can pick the Civil Rights Movement or Apartheid in South Africa or anything that’s currently going on in the world and [ask] how has music been a conduit for the expression of freedom? For example, spirituals, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” you know, [there are] double-meanings there. Once I have more time to sort of dive into those interests, I want to connect the music piece with some type of social issue.
Apart from performing and practicing, what’s your favorite thing to do outside of work and classes?
Well, we love water. Actually, growing up in D.C., maybe up until kindergarten, we lived on a boat in Southwest Marina at Buzzard Point. It’s actually still there. My dad’s a sailor, and he has a boat in New Bern, North Carolina. We still do sailing and taking trips and doing those things. I love to kayak, and I live close to the Potomac River near Fort Washington, MD, so I have easy access to the water. Now I just have to figure out how to get the babies on the boat!
What are you most hoping to accomplish during your time here with the Sociology Department?
Anything that will cause the department to grow. I am under the direction of our graduate director, so [I hope] to support her and make her job easier in any way possible. I have the technical background as far as the processes for the Graduate School or the Registrar’s Office, so I can assist with those.
Outside of that, [I hope to be] a person that helps with the strategic planning for the department. As they come up with strategic goals, how can I facilitate or administrate those goals or make connections for those things. That is one of the things I’m really interested in doing, and hopefully by the time my time here is done, if that be the case, we should see growth and development of the program and taking things out of the visionary realm and making them a part of operational protocols for the department.
Megan is a 2nd Year Graduate Student.