Letter from the Editresses: Beverly Pratt & Meg Austin Smith

Letter From the Editresses

Welcome to Volume 5, Issues 3 & 4!  Only a couple more weeks exist in the semester.  A class or two, a few exams, and graduation ceremonies are all that await.  Whew!

Once again, and maybe for the last time, the theme of “Imagine” continues.  This is the last edition for both of us as the department newsletter editresses.  We have both had a fun time being your “news representatives” (Meg this past year and Bev for the past two years).  Thank you for all of your feedback!  That said, next year’s news representatives have yet to be filled; so – graduate students comrades – please volunteer for this position.  The graduate student body needs you!  Feel free to email us if you have any questions about responsibilities.

As we’ve transitioned the newsletter from a PDF to both a blog and a newsmag, we have some great news!  The department will be printing a few copies of this edition – and hopefully future editions – in a magazine form!  Copies will be provided at lecture series events and to visiting faculty, deans, etc.  Much thanks to our department chair for making this happen!  Also, from now on the Graduate Student Forum (GSF) will provide one newsletter per semester rather than two.

This edition begins with a note from our chair – Dr. Reeve Vanneman.  Also, we celebrate the many new faces in our department – from new staff to faculty – with several articles focusing on these recent additions to our community (five, to be exact).  In addition, Dr. Michelle Corbin reflects on her experience in achieving the Woman’s Studies Certificate while a student in our department, we catch up with Dr. Rashawn Ray’s whereabouts, undergraduate student Rebecca Lakew shares with us her sociological pursuits, a handful of professors give advice on how to transition conference papers to publications, and a few graduate students tell us of recent “happy” events in their day-to-day lives.  Finally, a recap of the Theorizing the Web Conference is provided, we celebrate our peers graduating this Spring, and the GSF’s president – Kathleen Denny – reflects on the past year.  And we end with some great news regarding department hires!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this final edition for Academic Year 2010-2011.  Moreover, sincere gratitude goes to each faculty, student, and staff for a memorable and meaningful year!  Please enjoy the contributions of our colleagues and feel free to contact us with any comments and/or suggestions that you may have.

Beverly Pratt, bpratt@umd.edu
Meg Austin Smith, maustin@umd.edu

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

The Women’s Studies Graduate Certificate Experience by Michelle Corbin, PhD

In May 2010, I finally earned my Ph.D. in sociology and my graduate certificate in women’s studies.  Beginning with my time as an undergraduate student, women’s studies has always been one of my intellectual, political and social homes at the university.  I found that this remained true during graduate school and I valued being able to remain connected to women’s studies.Pursuing the certificate in women’s studies provided me with several important things during my graduate training in sociology.  First, it deepened my immersion in feminist scholarship and practice.  While there is feminist theoretical and methodological training available in sociology, I found that the core women’s studies classes in feminist theory and methodology substantively enhanced this training.

Second, it deepened my immersion in feminist scholar activisms. Courses with women’s studies faculty who embody scholar activist commitments and collaboration with women’s studies graduate students strengthened my own efforts toward feminist praxis in both my writing and teaching.  I would argue this is especially beneficial for those of us whose home disciplines are not as amenable to the connections between activism and scholarship.

Finally, and not least of all, being a graduate certificate student in women’s studies also provided me with a community and a sense of belonging as a feminist scholar both within and beyond the classroom.  In my women’s studies seminars it was wonderful to not have to begin all classes explaining why gender or race or class were important or how these systems of power were about more than just ‘culture’ and ‘difference’.  It was also a blessing to connect with other feminist, anti-racist and anti-heterosexist scholars both intellectually and socially.   Being a graduate student in general can be intensely isolating and demoralizing, a situation often exacerbated for those of us engaging historically and politically marginalized scholarships.

Women’s studies here at Maryland, like women’s studies generally speaking, provides us with a room of our own, so essential in the stormy political climate in which we find ourselves.  I am grateful for the work that the women’s studies faculty does to continue to carve out this important space and I am grateful that I was able to find my own way into that second home.

I know that many graduate students considering the women’s studies certificate worry about the added courses and the added time commitments involved.  However, I found that the benefits of feminist training and community far out weighed these concerns.  The extra year will likely be forgotten on the other side of the Ph.D., the feminist training and communities will not.  I would recommend the certificate program to any graduate student who would like to strengthen their feminist scholarship and urge them to take advantage of the blessings of feminist community that it offers.

Michelle graduated with her PhD in Sociololgy from the University of Maryland in 2010.  She will be a professor at Worcester State University beginning Fall 2011.

Staff Spotlights: Hilary Gossett (Lori Reeder) & Karina Havrilla (by Susan Hong)


Hilary Gossett, our Administrative Coordinator, is a relatively new addition to our department. Hilary’s official job duties require her to provide management of the Chair’s academic agenda and acting as a liaison between the Sociology department and other departments on campus or outside agencies.  She also manages development and alumni affairs for the department as well as coordinating department events. I had the pleasure of getting to know Hilary a little better when she agreed to be interviewed for our newsletter.

Hilary is from San Marcos, Texas (though she was born in Illinois). Her father, a playwright who wrote children’s musicals, was a professor of Drama at Texas State University. She grew up in the Texas Hill Country, which according to her is the most beautiful part of the state.  Hilary has a degree in interior design from Texas State University and a background in industrial technology (meaning she can work wonders in a wood shop). She is licensed and practiced interior design, specializing in high-end retail design for ten years before coming to the University of Maryland.

Outside of work, Hilary can be found most evenings and weekends out and about with her family in DC, enjoying all of the wonderful outdoor attractions in our area. She loves camping, canoeing and loves to paint and play guitar.  She has spent time working in South Korea, London, Tokyo and Australia and looks forward to traveling more in the future.
Hilary moved to Maryland in 2007 and joined the University of Maryland in 2010.  One of her favorite things about living here is watching the seasons change, which is quite a treat for a Texan.  She was very happy to join the Sociology department in the Fall of 2010 and wants to thank the faculty, staff and students for being so welcoming and wonderful to work with.


I had the pleasure of interviewing our department’s new Graduate Coordinator, Karina Havrilla.  Karina is a Maryland native; she was born in Maryland and grew up in Germantown.  Her family is originally from El Salvador, and they came to the States in January 1974.

Karina graduated from Northwest High School in Germantown, MD, and attended McDaniel College in Westminster, MD, where she double majored in Sociology and Spanish. Immediately after graduating college, she started working at the American Sociological Association (ASA) as the Minority and Student Affairs Program Coordinator.  Having worked at ASA for 4 ½ years, Karina had the opportunity to work with students and faculty in various departments, including UMD. Some of the people she had the pleasure of getting to know and work closely with were faculty and students in UMD’s Department of Sociology.  Karina is also huge Terps basketball fan and had always liked University of Maryland, so she was happy to join the departmental staff.  She enjoys being part of a new program in a discipline she’s really familiar with.

Some little-known facts about Karina… Karina is the oldest of four, and is the proud aunt of a niece who is turning 4 this year.  She is fluent in reading, writing, and speaking Spanish. She started playing the clarinet in 4th grade and transitioned to the tenor saxophone in high school when she joined the Jazz Ensemble. She continued to play the sax during college with Jazz Band at McDaniel and still picks it up from time to time.   Her hobbies include photography, running with her 3-year old German Shepherd/Rottweiler Winston, baking, and cooking.  She loves Indian food, Cuban food, and Salvadoran food (and she recommends Café Spice, Cuba De Ayer, and Chapala for great food in the area).

When asked what her favorite aspect of the department is, she immediately said the people!  She knew several of the people in the department already, and she was happy to be part of a place where people were so welcoming and friendly.  As mentioned early, she’s also a huge Terps fan and is excited to be on a campus with a big collegiate team.

Karina also noted that it is inspiring to see students in our department working to achieve their academic goals, and she plans one day to also go to graduate school and study Sociology or Educational Administration and Policy in the near future.  Her interests lie in Sociology of Education, gender studies, and race relations.

Please stop by Karina’s office if you haven’t met her yet!  She loves to meet new people and looks forward to working with all of you!

Lori & Susan are both 2nd year graduate students.

Faculty Spotlights: Feinian Chen (by Yu Guo), Dana Fisher (by Anya Galli), & Christina Prell (by Jonathan Jackson)


Both new-comers to this university and both Chinese, Feinian and I immediately clicked with each other when we first met as advisor and research assistant. We started to build a relationship which would later become more like a friendship. A 20-year-old girl studying  alone in a foreign country – she said she was once there, too.  So she really empathizes with me, and never hesitated to offer me her genuine concerns as well as professional advice. I feel comfortable communicating with her, sometimes even about some personal issues.

I was very anxious and confused during the first semester, and I told Feinian how hard it was to decide my specialty areas or to find an exact topic to research upon. Since then, Feinian has been giving me the advice which would resonate through all our communication. She always tells me one thing: one’s research interest can never be separated from one’s personal experience and you should always pursue what you are passionate about. She would always use herself as a good example.

Before she came to Maryland, Feinian led a 5-year NIH research project on the health implications of grandparents caring for grandchildren in China. Feinian herself was raised up by her loving grandparents. Later on, both her parents and parents-in-law also came all the way from China to help caring for her two children.  While she feels that she is the largest beneficiary of the love and selfless devotion of two generations of grandparents, she has always wondered what it means and does for the grandparents.  Indeed, Feinian’s fascination with intergenerational relationship and how it changes in societies undergoing rapid socioeconomic changes began when she was a graduate student. . Yet earlier on, she focused more on the “middle generation”, i.e. the adult children. Now, however, her passion shifts more toward the aging parental generation. In her own words, “personal experience, research interests, and academic life, they all kind of come together at some point.”

When asked about what she is looking forward to doing in the future as a sociologist, Feinian answered, “I do not make ten-year plans, but I do make 5-year plans.” She has mainly been doing intergenerational studies on China so far. Now she is considering expanding her research agenda to other cultures and contexts. For example, she has begun a project on racial-ethnic health disparities among grandparents in the U.S.. At the same time, she is starting another NIH funded study on women in the Philippines, which again features family relationships and health trajectories.

As for Feinian’s personal life, it may suffice to know that she is happily married and has two lovely children, a six-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son. And she is very pleased to move to the DC area, being united with her husband and enjoying the great diversity of this metropolitan area.

DANA FISHER by Anya Galli

As a student in the Introduction to Qualitative Methods seminar this semester, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know one of our newest faculty members, Dr. Dana Fisher. I recently had the opportunity to talk to her a bit more about her career and plans for her work at UMD.

Fisher began her position at UMD in Spring, 2011 after a previous position in the Sociology Department at Columbia University. She currently holds two NSF grants: one for the Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks project, which looks at how climate policy is carried out in the US, and another on urban stewardship and regreening in New York City. She is currently working to establish the new Center for Society and the Environment at UMD, which will house both projects. Fisher describes her research as directed toward the goal of understanding policy making broadly through a number of foci. She is interested in understanding “how everyday citizens try to express themselves politically and engage in the political process” (looking at activists, protests and NGOs, for example), as well as policy processes and networks related to environmental issues.  Much of her work has focused on climate change, which provides an opportunity to look at policy making issues across local, state, national, and international scales. Big questions in Fisher’s research revolve around citizen involvement and whether it makes a difference in policy-making, and how/if policies end up affecting real changes in society and the environment. She will be teaching and undergraduate course in the department on environmental sociology, and hopes to integrate environmental issues into her graduate-level courses as well. In addition to teaching the qualitative methods sequence in our department, she plans to teach graduate seminars on activism and social movements, as well as a course on globalization and civil society.

Fisher’s interest in environmental precedes her work in the field of Sociology: after receiving her undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and East Asian Studies from Princeton University, she lobbied in Washington, DC and worked in a California think tank before heading to University of Wisconsin, Madison for her PhD in Sociology. Her initial goal of continuing to do environmental work after graduate school focused on returning to research and think tank work. However, she says that the exposure to Sociology as a broader discipline she received during her training at Madison convinced her that the methodological tools and possibility to create change were greater in an academic career. Mentorship from faculty at Madison was a key part of Fisher’s graduate school experience. Coming in with a cohort of 41, Fisher was one of a few students with limited background in Sociology, and she says she found it “dehumanizing” to take remedial courses during her first years in the program- by the end of her second year she says she had found an “amazing community of students and faculty” through her courses in environmental sociology and social movements. she recalls weekly academic talks after which faculty and graduate students would gather to socialize and listen to live music- an example of the kind of supportive community she would like to see fostered within our department at UMD.

During our conversation Fisher offered some advice to current graduate students. On the “conventional” side, she encourages us to “take advantage of working with faculty and developing faculty connections,” noting that mentorship was “invaluable” in her decision to become and sociologist and the process of learning how to be a sociologist. She also emphasized the importance of publishing meaningful work: “you’re in grad school so you can be your own scholar,” she says, and “without publishing your work it doesn’t count.” On the less conventional side, Fisher emphasized the importance of maintaining balance in our lives. “It’s not possible to be a sociologist 24/7…you end up burning out.” She says that her most creative work happens when she has a clear mind and encourages graduate students to make schedules that allow us to do our work in addition to “specifically distinct and separate” activities.

In her non-sociology hours, Fisher enjoys spending time with her family and 4 year old daughter Margot, who keeps her very busy. She also enjoys doing Pilates and gardening. She is looking forward to planting a tomato garden in her yard, which isn’t something she had space for while living in NYC. Fisher says she likes living in the DC metro area because it’s a “real city” where she has access to good public schools and a house with a yard but can still easily get to downtown. Being here, she says, is “really exciting.”

CHRISTINA PRELL by Jonathan Jackson

Recently I had the opportunity of interviewing one of the new members of our faculty, Dr. Christina Prell.

Dr. Prell is the youngest of two and is now a mother of two children.  Her son, Lucas, is just five months old and her daughter, Sophie, is four years old. Dr. Prell is originally from Maryland, so accepting a position at College Park was a bit of a homecoming. She was born in Silver Spring and grew up in Damascus, Maryland.  However, she spent her teenage years in suburban Philadelphia and has since moved around.

Her college years were spent at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, where she majored in English Literature and minored in Fine Arts.  She aspired to be an artist but decided that was not practical, so she went to Rennselear Polytechnic, where she earned a masters and PhD in communication and rhetoric.  While her advanced degrees are not in sociology, the practicality of social science appealed to her and drew her to look at virtual communities and social networks.  When she became a professor in England, these research interests made her a better fit in the sociology department.

Dr. Prell ended up in England because her husband, a native of Austria, got a job in Leeds.  When discussing her past life in England, she looks back on it fondly while also acknowledging the benefits of being back in the U.S.  She misses pubs, tea bags and the lack of dependency on cars.  That being said, she appreciates being around Americans again and not having to constantly deal with cultural barriers which many people experience as expatriots.

Her favorite thing about the sociology department so far is their seriousness about research and the proactive can-do spirit of many of her colleagues.  She enjoys the many ongoing discussions among faculty members about how they can collaborate and work together on research projects.  She also likes how the department is so close to Washington and all its museums.

When Dr. Prell is not working, she enjoys running long distance and has even participated in marathons.  Unfortunately, she cannot run in any marathons right now due to an injury, but she still applies the lessons of perseverance and endurance that she has learned from previous races.  In addition to long distance running, she also enjoys Indian curries and Tex-Mex.  When she has time for leisure reading, she likes fantasy series such as “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” “Twilight,” and “The Lord of the Rings.”

Currently, Dr. Prell is finishing up two books on the history, theory and methodology of social networks.  She was recently awarded the Dean’s Initiative Award to research social networks and natural resource management.

Hopefully, you will get the chance to meet Dr. Prell.  She brings a unique perspective to the department and looks forward to meeting everyone!

Yu, Anya, & Jonathan are all 1st year graduate students.

Catching Up With Rashawn Ray by Bev Pratt & Meg Austin Smith

It’s a new faculty extravaganza here in the newsletter this semester, and we wanted Rashawn Ray in on that action, too! So back in February, we emailed him some questions! And he answered them! Immediately! With exclamation marks! And adjectives and adverbs of enthusiasm! And we said, Ooh, we like this! This is our kind of interview style! We must know more! And so we called him. And we discovered: it’s all about his sociological imagination.  It’s the way he relates to lived experiences and imagines the questions and the dialogues that might emerge from them. Thus, Dr. Ray can relate – to his research participants, to his research questions, and to us ol’ graduate students, too.

We asked:So, first and foremost, we’re pumped you’ll be a Terp in the not too distant future. But we’re also very happy for you and all you’re doing at Berkeley. Can you share a little bit with us about what you’re up to out there — and also perhaps how you might be continuing/developing some of that work once you’re here?

He answered: I am extremely excited about physically being in the department in fall 2012. I will be visiting in April so I look forward to meeting with people then. I am currently a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Research Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley/UCSF. I am working on a project examining racial differences in barriers and incentives to physical activity. Besides the racial differences in health outcomes, Americans only walk approximately 5,000 steps a day, compared to 9,000 for Australia which has a similar diet. So the findings from my project have health policy implications for all Americans and our obesity epidemic.

Since the RWJ program is flexible, I have ample time to focus on other research projects. I am working on a book from a data set with 46 Black, White, and Mexican-American families examining gender roles, family relations, work/family balance, and health outcomes. Additionally, I have articles forthcoming in American Behavioral Scientist and the Journal of African American Studies on racial differences in social class identification and men’s treatment of women. I also have two R&Rs that I am working on. And yes, I will definitely be continuing these lines of research once I come to Maryland.

We asked: What are some things you’re looking forward to doing once you’re in the College Park area? (And we mean fun stuff here: e.g. what kind of activities/ restaurants/ performance venues/ people-watching venues can we be ready to show you?)

He answered: Fun. What is that?! LOL. I believe that I will enjoy having access to so many sports teams. I love all sports so being able to watch Ray Lewis in Baltimore and Alexander Ovechkin, John Wall, and Stephen Strasburg in D.C. will be exciting. However, my son will be two years old by then and he will start to really be able to soak in culture and art so museums and performances will probably be on my agenda.

We asked: So how have your sociological interests developed?

He answered: I come from a family of nurses. My grandma is—was, well, once a nurse always a nurse! My mom, my wife, my mother-in-law. And so I can see mismatches between the literature and people’s experiences. I can start to ask why it is that people may perceive that they are not getting adequate care, or why people trust or don’t trust the institutions that give them care.

RJ answered: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaa.[Aside: we’re on the phone at this point, and RJ is five-months-old. He’s never met us before, so we were pretty grateful he agreed to join the conversation.]

We asked: AWWWWWWWWW!!!!! [Aside: we know that wasn’t a question.]

Dr. Ray answered: Sorry about that. [Another aside: we’ve edited out some of the ensuing AWWWs. There are many others. To wit: one for RJ’s dog, one for his cat, and one for the fish, swimming soon into the Ray family future.]

We asked: Okay okay, we’re professional. We can be professional. We have a list of questions. We’re going to ask one of those: “What does the sociological imagination mean to you?”

Dr. Ray: Ooh, that’s a good question. [Aside: We’re scribbling, scribbling, scribbling down all the good stuff we got here. The following answer is, alas, not verbatim, and some of the best stories shared in this answer have been left out simply because we didn’t want to impose our words on them. Qualitative researchers take note. Qualitative instructors, feel free to include us in your syllabi under “Worst Practices.” Friendly folk, rejoice in this as a possible point of entry to many wonderful conversations yet to be had.]

I would say my sociological imagination is always turned on. I have had some unique life experiences, and I think because of that I can relate to a lot of different people. I moved around a lot with my mom, and I saw my mother’s experiences with racism and sexism…I am not necessarily looking to answer “What explains this?” but rather “Why is is happening?” and then you start to get at these theoretical mechanisms you wouldn’t be able to get at otherwise. And I think that this question “Why is this occurring?” is what makes us sociologists.

Bev is a 3rd year graduate student & Meg is a 2nd year graduate student.

Undergraduate Student Spotlight: Rebecca Lakew

I was raised in Silver Spring, Maryland and come from a large, close-knit Ethiopian family. I grew up surrounded by much of my extended family. I attended small, Catholic schools all my life before coming to the University of Maryland (UMD) and credit a great deal of my work ethic, discipline, and sense-of-self to these schools. The small teacher-to-student ratios ensured that every student received the attention and help he/she needed. I was also able to get involved in a wide variety of extracurricular activities such as athletics and Student Government.After high school, I chose UMD because I believed that I could receive an excellent education while seeing what it was like to go to a large, public university that would provide me with many opportunities.  I enjoyed the challenge of finding my way around campus and meeting people from various walks of life. Although I spent the first two years as an engineering major, a part of me always felt like I had not taken time to explore the countless other majors at the University. I took my first sociology course and knew right away that this is where I truly belonged. I have always been a people person, as well as an observer. I love meeting new people and hearing their story. Further, I strongly believe that all aspects of an individual’s life are interconnected. This may sound cliché, but I honestly believe people are they way they are because of the experiences they have been through. With that being said, the discipline of sociology has allowed me to gain a better understanding of why our society is the way it is. This in turn, shapes how things like behaviors, norms, and traditions are formed.What I love most about our sociology department is how welcoming the professors have been. Three of my professors, in particular, have had lasting impressions on me. Professor John Pease taught my Social Stratification and Inequality class.  His enthusiasm for teaching and desire to help students is palpable. Further, Professor Pease’s unique approach to teaching, as well as helping students, is what I will remember most. Long after my Social Stratification class ended, Professor Pease was always willing to give me advice.

Dr. Patricia Hill Collins taught my Public Sociology course, which pushed me to explore my full potential as an individual, as a scholar, and as a sociologist. Throughout the semester, we worked on our own public sociology proposals. I chose to focus mine on shedding light on the immigrant experience in the U.S., which has always been an interest of mine. I got the opportunity to present my proposal at this year’s Eastern Sociological Association Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

I had Dr. Linda Moghadam for Family and Society. She is a true advocate for students and has been a mentor to me in so many ways. Whether she is answering the countless questions that I always have or giving me advice about graduate school, I know that she always has the best interest of the students in mind.

With graduation only a couple of weeks ago, I can safely say that time flies. I plan on attending grad school in a year or so but am currently in the process of applying to internships and fellowships that relate to international development and public health. These two fields are most likely what I will be studying in graduate school but I want to take some time to figure out exactly what I want to concentrate in. Regardless of where I end up, I know that my sociological imagination will inevitably be closely tied to my work. I want to always remember to take a step back and view things in their true, wider context. Ultimately, I hope to dedicate my life’s work to “making public issues out of private troubles.”

Rebecca is a senior undergraduate sociology major.

Alumni Spotlight: Anthony Hatch, PhD

I grew up in Atlanta Georgia and attended a magnet performing arts high school.  I have always loved performing—first as a violinist and then in musicals, dance concerts, and dramas. Sometimes, I think my early love for performing helped to nudge me toward work as a professor.  I most enjoy the performative and improvisational aspects of teaching—the ways in which teaching is like getting in front of a group of strangers and singing a song of sixpence, dancing the ole’ two-step, or delivering a deadpan comedy routine.   I started my graduate training at Maryland in the fall of 2001, earned my Master’s degree in 2003 and finally my PhD in 2009.  My areas of specialization were social psychology and social theory.  I now work as an assistant professor of sociology at Georgia State University in Atlanta and hold an NIHM postdoctoral fellowship at the Morehouse School of Medicine.  When Bev and Meg asked me to stand in the alumni spotlight, I felt honored and humbled.My first exposure to sociology came indirectly through my sister Stephani, herself a Maryland Sociology PhD (2002).  She had entered a Master’s program in sociology in 1994 at Georgia State University the same year I began college at Dartmouth.  I recall the large stack of papers, articles, and books she spread out over my freshman dorm room during a visit to Hanover.  I took my first sociology course at Dartmouth from Susan Thompson, a committed sociologist who examined food security, poverty, and development and poverty in Southeast Asia.   The course asked how social conditions and stratification shaped people’s access to healthy food and effective agricultural techniques.   I loved it (not the massive suffering due to inequality and widespread hunger) and continued to take sociology courses during my junior and senior years; courses like sociological theory (with Marx, Weber, Durkheim of course) and an innovative course in survey methodology.  The major assignment for this methods class was a group project designing and conducting an actual survey and then analyzing the results using SPSS.   I was one of the group leaders for the assignment and proudly earned a citation for academic excellence.  While I forget the subject of the survey, I remember having a lot of fun in the process of social research.   I would have never guessed that those early exposures to sociology would have positioned me to consider sociology as a career a few years later.

The Sunday before graduation from Dartmouth, I got a phone call from a former employer—a professor in the School of Public Health at Emory University—who wanted to hire me to work as a research coordinator on a Center for Substance Use and Prevention (CSAP) study of drug prevention curricula among black youth who lived in six of Atlanta’s public housing communities.   As I had absolutely no plan of how to flip my AB in philosophy into income, I giddily accepted the invitation. While at Emory, I had the privilege of working on this and other research projects all focused on the health of US society’s “surplus populations”—prisoners, drug users, black people of all ages.   Eventually, another professor offered me a new full-time position heading up a new project along with the prospect of earning a Master’s degree in Public Health.  I would have been making more money than I had ever made and would be in graduate school.  I could have also continued being of service to other people in my community on a daily basis.   I ran the offer by another professor and trusted mentor.  I will never forget her response.  She asked me if I wanted to keep working on some else’s study or if I wanted to have my own studies.   I made plans to apply to graduate school.

One of the critical features of my tenure at Maryland, and a big part of my nascent success, was departmental and external funding.  I was privileged to maintain a graduate assistantship for all my eight years at UMD—a privilege not enjoyed equitably by all students.  For my first three years, I worked as a research assistant for Professor Bill Falk; I held an ASA Minority Fellowship for three years under the direction of first Leonard Pearlin and then Patricia Hill Collins; and then I taught my own courses for two years on a teaching assistantship.   Having access to a (meager) wage and health insurance, conference travel monies, plus the social prestige of being funded all were important factors in helping me move through the program.   While I’m not aware of where efforts at graduate student and adjunct faculty unionization stand right now (they were always underway during my time there), addressing equity and fairness in terms of these structured elements of work within academia remains pivotal to graduate students success.   My case was no different.   For many of my eight years at UMD, I remained an active participant in the Graduate Student Forum and for a few years served as its Faculty Liaison in part as a way to work in concert with other students on behalf our shared interests.  More broadly, issues of access to and the equitability of funding remain critical for academic departments in a climate of union-busting, budget-cutting, and generally exploitative labor practices that seem increasingly pervasive in higher education.

A second critical feature of my experience at Maryland was the Work-in-Progress (WIP) seminar, spearheaded by Professor Meyer Kestnbaum.  This seminar provided me with a real sense of intellectual community and served as a space where I could have my work critiqued and practice critiquing others’ work, two skills that have proven essential in my new life as a professor.   WIP also helped to establish a socialized system of accountability for my intellectual production—something I desperately needed and still use regularly.   I use the editorial and professional skills I developed over my years of participation in WIP nearly everyday.  Inspired by WIP, Michelle Corbin and Emily Mann and I formed a dissertation writing group (which also temporarily included Amber Nelson, Mike Danza, Craig Lair, and Jeffery Stepnisky) whose purpose was to help improve our scholarship and provide a system of accountability for real production.

In the fall of 2009, I joined the faculty in sociology at Georgia State University in Atlanta.  I currently teach undergraduate and graduate courses in sociological theory, political sociology, and medical sociology.   I have begun the rewarding process of mentoring undergrads and advising graduate student research.  Here, I give thanks to the large body of peers and professors from Maryland and elsewhere for mentoring and advising me—that has been the best preparation for this aspect of my service to my communities.  As I draw near the end of my second year of my professorship, the long transition from Maryland to Georgia State is finally coming to an end.   With family and work issues always intersecting in patterned ways, it has taken time to adjust to my new social role with new responsibilities and added pressures.  In the summer following graduation in 2009, I began a two-year National Institutes of Mental Health (NIHM) postdoctoral training fellowship at the Morehouse School of Medicine in the areas of mental health, substance use, and HIV/AIDS in prisons and jails.   This training fellowship has presented me with new knowledge, new opportunities, and new challenges.  My third year pre-tenure review approaches.  Speaking of which, maybe I should stop writing this alumni update and work on my research …

In terms of my current research, I am currently preparing several different manuscripts that investigate the relationships between race, science, and power in contemporary society.  Some of this research is based on my dissertation which was a Foucauldian genealogy of race and something called “the metabolic syndrome”—a new biomedical category that scientists use to describe the comorbidity of serious metabolic health problems in one body.  Concurrent with my NIMH fellowship, I am also designing a pilot research study that examines the intersections of race, gender, and age that structure the diagnosis of serious mental illness and the distribution of prescription psychotropic drugs in the US prison system.   The study will document how prescription psychotropic drugs are distributed in US prisons and to what extent, if any, prescribing practices vary according to race, gender, and age.

In closing, I want to speak directly to graduate students and share my two cents about how to survive and thrive in graduate school.  First, I strongly encourage graduate students to get serious about publishing their work in academic journals early and often throughout their training process.   I certainly remember hearing this all the time and often felt frustrated and quite removed from this aspect of working life in the academy.   As I navigated the job market and now participate in hiring new faculty at GSU, this issue stands out as one I wish I had paid more attention to at Maryland.   Academic jobs are highly competitive; even one publication can serve to select you into the “Yes” file as opposed to the “No” file in a job search.  While conference presentations are nice (I had eight presentations on my CV in 2009) they are no substitute for peer-reviewed publications. Work together in groups, aim for specialty and online journals that publish quality research, and above all else—keep positive!

Second, remember to develop, utilize, and maintain your professional and intellectual networks.   Establish relationships with allies who are positioned to help you achieve your professional goals, and develop relationships with other graduate students whose work is akin to yours.  I find this hard to do in practice given the busyness of life, but its importance only increases over time.

The third bit of advice I want to share with graduate students is about something sociologists know a lot about:  labor.  Professor Collins always emphasized to me the importance of labor—actual work—in the process of intellectual production.  Any notion that sociological genius, excellence, and/or high levels of production derive from “natural” abilities or the muse is false.  It takes work.  Lots of straight up hard labor.  So keep working.  As a close friend at UMD once joked, completing an intellectual project involves two things: ass and chair.  Production involves your ass sitting in a chair with the document in question open with you reading, thinking, and typing.  If you are not doing those things, you are probably not working.

Lastly, don’t forget to nurture your sociological imaginations.  It seems fitting to me that after years of quasi-neglect, the C.W. Mills Library is finally getting renovated and updated.  In the Millsian spirit, renovate your own imagination and deploy it regularly.  This may come off as elementary or taken-for-granted, but it is important.  Your sociological imagination is what got you to graduate school and its what will take you to the next level, whatever and wherever that is.   What this means to me is that as long as I keep the interests and problems of the least among us in the center of my sociological vision, I have the chance to create knowledge that is meaningful and perhaps, if I’m lucky, transformative.

Tony is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University.  You can reach him at socarh@langate.gsu.edu.

Graduate Student Spotlight: Happy People

We’ve loved doing the newsletter, because we love getting to talk to people (what a great excuse to talk with YOU, friends!). And because this our last hurrah as your Newsletter Editresses, we figured we had better talk to as many people as possible. Thus the graduate student spotlight is a pilot study of our new, fabulous, completely unpublishable, barely peer-reviewed (we’re peers; we count) methodology. It’s called “sneak-attack sampling,” wherein the researcher sneaks up on people and puts them on the spot with a nearly unanswerable question. Sound unethical? Wait until you hear the question …It’s about BEING HAPPY. Gulp. It went something like this: “Tell us, esteemed colleague, how has someone else recently made you happy?” It was a conversation killer. But a few bold and joyful souls offered us some warm, fuzzy, humanizing happy-thoughts. We share them here, because when YOU’RE smiling, graduate students, sometimes the department smiles with you.  Love … Meg & Bev.

Kendra Barber:  My parents came to visit from Brooklyn this past weekend and this made me very  happy!  When my parents visit, that means a weekend where expenses are covered by other people.  This always makes me happy!

Valerie Chepp:  My brother and sister-in-law conceived A BABY!

Tyler Crabb:  My mom sent me an Easter care package filled with candy and photos of my brothers!

Kathleen Denny:  I got married!  The wedding was in San Antonio, TX on Saturday, April 16.

Anya Galli:  My friends and I went out last weekend and made two different human pyramids. I was pleasantly surprised by how effective human pyramid making can be.

Jonathan Jackson:  A friend made dinner for me the other night.  Tostadas!

Joanna Kling:  My mom made really good food for Passover.  She made me really happy!

Marek Posard:  What made me happy this week was Dr. Collins’ lecture in our Contemporary Theory course.

Jillet Sam:  My friend, who is visiting from India, came to visit, and we spent the day together. She helped me clean, we cooked a bit, and we had a great conversation about links between theory and practice, and activism and different types of feminism. That made me happy … Oooh, there was something yesterday that made me REALLY happy. There’s an Indian environmental activist, Medha Patkar, who’s coming to campus, and the organization that I am part of that is bringing her here asked me if the Sociology department could organize a space for her to talk on Friday, and so I emailed Reeve, and he pushed it forward, and now it is happening!

Dave Strohecker:  Okay, okay, this past weekend I went up to New York to visit a buddy who tattoos up there, and he spent the whole day with me, he took me around, he gave me some old clothes — really nice clothes — he bought me lunch, he tattooed me, and told me you’re the coolest guy ever. That made me happy. [giggles and thanks the interviewer]

Daniel Swann:  I’m about to have a baby!  I saw a father playing with his child in the park the other day and this made me really happy.  My son, Sebastian Apollo White Swann, is due on June 10, 2011.  And my birthday is June 9.  There’s a chance we’ll have the same birthday!

Joe Waggle:  My older sister is coming in May.  That will make me happy.  It gives me something to look forward to.

Bill Yagatich:  My wife made a cupcake-tower-birthday-cake with cream cheese icing and sprinkles with a note that said “Happy Birthday, Hubby!”

And it wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t answer our own question!  So, here you go …

Bev:  Mark Gross recently let me take care of his Pug/Boston Terrier-mix puppy named Baxter!  For four whole days!

Meg:  Hmmm. I would have to go with the Easter card my mother-in-law sent me. She made it from a picture of my husband as three-year-old. He’s wearing a smocked romper and he looks like an Easter egg with arms and legs.

Theorizing the Web Conference a Great Success by Nathan Jurgenson & PJ Rey

Conference co-chairs Nathan Jurgenson & PJ Rey deliver opening remarks.

Theorizing the web is not a new project, but critical theories of the web and new technologies have been too few and under-represented at academic conferences. So we decided to throw a conference of our own. After we pitched the idea, several fellow students stepped up in a big way to make the event possible. We want to start by expressing our gratitude to all the members of the planning committee: Tyler Crabb, who, as treasurer, did an incredible job wrangling funds from several different sources; Sarah Wanenchak, our secretary and Jill-of-all-trades, who never failed to keep meeting notes interesting by slipping in a few references to the impending zombie apocalypse; Bill Yagatich, who handled our publicity and tirelessly hassled the Diamondback for appropriate coverage that, astonishingly, they never gave; Dave Strohecker, who coordinated the food and the facilities while playing general to our small army of undergraduate volunteers; and Ned Drummond, who donated her professional design skills to satiate the committee’s endless appetite for new flyers, posters, letters, webpages, etc. We also want to thank Rob Wanenchak who took amazing photos of the event.The graduate-student organized Theorizing the Web 2011 conference took place April 9th on the University of Maryland campus. The program consisted of 14 panels, 2 workshops, 2 symposia (one on social media’s role in the Arab revolutions, the other, a conversation with Martin Irvine, director of the Irvine Contemporary Gallery, on social media and street art), 2 plenary talks (by Saskia Sassen and George Ritzer), and a keynote by danah boyd.  Presenters travelled from locations around the world (including Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Europe). The conference pushed the capacity limits of the venue with over 200 people in attendance throughout the day.  Events ran from registration at 8 AM and ended with an after-party that wound down after 11 PM. The program was packed with as many as five concurrent panels.As reviews of the conference emerge, many attendees are discussing the way this conference differed from traditional academic gatherings, which tend to be discipline-specific, promote the presentation of data instead of critical interpretation and debate over what has already been observed, and tend to feature panels that are organized around themes that are too loose to foster more than superficial discussion between panelists. Alternatively, we put this conference together with the idea that theoretical insights, even at their most difficult and complex, can be made publicly accessible and comprehensible. We also integrated art and multimedia; registration was pay-what-you-want; we kicked things off at a gallery and concluded with a band. The event was interdisciplinary, and even nondisciplinary given the presence of non-academic attendees interested in the topic. What all this suggests is asking the question what should public gatherings to exchange ideas look like? Theorizing the Web was our first attempt as graduate students to shape the academic climate we are moving into.

In addition to the organizing of the conference, what emerged was many interesting new theoretical perspectives on new technologies.

Most important was the discussion of the relationship between the physical and the digital. Internet research in the 20th Century was defined by an assumption of digital dualism—that is, the view that the physical and the digital were separate and distinct spheres of life (think The Matrix). The physical was something “real” and the digital was “virtual.” Developments in 21st Century, however, have forced us to reconsider this dualism and, instead, look at how the digital is increasingly embodied, located and thus “real”, and how the physical world offline is increasingly influenced by the digital. The physical and the digital have imploded, atoms and bits have blurred into an augmented reality; what we believe is the new and proper unit of analysis.  This concept of augmented reality and the cyborg subjects that inhabit it became a predominant theme of the conference (though, certainly, there continue be significant semantic debates). A relative consensus emerged that future research ought to be informed by the assumption that the online and offline world are co-implicated in one another.

Indeed, the conference itself became an example of our augmented reality due to the physical and digital layers of discussion during the day. Roughly 2000 tweets using the #ttw2011 hashtag augmented the face-to-face meeting. The digital and physical conversations influenced each other, creating an augmented conference experience for attendees.

In the end, we tried to organize the conference we would want to attend. And all those who gathered that day created an atmosphere of exciting, fun, smart and important theorizing about new social realities. We would like to thank everyone who attended, presented and helped us organize this event (special thanks to our organizing committee, Tyler Crabb, Sarah Wanenchak, William Yagatich, Dave Strohecker, Ned Drummond, and Sean Gray). We look forward to continuing to engage in this on-going task of innovating how critical theories about society can be disseminated publicly.

An archive of the conference can be found at http://www.cyborgology.org/theorizingtheweb/

Last, the conversations about the enmeshment of society and technology that started at the conference continue on the Cyborgology blog: thesocietypages.com/cyborgology.

This post will also appear in the next issue of Footnotes.

Admitted Students Day by Karina Havrilla

Application season has finally come to an end, but before our new cohort of students made a decision on joining us at UMD, many of them came to visit the campus for our 4th Annual Admitted Students Day. We made our initial offers of admission for the incoming cohort in late February and extended an invitation to those prospective students to join us on March 28th to have a formal meet and greet with faculty and students in our department.  We had eleven prospective students visiting us from all over the country, including Kansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and North Carolina.  By this point, many of the students who were visiting had narrowed down their decisions to UMD and another institution, so this was our time to show them what our department has to offer.

The prospective students arrived a day earlier, on March 27th and were met by their hosts for the night. Many of the prospective students and their hosts attended the welcome party on Sunday evening hosted by PJ Rey at his home. After enjoying a nice evening getting to know a few of our students informally, the prospective students called it a night to prepare for the next day’s official events.

Monday morning’s events started at approximately 8:30am when the hosts were dropping their prospective students off in ASY1101 for breakfast catered by Goodies To Go. The prospective students had a chance to mingle with each other for about 30 minutes before I officially welcomed them to the department and thanked them for attending our Admitted Students Day. They were then welcomed by Bill Falk, Graduate Director, John Pease, Associate Chair, and Reeve Vanneman, Chair. The three of them gave their thoughts on why the department is great, and how we are becoming a better sociology PhD program. They answered questions that prospective students had about the changing program, teaching, and funding (all great questions!).

The next session was the Faculty Q&A. During this hour, the prospective students had the opportunity to ask questions to a few of our faculty members, including Jeff Lucas, Patricio Korzeniewicz, and Kris Marsh. The prospective students, along with a few of our students and faculty, walked over to Stamp Student Union for a catered lunch. We had a nice spread of sandwiches, salads, and desserts thanks to Good Tidings catering services. During the meal, students and faculty had a chance to chat with the prospective students on topics varying from life on campus to current research projects and future research projects. My observation: all lunch attendees had a nice, relaxing lunch!

Many of our prospective students were eager to get to the second half of the day as it included three time blocks when students could meet one-on-one with some of our faculty, or they could sit in on Dana Fisher’s Qualitative Methods class. Later in the afternoon, a few current students sat on the Grad Student Q&A panel, which I’m sure, was quite informative for the prospective students. The day concluded with a Tea Time and more informal chats in CW Mills Lounge.

Thanks to all students and faculty who helped out on Admitted Students Day. Without the efforts of all in the department, we would not have been able to pull off this event.

Karina is the department’s Graduate Coordinator.

Professor Contributions: Conference Papers to Publications

The editresses asked our Sociology professors the following:  Do any of you have any small bites of wisdom on how to do transition conference papers to publications?  Drs. Patricia Hill Collins, Bill Falk, Rashawn Ray, and David Segal replied to our request.  Check out their advice:

Dr. Patricia Hill Collins:

** Select two possible journal outlets for your conference paper, a first and second choice, that you think are a good match for the content of your paper.

** Read/skim a selective sampling of RECENT articles in the journal(s) you selected to get a sense of what they publish and the formats most used by people who have successfully published there.

** Imagine how your work might fit into that journal, what issues it might speak to that are not adequately covered.

** If possible, locate a benchmark article in that journal that uses a format that might work for you (content need not be similar, in fact, if it is too similar, you might get rejected on those grounds).

** Revise your article, using this research on your journal(s) re: content and format as guides.

** Submit and move on. Repeat for your next conference paper.

Dr. Bill Falk:

My 2 cents worth:  Find a published paper on a topic akin to yours or one using the same methodology.  Study hard its structure — how it’s organized, how much space is given to statement of the problem, discussion of methods, analysis/results and discussion.  Then work hard to make your paper look as much like a published one as you can.

Dr. Rashawn Ray:

Use conferences as a deadline to have a completed draft. The ASA schedule is great for this. Prepare a paper in the fall to submit to ASA, SSSP, or ABS in January. Then work on the
paper during the spring and summer to present in August at the national meetings. Unfortunately, you may not get great feedback during the small window you have to present at conferences so plan to have in-depth conversations with people about your paper and even bring copies for others to read and provide comments on later.

Dr. David Segal:

1.  When you first write a paper, do so with a view to where you would ultimately like it published, and cite appropriate papers that have appeared in that journal. Journal editors
like to be able to show that their journal occupies a niche in which knowledge is being cumulated.

2.  Attend to comments made on your paper at conferences at which it is presented. The person making the comment may turn out to be a reviewer down the road, and will not want to be disregarded.

3.  Anticipate that the people you cite in your paper may well be asked to review it (how else do you think editors select reviewers?).

Thank you for your advice, Drs. Collins, Falk, Ray, and Segal!

Thank You Graduate Student Forum (GSF), Fall 2010-Spring 2011

As my brief tenure as GSF president draws to a close, I’d like to thank and extend my sincere appreciation to the many graduate students, faculty and staff members who have contributed to GSF operations this year. I think we had a great and productive year, and it has all been due to the effort and teamwork of the GSF membership.  Thank you again and have a great summer! – Kathleen

Administration Team
Kathleen Denny, President
Lori Reeder, Treasurer

Community Building Team
Meg Austin Smith & Beverly Pratt, Department News
PJ Rey, C. Wright Mills Rep
Mandi Martinez & Daniel Swann, Social Chairs

Representative Team
Joanna Kling, Pre-candidacy Rep
Mary Kniskern, PhD Rep
Kendra Barber, Valerie Chepp, Tyler Crabb, Crosby Hipes, Marek Posard, Dave Strohecker, General GSF Reps
Aleia Clarke, UMD Graduate Student Government Rep

Committee Representatives               
Meg Austin Smith & Molly Clever, Admissions Reps
Anya Galli, Policy Committee Rep
Kathleen Denny, Awards Committee Rep
Joanna Kling, Undergraduate Committee Rep

Good News! Drs. Michelle Budig, Philip Cohen, & Michael Rendall

Professor Michelle Budig will join us in September, 2012, from UMass, Amherst. Her research has focused on gender, employment, family, and work/family reconciliation policies. She has received support from the National Science Foundation and the Humboldt Research Fellowship to examine how family policies on women’s employment and family formation affect gendered outcomes. Budig’s research on the motherhood wage penalty, in the American Sociplogical Review was recently named one of the top ten most influential articles in the field of Organizations, Occupations, and Work by the American Sociological Association. In 2003 Budig received the Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Research Excellence in Families & Work.

Professor Philip Cohen will join us from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in January 2012. Professor Cohen has published widely on gender work and family issues, for example, the relationship between cohabitation, earnings, and the division of household labor; the role of family structure in facilitating or impeding women’s employment; the effects of labor market racial/ethnic compositionon racial and gender inequalities. He is the author of two books currently under contract: Management Matters: Gender Inequality and Diversity Among American Managers (Stanford University Press) with Matt L. Huffman; and The Family: Diversity, Inequality and Social Change (W.W.Norton and Company).

Professor Michael Rendall will join us in August from Rand where he has been the Director of the Population Research Center. Professor Rendall is a demographer whose research has investigated migration in the U.S., Mexico, and the European Union. Recently he has investigated household breakups in New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina. He has also published on demographic methods and statistics, for instance on the possibility of combining survey and population data on birth and family. Professor Rendall will be an Associate Director of the Maryland Population Research Center next fall.