Archive for the ‘guest bloggers’ Category
Former guest and all around cool person Rhacel Parrenas gave a lecture summarizes her extensive work on global flows of migrant domestic labor. Self recommending!
This guest post is by Mikalia Lemonik Arthur, associate professor and chair of sociology at Rhode Island College and a long time friend of the blog. She is an expert in higher education and is the author of Student Activism and Curricular Change in Higher Education.
My colleague Fran Leazes and I recently released a report “How Higher Education Shapes The Workforce: A Study of Rhode Island College Graduates,” funded by TheCollaborative. Our college—Rhode Island College—is a public comprehensive college at which 85% of students come from within the state, a figure no other college in our state can come close to matching. Our project was spurred by an interest at the state policy level in why graduates of colleges in our state leave Rhode Island. But, we argue, students who were not Rhode Island residents when they began college may not be best understood as “leaving Rhode Island” when they are often really going home. Thus, tracking our alumni—who really are from Rhode Island—provides a useful window onto both higher education outcomes and workforce development in Rhode Island.
Our project combines data from a number of sources to come to several conclusions about our alumni, including that we actually retain most of them in state. Those who leave often leave in pursuit of graduate degrees. And the majority of our graduates find employment in fields related to their undergraduate major. While the report makes several state-level policy suggestions (invest in public higher education, including expanded graduate degree offerings; better promote the excellent alumni workforce we have available in the state), our research process and findings also highlight the need for comprehensive colleges like ours to invest more substantially in their alumni offices.
Most elite private colleges have robust alumni offices. These offices work hard to maintain alumni connections to the college, largely in order to pursue fundraising opportunities. But elite private colleges know that alumni offices serve other purposes as well. By maintaining excellent databases of their alumni, elite private colleges are easily able to make claims about the percentage of alumni who have earned graduate degrees, the number living in particular geographical areas, and the representation of alumni in key professional fields like medicine or politics. Comprehensive colleges, in contrast, rarely have the resources or staffing in either the alumni office or the institutional research office to gather and maintain such information. Thus, in order to put together our report, we had to employ a team of five undergraduate research assistants, who spent the entire fall semester combing the Internet for biographical data on our sample of alumni.
Of course, it would have made our lives easier if our college already had access to such data. But more importantly, such data would enable our college to tell its story in a more persuasive fashion. Rather than talking about the kinds of outcome measures the performance funding types tend to value (employment and salaries a year after graduation), a robust alumni database would allow us to document the value our college has to our state by highlighting the number of successful professionals, community leaders, volunteers, and others RIC has educated.
Comprehensive colleges are an often-ignored sector of higher education, but we play a vital role in educating the professionals who keep our states moving—the nurses, teachers, social workers, police officers, accountants, small business owners, local politicians, and others. And we are often the most accessible and affordable colleges for working class students who will go on to do great things in our states and beyond. The fact that our alumni affairs offices are under-resourced may not be the type of educational stratification researchers and policymakers pay attention to, but it is a type of educational stratification with consequences for our reputations and our institutions’ funding streams.
Guest blogger emeritus Karissa McKelvey just won a huuuge award. Her project just won a Knight Foundation grant. Her team is going to build a search engine that allows people to access data and make sure the data is update. Think of it as Bit Torrent for data, not illegal downloads. Good job!
How to disseminate research, so that it reaches a wider audience, is one stage of research that receives less attention.* In a past post, I wrote about what researchers can do to engage potential audiences.
Orgtheory guest blogger Victor Tan Chen has an exemplar article drawing on his research, published in the Atlantic, no less! Have a look at his article “All Hollowed Out: The lonely poverty of America’s white working class.” Here’s a teaser excerpt:
In Stayin’ Alive, his powerful history of the “last days” of the working class, the historian Jefferson Cowie describes how the proud blue-collar identity of previous generations disintegrated during the ’70s. “Liberty has largely been reduced to an ideology that promises economic and cultural refuge from the long arm of the state,” he writes, “while seemingly lost to history is the logic that culminated under the New Deal: that genuine freedom could only happen within a context of economic security.” As working-class solidarity receded, an identity built on racial tribalism often swept in.
With that in mind, it’s interesting that Americans tout the importance of getting an education—an inherently individualistic strategy—as the pathway to success. This view was the ideological backbone of the Clinton administration policies put forth in the ’90s, with their individual training accounts and lifetime-learning credits. To this day, the supreme value of education remains one of the few things that Americans of all persuasions (presidential candidates included) can agree on. But this sort of zeal can lead to the view that those who have less education—the working class—are truly to blame for their dire straits. While many of them will go on to obtain more education, many others will not—because they can’t afford it, aren’t good students, or just (as some of my workers said) prefer working with their hands. But if they don’t collect the educational degrees needed for today’s good jobs, they are made to feel that they have failed in a fundamental way.
* Exceptions exist, of course; see epopp’s recent post on the media’s circulation of questionable studies. In a related vein, check out these past posts by fabio on public sociology: maybe public sociology was better in the 50s and did research grants kill public sociology?
We had three official guest bloggers in residence, but there were lots of other people who sent posts in 2015. Check them out:
- James Iveniuk on soc specialties – https://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/how-sociology-professors-choose-their-specialties-a-guest-post-by-james-iveniuk/
- Raj Ghoshal and Claire Whitlinger on racial violence – https://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2015/05/12/does-remembering-racial-violence-matter-a-guest-post-by-raj-ghoshal-and-claire-whitlinger/
- Jeff Guhin on ASA meeting anxiety – https://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/dont-look-dumb-on-the-anxiety-of-asa-meetings-a-guest-post-by-jeff-guhin/
- Mikalia Arthur on higher education – https://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/what-does-success-mean-in-higher-education-a-guest-post-by-mikalia-marial-lemonik-arthur/
- Victoria Reyes on globalization – https://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/global-borderlands-a-guest-post-by-victoria-reyes/
- Cristobal Young on replication – https://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/sociologists-need-to-be-better-at-replication-a-guest-post-by-cristobal-young/
- Pedro Monteiro on podcasts – https://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/talking-about-organizations-a-guest-post-by-pedro-monteiro/
- Nick Rowland on states – https://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/states-states-and-more-states-a-guest-blog-post-by-nick-rowland/
Have an idea? Send it in!
Happy 2016, folks. As the new year unfolds and people consider their new year’s resolutions, I’d like to thank three of our 2015 guest bloggers Caroline W. Lee, Ellen Berrey, and Victor Tan Chen for their insightful posts on their studies, conducting research, and the academic career.
- Caroline, who has graciously guest blogged for us twice, shared her thoughts on what makes for a successful career at a SLAC (small liberal arts college). She also discussed her book, which delves into her research on professional facilitators of participatory democratic practices. Here’s a link to her self-introduction, as well as her posts on whether deliberation de-mobilizes and the future of deliberation discussions in higher education.
- Ellen began her orgtheory stint with several thoughts on elite-led organizations. She also discussed her research findings about how diversity is conceptualized in a university, corporation, and neighborhood. Turning to the conduct of research, Ellen discussed gaining access to organizations, as well as the pitfalls and benefits of anonymity for organizations.
- As a journalist turned sociologist, Victor added to our discussions about the practice of disguising informants’ names and identities is warranted and whether anonymity helps or hurts the dissemination of research.