About Timothy J Dowd

I am Professor and Department Chair of Emory Sociology.

Seanette Ting: Putting Her Sociology Major to Work

It’s not unusual to hear the following question from undergrads: “How can sociology help me get a job?” That’s a fair question. Indeed, in discussing this very question with some of our recent alumni, I’ve heard two common answers. On the one hand, the sociology major provided them with research skills that are marketable in the current economy. On the other hand, the major provided them with critical thinking skills that have helped them succeed (and advance) in their careers.

Seanette Ting Soc Major, Class of 2014

Seanette Ting
Soc Major, Class of 2014

Here’s what Seanette Ting (Class of 2014) had to say when I asked her some questions.

What’s your current job?

I am an assistant buyer for Neiman Marcus.

Have the knowledge and skills you learned as a sociology major translated to your current job? If so, how?

Absolutely, being exposed to the luxury world, and driving the business behind it, forces you to think about what social constructs affect “luxury” itself. The analytics that go behind every buy is incredible— but to me, it’s even more interesting to think about what influences those sales. I am fascinated by the socialization of luxury. What makes things coveted? What qualifies them to be expensive? How is a brand strategically positioned in a wide retail environment to stand out? I use sociology everyday to understand better the social constructs behind what drives this, and I truly think it’s my passion for sociology that make me a more thoughtful and informed assistant buyer.

What drew you to majoring in sociology?

I enjoyed taking Culture and Society (SOC 221) and became fascinated by organizational culture and how companies motivate their employees. Work culture and norms greatly affect our work and how invested we are. They can also reinforce the strength of traditional gender roles, and knowing the theory behind them significantly shaped how I view work-life balance today. I also learned a lot about modern society in another class, Mass Media and Social Influences (SOC 343); it really cemented for me the importance of understanding how people use technology to send widespread messages that, for better or for worse, influence our worldviews. We’re shaped by it every day.

What did your honors thesis address? How did you do it (e.g., methods) and what did you find?

Seanette Investigated the Impact of This Show on Court Proceedings

Seanette Investigated the Impact of This Show on Court Proceedings

Because we live in a world where mass media and especially television greatly influence our perceptions, my honors thesis explored the perceived consequences of the “CSI Effect” [e.g., expectations regarding the ready availability of forensic evidence] and how it affects the courtroom. By employing semi-structured, in-depth interviews of district attorneys, I found consistent patterns that prosecutors and judges strongly believe the CSI Effect impacts juror expectations in the courtroom. What was interesting was that though there was little evidence that it significantly affects verdicts, it was noticeably affecting legal actors’ behaviors in the courtroom in anticipation of the CSI Effect. In my results, though suggestive, I found that at least some prosecutors are changing their persona and presentation in the courtroom to mimic those on television, creating their own “dramatized” cases. Therefore, we are led to believe that it is possible the CSI Effect not only affects juror expectations, but attorney behavior as well.

What broader lessons did you learn while working on this thesis?

Working on a thesis trained me to stay committed to a long term project and to spearhead an investigation from start to finish. Pick a thesis advisor you trust because, over the course of the year, they’ll become your guide in more than just thesis work — I still miss weekly “touch-bases” with Dr. Tracy Scott. And pick a research question that truly fascinates you, otherwise staying disciplined will be a battle! I thoroughly enjoyed the process, and I learned you really can enjoy your work if you follow you head and heart to what you’re passionate about — a lesson that landed me my dream job.

Bowling Together at Emory Sociology

OK, here’s a place where I could make some bad jokes about “bowling alone.” Instead, I’ll take the high road and say that, this year, Emory Sociology continued its annual tradition of bowling together.

Pirkey's Pointless Plight

Pirkey’s Pointless Plight

Some 30 or so stalwart sociologists (along with family and friends) gathered at Midtown Bowl on February 27th. Stoked by appetizers and good-natured ribbing, they often showed why they’re sociologists rather than professional bowlers. We see here, for instance, Melissa Pirkey (our social psych post-doctoral fellow) lamenting the inglorious gutter-ball (and hers was not the only one). That’s not to say that good bowlers were absent. Frank Lechner showed prowess — in terms of his score and instruction. Jared Bok demonstrated that his smooth delivery is not limited to the classroom.

Lechner's Lane Lecture

Lechner’s Lane Leadership

Low-scores or high-scores, what really mattered was the fun. For that, I must give a shout-out to COGS (Coalition of Graduate Sociologists) for initiating this 2016 event and to graduate student Allison Roberts for making all the necessary arrangements.

There’s an old quip that sociologists are bad at being social. Saturday’s event showed that’s not true for Emory Sociology. It also showed that, while league bowling may be down in terms of numbers, bowling together still happens.

Bok's Balletic Bowling

Bok’s Balletic Bowling

Allison Roberts

Allison Roberts

Bowling Together

Bowling Together — or They Were Bowling Together. Now, They’re Standing Together.

Dr. Bin Xu Joins Emory Sociology

I’m pleased to announce that Dr. Bin Xu will be joining the faculty of Emory Sociology at the start of the 2016-2017 academic year. He was one of four stellar candidates who we identified in our Culture and China search and who we brought to campus in January 2016.

Bin’s broad areas of expertise occur at the intersection of cultural sociology and social psychology. Consequently, he fits perfectly with our program and its new emphases on such intersections (with the intersection between health and inequality being our other main emphasis). He gets at that intersection of culture and social psychology by focusing, in particular, on civil society and collective memory in contemporary China.

Dr. Bin Xu, our newest faculty member in Emory Sociology

Dr. Bin Xu, our newest faculty member in Emory Sociology

Bin’s focus on civil society is especially apparent in his major project addressing the aftermath of the devastating Sichuan earthquake of 2008 — including the engagement of everyday citizens involved in rescue and relief, in the mourning of the victims, and in the compiling of young victims’ names. His 2013 article in Theory and Society, for instance, documents the first instance of state-sanctioned “mourning for the ordinary” that followed the Sichuan earthquake, and it addresses why this mourning ritual did not follow previous disasters but did the 2008 earthquake.

Bin’s focus on collective memory is evident in his latest project. There, he investigates the “educated youth” (zhiqing) generation — which involved some 17 million graduates being sent to the hinterlands of China in the 1960s and 1970s, given high levels of urban unemployment and official desires to steep young people in the doctrines of the communist party; yet, this relocation eventually proved ineffectual, and these educated youth pressed for their return to the cities from which they originated. As we heard in his impressive job talk, Bin deals with these very individuals, who are now senior citizens. In particular, he seeks to understand how their late-age identities and memories were linked to the broader values associated with this pivotal moment in China’s history — as well as showing how patterns across these individuals resulted from their different career trajectories following their time in the hinterlands.

Bin is able to pursue such ambitious projects given his expertise in both ethnography and theory. He developed such expertise when earning his BA in politics at East China Normal University, his MA in sociology at University of California, Davis, his PhD in sociology at Northwestern University and while holding a post-doctoral associateship at Yale University.

Currently an assistant professor at Florida International University, Bin has already compiled an impressive record of publications and honors. Thus, my colleagues and I eagerly look forward to the next phase of his career, when he becomes an assistant professor in Emory Sociology. We also are grateful to Hanban for providing support for this Confucius Institute Assistant Professorship at Emory.

Southeastern Undergraduate Sociology Symposium — A Great Success in 2016

Emory Sociology was a hotbed of activity this weekend (Feb. 19-20, 2016). Young scholars from around the region came to our campus to participate in the Southeastern Undergraduate Sociology Symposium, affectionately known as “SEUSS.”

The theme and logo for SEUSS 2016.

The theme and logo for SEUSS 2016.

We’ve had the pleasure of hosting SEUSS for 34 years, along with our esteemed colleagues at Morehouse Sociology. Alternating each year, one of the departments serves as the organizer and gathering point for SEUSS. This year was our turn, and next year will be Morehouse Sociology’s turn.

The symposium got off to a roaring start on Friday night. Following an hour of tasty food and conversation, our own Dean Robin Forman offered a thoughtful presentation. Not only did he talk about the unique contributions and strengths of sociology as a discipline, he also made clear an important point: sociology is something that is learned not simply by absorbing material in the classroom, but rather, by doing it — engaging in theoretically-informed and empirically-rigorous research. Our keynote speaker for the evening, Dr. Barret Michalec, demonstrated that point to perfection.

As an alum of Emory Sociology, earning both his BA and PhD here, Barret compellingly laid out his intellectual journey, doing so in a conversational way rather than a jargonistic way. In essence, he addressed how he developed answers to two broad questions: Why is the world the way it is and how can we make it better? His particular foci revolved around empathy — namely, how it is that medical curriculum and training tends to reduce empathy in medical students and how interventions in that curriculum and training can reverse that tendency. This matters because those physicians that remain relatively more empathetic than their peers are also ones who have higher job satisfaction, higher evaluations by their peers, and lower levels of malpractice difficulties. Befitting the collegiate athlete he was, and the marathoner that he now is, Barret energetically took the audience step by step through his evolving answers — prowling back and forth across the stage (if not daring the audience to fall asleep!).

A SEUSS presenter in action.

A SEUSS presenter in action.

The energy carried over from Friday night to Saturday. We had concurrent sessions, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, in which undergraduates presented their own sociological research. These sessions drew upon 48 paper presentations of students from 14 different institutions of higher education. Their papers dealt with core issues in such areas as crime and criminal justice, education, family, healthcare, media and sexualities. Their papers also represented a multitude of theories and a healthy range of methodologies (both qualitative and quantitative). The presenters that traveled the farthest were from University of Notre Dame and Centenary College of Louisiana. Throughout the day, these students gave Barret a run for the money in terms of their own enthusiasm. And, as Dean Forman would appreciate, they all made clear the importance of doing sociology.

Enthusiasm on display at SEUSS.

Enthusiasm on display at SEUSS.

The success of SEUSS 2016 is due to the efforts of many people. As a result, I want to give a shout-out of appreciation to this year’s co-organizers, Dr. Karen Hegtvedt and Dr. Sonal Nalkur (both of Emory Sociology). Thanks also to our own Brandon Mitchell for all of his logistical support. Thanks to the Emory Sociology graduate students who served as session moderators. And, of course, thanks to the mentors and advisors who worked closely with the students that participated in SEUSS.

More enthusiasm on display by presenters and moderators

More enthusiasm on display by presenters and moderators

Finally, I want to give a shout-out of congratulations to the following scholars. Their papers were selected by a committee as the best of those entered into the SEUSS 2016 paper competition.

  • First Place: Xueqing Wang, Emory University; “The ‘Wealthy High-Flyers’: Media’s Framing of Chinese International Students in the U.S., 2009-2015
  • Second Place: Naveed Noordin, Emory University; “How Does Satisfaction with GP Appointment Wait Time Correlate with Overall Satisfaction with the NHS?”
  • Third Place: Phyllis McDaniels Morton, Coastal Carolina University; “State-of-the-State: The Effects of Race and Socioeconomic Status on Educational Achievement and Attainment in South Carolina”

    SEUSS 2016 Award Winners (from left to right): Naveed Noordin, Xueqing Wang, Phyllis McDaniels Morton

    SEUSS 2016 Award Winners (from left to right): Naveed Noordin, Xueqing Wang, Phyllis McDaniels Morton

On to SEUSS 2017 at Morehouse Sociology!

Welcome to What’s What

D'Orsay ClockGreetings!

I’m Tim Dowd. As Chair of Emory Sociology, I’m eager to spread the word about the “goings-on” at Emory Sociology.

This blog is one of the ways in which I’ll be relaying that information. It’s where I’ll celebrate the accomplishments of our faculty, students and staff; where I’ll highlight important aspects of Emory Sociology; and where I’ll share our latest news.

You can also keep apprised about our goings-on by tracking Emory Sociology on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Calendar.