How long have you been teaching at Tech?
I started in the fall of 2007. I’m starting my twelfth year. I go up for full professor this fall. You start off as assistant faculty and after so many years you move up to associate. Then full is the last phase.
Why did you choose Tech?
I got my bachelor’s degree at ATU in 1997. I was starting to look at jobs while I was writing my dissertation and the job ad came up for this position. My first thought was “I don’t want to go back to Arkansas Tech”, not because I didn’t like it but because that’s where I graduated from. I knew some of my professors were still there and it would be awkward, but, I wanted to be near my family. At the end of my dissertation, the job ad came up and it was like it was written for me. I chose Tech, initially, because it was close to my family.
What do you like about working here?
I love the place that Tech is in and its history. It’s really at a growth spurt. To me, there’s so much opportunity for faculty and for students. For faculty, the university is changing and evolving. It’s a great time to be a professor at Tech. I’ve had tons of support any time I come up with an idea or anything I want to try out. I feel like the university is very open to trying new things.
What lead you to teaching?
As an undergrad, I felt myself torn between wanting to make a difference and having an impact. You know, there were things that I cared about, like social problems, but I really, really liked research. I remember telling my advisor that and he’s like, “So you want to go into academia?” I was like, “Oh, do I? Is that it?” and he was like “Yeah, you can teach, you know, have an impact, and you can do your research.” I guess what I like about teaching is having an impact and making a difference.
How would you define sociology?
Sociology is a perspective that is often overlooked. It is the perspective that people’s behaviors, attitudes and the way they think is impacted not just by what’s in their head but also by their social context. Meaning, what culture you live in, whether you’re in the upper class or lower class, or whether you’re male or female or your race: all of those social groups and social contexts also influence how you think, how you feel, and how you behave. So, what you think is important depends on all those things. There’s patterns to how we think and feel and they’re important to understand.
What lead you to choose your field of study?
I double majored in Sociology and Psychology. So for a long time, I couldn’t decide. I remember being torn between which one is it? Is it people are mostly influence by their psychology or people are mostly influenced by sociology? I don’t know why I chose sociology. I think maybe because it was given less emphasis. It was sort of the underdog.
What are your base classes you teach every year, if you have them?
It’s sort of changed over the years. I used to be in charge of the research methods course and our sociology of the family and sociology of gender. I’ve since become the Director of the Center For Community Engagement and Academic Outreach (CEAO) and the creation of interdisciplinary courses. This semester I’m doing more of the interdisciplinary courses.
Could you define the term interdisciplinary?
I pitched this idea three years ago to my Dean and some colleagues and over the years it’s evolved. Now it’s become what I want it to be. I’ve created Interdisciplinary Project Based Learning courses. IPBL. Their first component is interdisciplinary. Meaning I want students in a group, be in a classroom, with students who are in different disciplines. Right now, we’re very siloed. Most of your classes you’re with your dedicated major. I think, in the real world, that’s not at all how it works. You interact and work with people in different disciplines and different ways of thinking. I think that’s important. You should learn to work with and collaborate with one another.
What is your most embarrassing teaching story?
I ran into a student at a furniture store one day. He says hello and I knew he looked familiar and I said hello. We chatted for a while and then I said, “Well, when did I have you in class?” and he said “yesterday.” I was thinking he was going to say “oh, it was last year”. No, it was yesterday. I was like, “do you sit in the back? I don’t know your face.”
What is your biggest pet peeve in the classroom besides cell phone usage?
Apathy. Like, they just don’t appreciate the opportunity. Like, you’re here and you’ve been given an opportunity, right? There are people all over the world who would give their lives to try to get an education. My students don’t get that. They don’t appreciate what’s given to them. So, they’re missing an opportunity. It’s just so very, very sad. That is my biggest pet peeve.
Did you consider yourself a good student in college?
Yes. I was a nerd. You know, like, never skip class. I’ve always been a little OCD about school work. But, I don’t consider myself smart. I consider myself a hard worker. I say this to my kids and my students all the time. It’s not about how smart you are, it’s about how hard you’re willing to work.
Who inspires you the most?
There are lots of people and things that inspire me. I would say that, I don’t know if I could name a person, maybe, but I love those stories, those instances, those people who are sort of entrepreneurs. They think outside the box and challenge us to think. Those people who make me see things differently. I love those podcasts. Like, the “TED Radio Hour”. I’m so addicted. There’s another one called “How I Built This”. Actual people who inspire me are like Joe Biden or Barack Obama or Malala.
Who’s your favorite author?
I’m such a nerd in that I read mostly workbooks. I would say I hardly ever read fiction. So, Stephanie Coontz is a historical sociologist. One of my favorite books of hers is “The Way We Never Were”. She does like family sociology research.
Are you a dog or a cat person or a no pet person? Why?
I love all animals. I have compassion for all animals. I just don’t like cleaning up after them. To me, cats are the easiest. I would say that maybe I’m a cat person. I do have four cats. They’re outdoor cats.