Category Archives: University of Texas at Austin Sociology

UT Austin Urban Ethnography Lab Featured in ASA Culture Section Newsletter

Originally published in Section Culture: Newsletter of the ASA Culture Section. Winter 2018. Vol. 30 Issue 1

By Nino Bariola, Katherine Sobering, and Javier Auyero

Ethan works at a luxury hotel in downtown Austin, Texas that caters to the 1%—elites and celebrities that visit for the South by Southwest music festival, the Formula One races, and other mega events. His job isn’t by any means unimportant for the reproduction of the social order of Austin’s “new urban economy.” Yet handling the instability, meager wages, stress and emotional labor demanded by his job takes a toll: “We [service workers] are the genuine junkies…” Ethan explains. “Waiting tables and working in hospitality is very, very stressful and demanding, you know? And so all that fuels the fire.” The comparative benefits of luxury hospitality work do little to address his social suffering. As Katherine Sobering, a Graduate Fellow of the Urban Ethnography Lab, reveals, Ethan also struggles with addiction, which he explains as “a product of the [service] industry.”

Sobering is part of the group of graduate students who wrote Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City with professor Javier Auyero. The book portrays the life stories of people like Ethan who struggle with precarity as Austin consolidates into a “creative city,” a trendy hub for technology and finance. While sociologists have produced excellent accounts of “objective” inequalities in changing urban contexts, “We are on less certain terrain when it comes to understanding the many ways in which individuals, alone or in groups, make sense of and cope with these inequalities,” argues Auyero. “These experiences matter because they oftentimes do the cultural work necessary to perpetuate the social order, but at other times they serve as the basis for challenging it.”

Invisible in Austin is the first project of the Urban Ethnography Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. Discussions and debates that started in one of Auyero’s graduate seminars transformed into a collective project, and eventually, a collaborative book. In one of the journal articles about the project, Caitlyn Collins (now an assistant professor at Washington University, St. Louis), UT graduate student Katherine Jensen, and Auyero explain, “the book sought to intervene in the local public sphere by shedding sociological light on the sources and forms of affliction and on the manifold ways in which inequalities are lived and experienced on a daily basis.” Exemplary of the potential of public sociology, the book today is widely utilized as a learning material in high schools and college classrooms to teach about the often hidden and sometimes forgotten social problems associated with the so-called “creative class” and growth of  “new urban economies.”

Housed in UT’s Sociology Department, the Urban Ethnography Lab has been a stronghold of ethnographic and qualitative research since its inception in 2012, organizing and sponsoring conferences and talks with leading scholars and providing graduate student fellows with guidance, resources, and space for individual and collective scholarly creation. Of note are regular workshops like the biweekly brown bags where students and faculty present their work. As Invisible in Austin shows, many fellows and faculty affiliates are invested in the study of cultural dynamics and particularly how social inequalities in terms of class, race, and gender are (re)produced, legitimized, or challenged via cultural work.

The Lab brings together a growing number of faculty who use ethnographic methods. Christine Williams recent work explores gender inequality and diversity culture in the oil and gas industry, and her previous and widely-cited book, Inside Toyland, inspects low-wage retail work to expose how the social inequalities of gender, race, and class inequalities are embedded within consumer culture. Sharmila Rudrappa’s book, Discounted Life, is a fascinating account of the cultural politics of exchange in transnational surrogacy. Gloria González-López’s book unveils the intricate cultures of gender inequality as well as the social organization of secrets and silence that enable incest and sexual violence in contemporary Mexican families. Harel Shapira—who leads one of the seminars on ethnographic methods—currently studies gun culture in the U.S. Sarah Brayne’s work examines the use of “big data” within the criminal justice system, and particularly how the adoption of predictive analytics is changing views and practices of surveillance in law enforcement organizations. Daniel Fridman’s research looks at the intersections of culture and the economy in his book, Freedom from Work, which explores the social world of financial self-help in Argentina and the U.S.

Graduate student fellows carry out qualitative and ethnographic research across the globe, from Brazil and Peru to India, Nepal, Sweden, and the U.S. They are developing innovative research questions, including: “What are human rights organizations doing to get social media taken more seriously in courts?” (Anna V. Banchik); “How do ‘bad jobs’ become legitimized as ‘cool’ and ‘crafty’ occupations in the Peruvian culinary field? (Nino Bariola); “How do people working in the gig economy conceive of work and choice?” (Kathy Hill); “How do micro-level interactions within a family unit influence whether these individuals choose to utilize formal care services for their elderly family members?” (Corey J. McZeal); “How do Chinese rural residents who stay in migrant-origin communities continue to support urban migration even if economic returns from migrant workers become increasingly small and unpredictable?” (Ruijie Peng); “How are stereotypes about cannabis dealers reconfigured during legalization?” (Katherine K. Rogers); “How has Japan’s political crisis after the nuclear disaster in 2011 set the stage for emerging anti-racism politics? (Vivian Shaw); “How do Tunisian women’s groups protect their existing (secular) rights during an Islamist-led transition to democracy?” (Maro Youssef).

The culture of intellectual collaboration and support continues today. Most recently, Auyero and a new group of graduate fellows are studying the political culture of the working class in Texas. Teams of graduate students conducted fieldwork in five Texas towns experiencing drastic economic, socio-political, and environmental transformations to examine how communities cope with and make political sense of inequalities. The group is now extending the model of Invisible in Austin to use the qualitative data they collected to write a book that will richly describe and theorize political culture in everyday life.

In the Urban Ethnography Lab, the craft of sociology is undertaken collectively and horizontally through the sharing ideas, field notes, proposals, and papers. It is a place where students and faculty come together to provide, as Loïc Wacquant accurately captures, the “mutual support and crisscrossing control at multiple stages [to] help each [other] to fashion a better research object than would have been possible on one’s own…” As messy as ethnographic research may appear from the outside, at UT Austin, cohorts of sociologists now have a space to learn what it takes to produce rigorous ethnographic research in both theory and practice.

Follow the Thread and Leave Room for Serendipity: Reflections on the PHS Graduate Workshop with Myra Marx Ferree

by Marta Ascherio

Roter faden is the German term for “red thread,” and is used to mean common thread. “Unlike most of German academia, it borrows from sewing,” said University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor of Sociology Myra Marx Ferree, during UT Austin Sociology’s annual Power, History, and Society workshop. “Women’s practical knowledge.” Whether we intend it or not, there is always a red thread in what we study. It’s about what we do with the red thread that matters.

The red thread that runs through Dr. Ferree’s work is now emerging as a network, called the Society of Gender Professionals. This society will set professional standards, share job opportunities, and work to institutionalize the legitimacy of gender experts. She is particularly interested in how expertise gets used, and how certain types of expertise are credited or discredited. For instance, one of her students researches family law reform in Chile, and finds that gender experts are discredited, with economists being perceived as a more legitimate form of authority.

Dr. Ferree also discussed the debates that took place in the 1980s about whether Women’s Studies should be its own discipline or a sub-specialty in another discipline. “Both ways actually succeeded beyond the expectations of anyone on either side of that debate,” Dr. Ferree told us, which is refreshing to hear in a moment when it seems like the only constant is the reproduction of inequality, and even progressive social movements often re-package existing power relationships.

In the first few minutes of Dr. Ferree’s arrival, as we set up food, she engaged every single graduate student, as attentively as if we were her advisees, commenting on the relevance of our research topics, suggesting literature, and offering introductions.  She leaned back in her chair, so much at ease. Here is some of the advice she had for graduate students:

Keep track of your ideas. C. Wright Mills kept all his ideas on notecards, said Dr. Ferree, and Charles Tilly kept a filing cabinet full of all the topics he would write about if he lived to be 150. She advised us to do the same. “You can’t pursue every idea, so you have to cut them off, but don’t throw them away!”

Leave room for serendipity. “I don’t pick projects. Projects pick me,” said Dr. Ferree. “When we do our dissertations, we often think that we choose them, but when we dig a little bit deeper, we see that it has to do with where we are located in time and space.”

Avoid identifying with one particular method. More than using quantitative or qualitative methods, Dr. Ferree observed, scholars seem to have “quantitative or qualitative identities.” She believes this quantitative/qualitative binary is a barrier to being relevant. Prioritize staying relevant, she said, and learning new methods. Methods are not something you learn once and set aside. You will be learning methods for the rest of your life.

Remember that methods and theories can be subject to trends. Dr. Ferree explained that sociological methods and theoretical approaches can fall in and out of fashion. For instance, while she was writing her dissertation, multi-dimensional scaling was all the rage, but the way she learned it became obsolete shortly after she spent a year grappling with it. If you are interested in getting a job, consider learning or using trendy methods, but do not forget that they may be subject to change. You have to see what works for you.


Marta Ascherio is a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Sociology and a graduate fellow of the Urban Ethnography Lab. Her research interests include immigration, crime, and social control.

UT Austin Sociology at SWS in Atlanta

by Jamie O’Quinn and Katie K. Rogers

Feminist sociologists from UT Austin and members of the department’s gender working group, Fem(me) Sem, were well-represented at the annual winter meeting of Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) this year in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference offered presentations, sessions, and workshops that engaged the theme of “They Persisted: Feminism, Work, Activism, Resistance.”

This year’s meeting addressed pedagogy and academic freedom in the age of hate speech and “fake news,” and tackled ongoing issues of race and racism in the academy, the discipline of sociology, and SWS as an organization. SWS President Adia Harvey Wingfield of Washington University in St. Louis convened plenary sessions on topics such as gender and precarious labor, feminism in the academy, and race, gender, and feminist activism.

(Left to right) UT-Austin PhD Kirsten Dellinger (now Professor of Sociology at the University of Mississippi) with current graduate students Jess Goldstein-Kral and Caitlin Carroll

Plenary sessions and workshops spotlighted the voices of faculty and activists of color who, in addition to sharing critiques of existing systems, offered strategies for the path forward. They urged feminists to make careful decisions about how to reform and transform their departments without experiencing burnout. They reminded young scholars that joy exists in research and teaching, even within institutions that can feel impossible to change. They also pushed white feminists in the audience to reflect on their own politics of solidarity, and consider how they might show up more effectively to build coalitions with feminists of color in their institutions, organizations, and networks. Ultimately, they challenged all feminist scholars to, as stated by sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom of Virgina Commonwealth University, “figure out the difference between performance politics and solidarity.”

Sociologist Kimberly K. Hoang asks a question during a plenary session on feminism in the academy

A contingent of feminist sociologists from UT Austin represented the department, with presentations that centered gender in varying ways. One highlight was a session that grew from Fem(me) Sem‘s Spring 2017 conference, “The Gender of Ethnography and the Ethnography of Gender,” which was organized by a group of  sociology graduate students who were interested in using feminist methods in their research. The session, called “Feminist Ethnographies: Dilemmas from the Field,” featured Professor Christine Williams as a discussant, and UT Austin graduate students Shannon Malone, Vrinda Marwah, Ruijie Peng, Beth Prosnitz, and Katie K. Rogers as panelists. They grappled with a number of questions related to feminist methods, including what exactly makes a research design “feminist,” how to manage demands for “proof” in response to situated knowledge, what it means to “gain access,” and how to reckon with accusations of “bias,” particularly with respect to projects that center a researcher’s own community (“me-search”) or emerge from explicitly feminist commitments.

(Left to right) “Feminist Ethnographies” graduate student panelists Vrinda Marwah, Shannon Malone, Katie K. Rogers, Ruijie Peng, and Beth Proznitz
(Left to right) Professor Christine Williams and panelists

UT Austin also exhibited a presence among the individual paper presentations, with graduate scholars sharing feminist research on topics that ranged from intimate relationships to the gendered state to issues of gender, race, and labor.

A list of individual papers by UT Austin graduate students is as follows: 

Caitlin Carroll
“Antiviolence Organizations in Sweden and the Reproduction of Gender Regimes”

Jess Goldstein-Kral
“The Relationship Dynamics of Polyamorous Triads: Resisting and Reproducing Inequality”

Jamie O’Quinn
“Emerging Sexualities: Girls’ Sexual Agency and the State”

Katie K. Rogers
“Gender, Race, and Class in the U.S. Legal Cannabis Industry”

Kara Takasaki
“Racialized Masculinities: How Work Shapes the Lives of Asian American Men”

All told,  the feminist scholarship and engagement of graduate students, alumni, and faculty affiliated with UT Austin Sociology helped make this year’s SWS conference an event to remember.

 


Jamie O’Quinn is a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Sociology. Her research interests center around sexuality, gender, race and ethnicity, and social inequality. She is currently researching state efforts to regulate young people’s sexualities.

Katie K. Rogers is a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her current research examines how women who work in the U.S. legal cannabis industry reconfigure the meanings of “dealers” and “users” during legalization.

 

Robert L. Reece in Inside Higher Ed

Robert L. Reece, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, has published a reflective piece about the tensions for black academics in a predominately white discipline.

He writes:

There is a homelessness among black academics — an ever-present tension between who we used to be and who we have become — and a reckoning with the reality that neither our old spaces nor our new ones can truly offer us the sense of belonging that we desire. Perhaps it’s double consciousness, to use W. E. B. Du Bois’s classic description of being black in America: “Two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body … this longing to … merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost …”

But perhaps it is something else. Maybe Du Bois is too generous. E. Franklin Frazier is more critical in “The Failure of the Negro Intellectual.” He says, “The new Negro middle class is the stratum of the Negro population that is becoming integrated most rapidly because of its education and its ability to maintain certain standards of living. In its hope to achieve acceptance in American life, it would slough off everything that is reminiscent of its Negro origin and its Negro folk background. At the same time integration is resulting in inner conflicts and frustrations because Negroes are still outsiders in American life.”

Read more at Inside Higher Ed!

 

On the Market: Corey McZeal

We’re continuing our “On the Market” series featuring UT Austin graduate students who are on the job market! Up next is Corey McZeal, a 6th year doctoral candidate and Urban Ethnography Lab Graduate Fellow:

Tell us about your research. What are you working on?

My dissertation is a study of people who provide unpaid care for their family members. Most of them are caregivers of elderly people, and the majority of the care recipients have dementia or some other cognitive impairment. Half of my research involved volunteering at an adult day center (ADC) for 18 months. This facility serves the same basic function as a day care for children does, but it’s for adults with early memory loss. Whichever family members the care recipient lives with brings them to the ADC in the morning and picks them up in the evening, allowing that person to work or take a break from the care process. The other half of my research involves in-depth interviews with 20 caregivers. About half of these individuals utilize the ADC I volunteered with.

How did you prepare for the process of going on the market (preparing materials, selecting the right job openings, sending out applications, etc.)?

There was a writing group over the summer for all of us who were going on the market, and that really helped me get my materials finished early. After that, I already had a strong framework of the materials that I would need for every job. As far as selecting the right job openings, I mostly filtered everything by research area. I considered any job posting I found with a family or health-related focus.

How are you balancing all of your responsibilities this semester?

I’ve gotten much more organized since I started using a calendar. Setting deadlines for myself is imperative, because once you get to this stage of grad school everything is up to you. Sure, your committee will guide you, but you have more freedom than at any other time in grad school. On one hand it’s a great thing because you’re only spending time on things you (hopefully) enjoy and you can organize your time any way you see fit, but if you lose focus or motivation, there isn’t as much structure to keep you on track. It’s not like early on when you have classes and a syllabus that outlines your semester, so you have to do all of that yourself and then stick to it.

What is the highlight experience of your research during your time at UT?

Interacting with the members of the ADC was great. I learned so much about everyone there over the course of 18 months. The staff was great and helped me in any way that they could, but building rapport with the members was especially rewarding. Since they’re all in various states of cognitive decline, it took a long time for them to consistently remember who I was. But over time I got to know them and they got to know me. Learning about their pasts was amazing, because many of them had lived truly exciting and unique lives.

What is the highlight experience of your teaching during your time at UT?

Teaching has been my favorite experience at UT. I’ve been lucky to have three classes of my own, and each one has been great. The best experience so far came this semester on the very first day of class. Since I have 135 students and it’s very difficult to get to know them individually, I give each one an index card and ask them to answer a few questions about themselves. One question I ask is “Why are you taking this course?” A large number of students mentioned that they had heard great things about the class from friends and reviews. A lot of students have spoken to me about this throughout the semester and have said that they had high expectations based on what they had heard about the course and me. I know I’m doing a few things right if students are actually excited to come to class and care enough to tell others how much they liked it.

How are you practicing self-care?

Do something non-academic every day, as long as it’s constructive, relaxing, and not addictive. Watch a movie, read, exercise, or anything like that. Make sure you have friends who aren’t sociologists or PhD students, because those people keep you sane, and take breaks when you need to. Your body will tell you when it’s being worked too hard.

What is your biggest piece(s) of advice for those going on the academic job market next year or in the next few years?

Start early. The sooner you get a rough draft of your cover letter, teaching statement, research statement, etc., the better. If you do a lot of work up front, it reduces the time you’ll have to spend rushing to get things submitted at the application deadline. If you can have a good draft of your materials by mid-summer, you’re in great shape to apply to as many school as you need to since the deadlines usually begin in late August. After that, it’s just a matter of tweaking each document to fit the school you’re applying to.

On the Market: Robert W. Ressler

Our “On the Market” series is back, featuring UT-Austin graduate students who are on the job market! This series provides sociology graduate students a space to share their research and exchange advice and insights about the job search process.

This installment features Robert W. Ressler, a 5th-year doctoral candidate and Population Research Center Trainee:

Tell us about your research. What are you working on?

My mixed-methods research focuses on the intersection of community organizations and educational inequalities. With an attention to race/ethnicity and immigration, I investigate questions that ask how nonprofit organizations influence community dynamics and educational opportunities. One project I’m working on uses Twitter data to evaluate the nonprofit sector impact on community well-being.

How did you prepare for the process of going on the market (preparing materials, selecting the right job openings, sending out applications, etc.)?

The department supports a job market group. Each week over the summer professors volunteered their time to meet with ABDs about the different parts of the job market process. It was sort of a demystification process that answered questions like “What is a good research statement,” helped us to write our materials in a timely manner, and to get feedback on things before using them.

How do you stay organized when it comes to the job market?

For me this was not a huge deal. I structure my productivity around a normal work day, so that requires keeping up with deadlines, meetings, and concerted times of productivity. I just substituted the amount of time for about one project and dedicated it to the job market. Practically this means that I work on market stuff as much as I need to on Mondays to prep to apply to a few jobs a day throughout the week leading up to major deadlines (September 15th, September 30th, October 15th, etc.). I also have a spreadsheet with job requirements for myself and information that my letter writers requested. I’ve been updating this frequently along the same deadline schedule, and because new jobs are posted throughout the fall.

What is it like being on the market at ASA? What are the keys to success?

The job market is one of the only times in my life I find myself openly saying something like this, but it’s a miserable experience. Especially at ASA. You can get so bogged down by the anxiety and tension that is palpable every time you’re in a situation to talk about your research. So, the best thing to do is to practice your elevator pitch (something we did in the workgroup and Mary Rose helped us with—thanks Mary!), and just remember to breathe. When you tell people you’re on the market they will genuinely listen to what you have to say, showing a level of interest in your work that you might not have experienced from people before. Everybody in my experience was very encouraging and that sustained my enthusiasm for pursuing a career in this discipline.

What is the highlight experience of your research during your time at UT?

My mentors have been phenomenal. I have been lucky to work with both Rob Crosnoe and Pam Paxton and that has led to innumerable learning experiences. In terms of actual research, just the other week a woman I was recruiting into my dissertation study looked me in the eyes and sincerely thanked me for the work I was doing because it was important to her; that was pretty great.

What is the highlight experience of your teaching during your time at UT?

I’ve really enjoyed all of the opportunities the college provides for learning about the teaching process. I TA’d for one semester so I have great memories of those classes, but the highlight would have to be things like the “difficult dialogues” symposium I attended. Not only can these things spruce up the teaching experience section of your C.V., but they provide real opportunities to develop your teaching skills, and ways to talk about those skills.

How are you practicing self-care?

I go to the gym, schedule a mental health visit once a year as a check-in, ride my bike into work, eat a vegetarian diet, sleep in when I’m tired, attend events in the department, and try not to work on the weekends. We really do not make enough money over these five to eight years of graduate school to overwork ourselves. You have to be productive, but you’re going to have to be productive through tenure, and even later on when you’re busy with the added pressure of departmental business, so it’s okay to purposefully keep some “you” time in your schedule.

What is your biggest piece(s) of advice for those going on the market next year or in the next few years?

Seriously evaluate where you are in your timeline and make a decision based on what you think you could be successful doing. Take a look at your C.V.: do you have a first authored publication? A co-authored one? It’s pretty much a requirement to have something published. The next thing is to think about whether you have articles under review or articles that have an R&R. These demonstrate the ability to remain productive for the near future. You also should consider how far along you are on your dissertation. Can you finish it in a year? You won’t have a lot of time to work on it, because you’ll be busy, so make sure you’re confident in your ability to finish it if you get a job. If you think you’re competitive, go for it! It’s just another part of the game. Once you’ve made the decision, take on major hurdles as they arrive, and try not to spend too much time (or emotional energy) dedicated to job market stuff.

Power, History and Society Kicks Off the New Year

by Andrew Messamore

The Power, History and Society (PHS) network held its Fall Social last week on September 20th  to network and have fun in the field of political, historical and comparative sociology at UT Austin. Founded in 2006, PHS is now entering its 11th year in the Department of Sociology and continuing to foster a space for intellectual exchange around both classic themes in sociology and new subjects including revolutions in the Middle East, environmental issues and land rights in Latin America, call-out culture in queer activist movements and the global politics of disease and epidemics.

With a full room, drinks and pizza in the Glickman Center, PHS coordinators described opportunities for involvement from first-year students in coordinating events and our successful speaker series. Past speakers PHS has brought include Randall Collins, Theda Skocpol and Ann Swidler, to name a few. Interested students and PHS coordinators also considered resurrecting the Middle East Working Group and Social Movement and Collective Behavior Working Group (SMCB), co-sponsoring events with other Sociology working groups and working towards a workshop on applying for funding in historical and political sociology.

For the fall, PHS is preparing to host a workshop with Dr. Rita Stephan, a UT Austin Sociology alumnus and PHS founder in the U.S. State Department on applied political sociology. Stay tuned for another PHS meet and greet off campus in October!

If you are interested in learning more about PHS, make sure to sign up for the listserv with Mario Venegas at Mario.venegas@utexas.edu


Andrew Messamore is ​a first-year doctoral student in Department of Sociology. His research interests center on welfare states, credit markets and political sociology. 

A Fond Farewell to my Beloved Community

I am truly grateful to reflect on almost 14 years as part of the creative and impactful community of Sociologists at the University of Texas at Austin. We have made a difference in each others’ lives, upheld the university’s mission to change the world and embodied Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s  vision of the Beloved Community as members of a diverse and passionate body of citizen scholars. I have had the pleasure and privilege of learning from you, collaborating on programs and enjoying some of the best conversations of my life. Thank you so much for supporting my creativity, enduring the prickly and the heartfelt moments and for taking the opportunity to be playful. My camera and I are on to new adventures, but please take a moment to enjoy the brief retrospective below.  I want to say special thanks to Sheldon Ekland-Olson and Gloria Gonzalez-Lopez, my partners in programs.  You have enriched my life immeasurably.  To Rob Crosnoe and Julie Kniseley, thanks so much for your real and practical support. And Kevin, you are my brother.  To the many wonderful graduate students who are also friends, much love to you and yours.  It has been an honor to share your journey.

 

Graduate Student Minority Liaison Initiative Celebrates Students of Color

With generous support from the College of Liberal Arts, the Depart of Sociology piloted a new program aimed at diversity and inclusion.

This program, the Student Minority Liaison initiative, is an effort led by Carmen Gutierrez, Shannon Malone, and Gloria Gonzalez-Lopez (our faculty Minority Liaison), with support from Rob Crosnoe, Becky Pettit, Christine Williams, and with assistance from Evelyn Porter and Julie Kniseley.

The Student Minority Liaison initiative is designed to enhance inclusion by making diversity and the experiences of underrepresented minorities a priority in all areas of the department.

As part of the Student Minority Liaison initiative, we launched a Brown Bag Series focused on underrepresented minority scholars and their research. We kicked off this Brown Bag Series by honoring four of our department’s graduate students who are all making successful transitions into academic jobs in the fall of 2017. These scholars include Anima Adjepong, Shantel Buggs, Hyung Jeong Ha, and Cristian Paredes.

The Brown Bag presentation consisted of each one of these students sharing their experiences on the academic job market and offering their advice for other students navigating this process in the future. Below summarizes each person’s unique background, academic position, experience on the job market, and advice to fellow graduate students.

ANIMA ADJEPONG, PhD (@amankrado)

Anima is joining the faculty in the Sociology Department at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. During graduate school, Anima conducted research on a range of social issues related to race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and migration. Anima’s dissertation is a study of a black immigrant community, their political and cultural formations, and how they relate to and shape the discourse in both the United States and their African country of origin.

While conducting this work and navigating the academic job market, Anima decided not to conform to the expectations of others, but instead marched to the beat of her own drum. This decision was also strategic to Anima in that the process of staying true to herself ensured the work she could expect to take on as a tenure-track professor would be consistent with the work she was committed to conducting.

This way of navigating the academic job market also ensured Anima with a great deal of self care. By checking in with herself and her well-being throughout the dissertation-writing process, Anima was able to uphold both the commitment she made to her work and the style of working that best suited her strengths. This strategy helped her fulfill her basic needs, including finding joy throughout a year filled with job applications and dissertation writing.

Anima also worked with a small group of people on the academic job market who helped her in multiple ways. This group helped members organize deadlines to prepare materials for the job market. People in the group provided feedback for one another, offered accountability, and shared announcements for jobs. Working in this collective space also provided Anima with important emotional support during a time filled with uncertainty and anxiety.

SHANTEL BUGGS, PhD (@sgbuggs)

Shantel is joining the faculty at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida with an appointment in the Department of Sociology as well as an affiliated appointment in Program in African American Studies. Throughout graduate school, Shantel’s research has centered on the ways race and ethnicity and gender and sexuality shape family and romantic relationships. Shantel’s dissertation investigated how mixed-race women navigate race as well as form and maintain relationships in the context of online dating.

Through the process of applying for academic jobs, Shantel juggled a number of responsibilities given her involvement in external teaching positions, service work, and planning committees. Because of her multiple commitments, Shantel emphasized the ways she was kind to herself by being realistic with her work—sometimes extending deadlines associated with getting grades out for students needed throughout the semester.

Despite her heavy workload, Shantel applied for academic positions widely and broadly. Shantel emphasized the way this practice reflects a common fear among graduate students of not getting an academic job. If this is a decision made my other graduate students, Shantel recommends making strategic choices along the way. For example, Shantel advises to be sure to make double use of the work required from both the job market and the dissertation. Publishing should represent work from your dissertation. A job talk should serve as an outline for your next dissertation chapter.

Shantel also recommends that graduate students use deadlines for conferences or other events to push work required for the job market and the completion of the dissertation. Doing so helps you make progress in your daily tasks associated with graduate student life during the process of getting a job.

HYUNG JEONG HA, PhD

Hyung Jeong will join the Sociology Department at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana as a postdoctoral research fellow through the Global Religion Research Initiative—a program designed to advance social science research on religions around the world. Hyung Jeong’s dissertation studied ethnic and religious minorities in the Middle East and North Africa, and the way that these personal features interact within political and geographical boundaries to shape minority identities. Her dissertation draws on ethnographic work conducted in Cairo, Egypt.

As an international student from Korea studying issues pertaining to the Middle East, Hyung Jeong anticipated others asking her to explain why she was studying a place she was not from—a question not generally imposed on white majority students.

This type of additional work disproportionately experienced by people of color reflects the nature of advice Hyung Jeong provided in preparing for the job market. Hyung Jeong emphasized that although there are many aspects of the job market outside of our personal control, there are still many features of it that we can control. For example, Hyung Jeong encourages graduate students to get in touch with their dissertation chair, dissertation committee members, and other mentors to discuss the types of jobs they want. In doing so, graduate students inform these individuals on the best ways they can support us in our experiences on the academic job market.

Graduate students should give information to their committee members as early as possible—sometime during the semester before sending out job applications—to ensure they receive the support needed throughout the tiresome process of navigating the job market. That way, professors can help you focus on the strengths related to your work that best fit with the skills needed for your job after graduate school, whether you want to work as a professor at a research or a teaching institute.

CRISTIAN PAREDES, PhD

Cristian is joining the faculty in the Sociology Department at Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois. Cristian’s work is shaped by his personal experiences living in the United States after growing up in Lima, Peru. During graduate school, Cristian’s investigated the influence of immigration on several social dynamics in U.S. cities.

Cristian encouraged students to also take on work that fit their personal experiences. This strategy helped Cristian explain the motivation for his research and also demonstrate his unique position in conducting this work. Cristian mentioned, however, that the process of choosing your work should also reflect the needs of the job market.

For example, Christian recommended that graduate students find research topics suitable for the academic job market by adjusting their interests to correspond with the social relevance of the field. In this way, graduate students should consider balancing a topic that is realistic to their skills and ability, but also attractive to the market.

In terms of long-term preparation for the job market, graduate students should consider what jobs are announced and what areas of interest in are often hiring for positions. Graduate students often enter the PhD program with set ideas of the work they expect to take on, but Christian advises that it is important to be open and flexible to the needs of the job market. Graduate students should consider tailoring their work to best situate themselves as competitive applicants, even if it means making temporary changes to their anticipated research agenda. Landing a job allows people to expand their work in their own personalized ways that are first constrained by the job market.

Christian also encouraged graduate students to think about alternative career paths. The job market and the process of landing an academic position involves a great deal of circumstances that are outside of our control. We also must accept that there are simply not enough tenure-track positions for every graduate student. Some students earning their PhD inevitably work outside of academia.

Celebrating Dr. Sheldon Ekland-Olson, Dr. Mark Warr, Dr. Ben Carrington and Evelyn Porter

Dr. Sheldon Ekland-Olson, former University Provost, Dean and celebrated author and teacher is retiring after 47 years of service. His accomplishments are too many to list, his friends include many campus luminaries and people from all walks of life.  He has been an inspiration and wonderful colleague as Graduate Advisor to the Sociology program in which I am the Graduate Administrator.  Named one of the 10 hottest classes in the US, his sociological insight spans issues of life, death, morality and the law. We will miss your sunny smile and generous spirit.  All the best, Sheldon.

Dr. E. Mark Warr

Dr. Mark Warr, an award winning teacher and author has enthralled Criminology students at UT since 1992 and retires this year after 25 years in the department.  Mark’s other passion as a jazz pianist will finally get the attention it deserves. Thanks for your service and your scholarship, Mark.

Art beckons as well to Evelyn Porter, who will saunter on to new horizons in September.

Dr. Ben Carrington

Dr. Ben Carrington is west coast bound, to  become an associate professor in the Department of Journalism in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.  We will miss Ben mightily, but wish him the best in his new endeavor.

Dr. Carrington with Dr. Buggs

Dr. Shantel Gabrieal Buggs, shown here with her mentor, Dr. Ben Carrington gets a special shout out as the captain of the blog, our editor in chief for the last two years.  Shantel will begin her tenure at Florida Sate in the fall as an Assistant Professor.  Shantel has managed to transform the blog into a student led publication with submissions from many graduate students who responded to her call to public sociology.  Thanks for all the work you have done mentoring, teaching, peer reviewing, blogging and tweeting, Shantel.

We work hard and we play hard, Hook Em!