I’m back from ASA and engaging in a little just-in-time production of syllabi. (For anyone who’s wondering, I did take notes on the “future of orgs” panel and will write those up, but want to run them by the presenters before I post them.)
As grad director, I get to run the proseminar for first-year graduate students. Ours is one hour a week, both semesters. In the past, about half of it has been faculty introducing students to their research areas — e.g. urban week, work & orgs week, demography week, etc.
But grad students have expressed dissatisfaction with this format, and I don’t think faculty are overly thrilled with it, either. So I’m trying to mix things up a bit and make it more immediately useful.
One challenge is that while we want students to get the message about the need to publish, etc., in the past they’ve found such messages a bit overwhelming in the first year, when they’re still trying to figure out how to get through Durkheim. So I’ve tried to approach this from the perspective of, “What do you need to know your first year of grad school?”
Here’s what I’m thinking in terms of weekly topics. This is by substantive area, not chronological. Most weeks will involve guest speakers; I’ll lead perhaps 1/3 of them.
- How to get around the university
- Intro to the grad curriculum (DGS)
- Introduction to the department (department chair)
- How to get things done in the department (graduate secretary)
- Guide to library resources (librarian)
- How to get through the first year of grad school
- How to “read” 1000 pages a week (DGS)
- What I wish I knew my first semester (2nd and 3rd year students)
- Mid-semester check-in (open discussion)
- Surviving stats (stats faculty, 2nd-year grad student)
- The “hidden curriculum” (including race, gender, class issues; DGS and possibly grad students)
- Successful TAing (one faculty, one student)
- Making the most of your RA experience (ditto)
- Time management (DGS? Or someone better with time management skills…)
- The personal side of grad school (social life, psychological challenges) (not sure…)
- Thinking about the next year
- What do I do in the summer? (2nd and 3rd year students)
- Reverse CV exercise—find people whose jobs you want—what did they have to do to get there? (DGS)
- Planning years 2, 3 and 4 (DGS)
- Looking back—how’d the first year go? (open discussion)
- Thinking about finances
- Fellowships and grants (DGS)
- Financial aid & personal finance (financial aid office rep, advanced students)
- Learning about the profession
- An overview of the profession (DGS)
- Developing a publishable research project (one student who collaborated with faculty, one who published from MA?)
- Developing mentors (advanced grad students)
Then there are a few topics that seem important, but that are not primarily first-year topics. I may include some of these, but open the meetings up to advanced grad students as well:
- My first article (advanced grad student)
- Publishing in AJS/ASR (faculty)
- Will your dissertation be a book? (book faculty)
- Types of jobs (guest panel—research, teaching, non-academic)
- Presenting at conferences (advanced students)
- Choosing a dissertation topic (advanced student + faculty)
- Finding postdocs (???)
- The transition to becoming faculty (new junior faculty)
What do you think? Additions? Omissions? Things to skip?
I just attended the American Sociological Association Meetings in San Francisco, and while there my friend Marion Fourcade told me about a remarkable little piece of sociological history. It’s an audio recording of Émile Durkheim delivering a talk.
I had no idea such a thing existed. The recording is about two and a half minutes long. It’s a fragment of a piece titled Jugements de valeur et jugements de réalité, which you can read in French here. It was recorded in 1911 at a meeting in Bologna, which I think is one of only quite few times that Durkheim left France in order to attend a conference. Here it is. (There’s a short bit of dead silence at the beginning.)
(If you don’t see the player, download the clip directly).
The original is held at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Here’s the catalog entry for the recording. I think what’s needed to top this is maybe some decent video footage of Marx’s speech on the anniversary of the people’s paper.
Ah, ASA. So full of sociologists. What more can one say.
But, for those of you who are here in San Francisco, here’s one last plug for tomorrow’s OOW session, “Does Organizational Sociology Have a Future?” Featuring Howard Aldrich, Lis Clemens, Harland Prechel, Martin Ruef, and Ezra Zuckerman. Plus I hear a rumor Dick Scott and Chick Perrow will be in the audience, heckling.
It’s at 10:30am, and — important detail — it’s at the Parc 55, not the Hilton. I almost missed the business meeting tonight because I was in the wrong hotel. Anyway, the room is Cyril Magnin II, Level Four.
Fingers crossed that the answer is “yes”.
ASA Conference Bingo is on a permanent vacation pending its return around 2030 in a nostalgic comeback that warms the hearts of fans old and new. But as several people have asked me about it, here is a collection of the cards from years past. Not available in stores.
I recently suggested that conservatives like to associate themselves with the libertarians because it looks cool, even if these groups believe very different things. There is more evidence that the conservative/libertarian fit is bad. From an article about a survey done by the Public Religion Research institute:
Sixty-one percent of libertarians do not identify themselves as part of the Tea Party, the survey showed. About 7 percent of the adult population is consistently libertarian and that includes 12 percent of those who describe themselves as Republicans.
“There’s largely agreement on economic issues – the gap is in how libertarians approach social issues, ” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI, which conducts an annual “American Values Survey” on political and social issues.
Libertarians are more opposed to government involvement in economic policies than those affiliated with the Tea Party and Republicans overall, the survey found. For instance, 65 percent of libertarians were opposed to increasing the minimum wage, while 57 percent of Republicans overall supported it, the survey found.
Ninety-six percent of libertarians oppose President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare restructuring compared to 89 percent of Republicans.
But nearly 60 percent of libertarians oppose making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion, while 58 percent of Republicans and those affiliated with the Tea Party favor such restrictions, according to the survey.
More than 70 percent of libertarians favored legalizing marijuana, while about 60 percent of Republicans and Tea Party members opposed such a move, the survey found.
An important tension worth exploring.
Do people know about social impact bonds? I hadn’t heard of them till recently. Since then, though, I’ve developed a train-wreck fascination. They have the potential to combine all the worst features of the public and private sectors. And they can be securitized, to boot!
Let’s take a step back. What is a social impact bond, anyway?
Well. Imagine you have a social problem you’d like to solve. Say that you want to reduce recidivism among young people in prison. That sounds good, right? The problem, of course, is that taxpayers don’t want to pay for rehabilitative programs, and there’s lots of disagreement about what kind of program would actually help solve the problem, anyway.
The government says, Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody would take care of this for us, and we’d only have to pay them if they actually succeeded?
Enter Goldman Sachs.
I am now old enough that I have seen three traditions in American sociology die. In describing them, I am not necessarily saying that I don’t like them. In fact, I am a published practitioner in one of them. Rather, these traditions have not been able to reproduce themselves at the core of the profession. They may be popular in other fields, but not in soc:
- Rational choice
Each promised a lot and had a moment in American sociology. Munch, Alexander, and others led the charge on neo-functionalism in the 1990s, and Luhmann has a following. Rational choice still has notable adherents, like Doug Heckathorn at Cornell or Richard Breen at Yale. And the AJS and ASR had their share of articles discussing postmodernism (here, for example). But still, it’s hard to say that these traditions aren’t dormant in American sociology. Few students, few placements.
The question is whether there is any commonality. Is American sociology resistant to certain types of theory? If these three cases indicate a deeper process, then I’d make the following guesses:
- “Strong assumptions” – American sociologists don’t like models with what appear to be overly strong assumptions. Rational choice models have smart actors; postmodernism has overly complex actors; and the various functionalisms had actors that were hyper sensitive to social norms and communities were overly structured.
- “High tech” – With the exception of applied statistics, American sociologists don’t like fancy things. The AGIL system in functionalism; math for RCT; European philosophy/social theory for post-modernism.
So the ideal theory would be one with weak assumptions and requires little machinery. Many of the dominant theories these days seem to fit this: institutionalism/field theory; intersectionality theory; theories of racial privilege; etc. Network theory rests on simple, but weak, assumptions and uses only stats.
It is unclear to me if this is a good or bad state of affairs. However, if you think it’s bad, then you have a real problem. The most obvious way to change it is to recruit different kinds of people into the profession who like demanding theory or high tech tools. That seems like a tall order given our undergraduate audience, which is the major talent pool for the profession.