While 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.
As we bring the 2012-3 academic year to a close, our department is experiencing an exciting combination of changes and achievements!
Over the past year, we have received many wonderful additions to our faculty, such as Assistant Professor Rashawn Ray, Associate Professor Liana Sayer, and Research Professor Chris Bachrach. In addition, we spent the year conducting several exciting new searches, and over the summer we will officially announce the very fruitful outcome of our efforts. Together, all these recruitments are simultaneously deepening some of the traditional strengths of our department, while opening up new areas of collaborative work and study.
Our graduate students continue to show great success. To take but two examples, Shanna Brewton-Tiayon was selected as a winner in the 2013 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), and Kathleen Denny received a Graduate School Dissertation Fellowship. Congratulations to both, and all other graduate students in our program, for their achievements. Continue reading
Last year ended on a sad note, as we experienced the loss of Harriet Presser. Reeve (with the assistance of others) wrote a very thoughtful obituary in the last issue of Footnotes [http://www.asanet.org/footnotes/septoct12/obit_0912.html#obit4]. Harriet Presser made a huge contribution to the reputation of our department, and it was comforting to see, at her memorial, how many lives she had touched.
We begin a new academic year with lots of news. After fulfilling a two-year Robert Wood Johnson post-doctoral fellowship at U.C. Berkeley, Rashawn Ray has now joined us in-residence as our newest Assistant Professor. Soon, we will be receiving Liana Sayer (currently at Ohio State), who will be joining us starting next Spring as an Associate Professor. We have admitted a (large) cohort of wonderful new students into our Ph.D. program. We have welcomed Erika Hoff (Administrative Coordinator) and Lindsey Lennon (Program Management Specialist) as the latest additions to our staff. And some of the office space in our department has been (or is in the process of being) renovated, providing a greatly improved setting for the Program on Society and the Environment (PSE, coordinated by Professor Dana Fisher) and the Time-Use Lab (to be coordinated by Professor Sayer).
I am very excited about the accomplishments of our faculty and students. I’ll mention three noteworthy events. Recently, Stanley Presser was recognized as a Distinguished University Professor: he joins in that rank our existing DUPs, Patricia Hill Collins and George Ritzer. Melissa Milkie was able to secure university and college support for a new Culture Lab that will focus on content analysis. And David Segal was instrumental in facilitating a $1 million donation to our university, to be used as a full veteran scholarship. These are very good news, and they have served to enhance the prestige of our department.
I would be remiss in this brief letter as new chair if I failed to acknowledge the very effective leadership that Reeve Vanneman provided to our department for the past three years. His act will be very tough to follow. Thank you, Reeve!
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…