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Department of Sociology Newsletter

Issue 8: September 1, 2020


Welcome Back!
I hope you're all well and that you found time for relaxation and restoration this summer, in spite of the isolation and worry that 2020 has brought.  I'm sorry that we aren't able to be together in person this fall, but I look forward to seeing you virtually.  

I'd like to thank our many colleagues, present and past, and alumni, for sharing their news for this newsletter. Please read ahead to learn more, including some interesting media features and successful competitive grants to support research that bring a sociological perspective to bear on the current problems of COVID and of police brutality against Black Americans.  

This fall, we will have several departmental talks, including two masters panels in which our freshly minted Masters students will present research from their theses. I'm pleased to announce that Niina Vuolajarvi has been selected to give the Jason B. Memorial Lecture this year.  In addition, we have some exciting outside speakers scheduled.  Please mark your calendars now.

A bright spot for the department is the arrival of our two new colleagues: Rina Bliss and Tom Davidson.  I am thrilled that they have joined us! Both Tom and Rina are featured in this issue's Faculty Spotlight. Please take a minute to read a little about them and reach out to welcome them to our department.  

I'd like to extend a warm welcome back to our undergraduates. We encourage you to stop into virtual office hours and meet our new acting undergraduate director, Jeff Dowd.  Jeff has done a terrific job overseeing the transition of our fall classes to the online platform.  Our faculty and instructors have also been hard at work over the summer preparing for a virtual teaching semester. No doubt there will be some challenges, but we are here to help you. Please reach out to your instructors and the undergraduate office if you need any help at all.

I wish us all luck as we begin our Zoom semester.  Without a doubt, this year will bring new challenges for the department and the university. Nonetheless, I am confident that we can come out the other end having developed new skills and innovative ways of forming community and doing our work. I will have virtual check-in hours on Fridays from 1-2pm and intend to be on campus every Tuesday. If you'd like to go for a walk or have a socially distanced lunch, let me know.  I'd love to see you.  
Julie Phillips
Department Chair
We are delighted to welcome two new colleagues who joined our faculty this summer: Catherine (Rina) Bliss and Tom Davidson.  We asked them to tell us a little bit about themselves as part of the Faculty Spotlight.  Please reach out and make them feel (virtually) at home at Rutgers Sociology.
Welcome, Rina!
Tell us a little about your research
My research examines how new genetic sciences impact people, especially in terms of how they create new ways of understanding ourselves. I began this research program with a look at how genome projects were redefining race, taking it from something rooted in sociopolitical experience to something essential about our biology. I next investigated how a new area of genomics, sociogenomics, stepped into a leading role in this regard, as well as in redefining gender and sexuality, with its emphasis on the genomics of social behavior. Scientists working in this vein have also refocused our understanding of things like criminality, financial prowess, and educational aptitude toward essential biological causes. The focus on the DNA of social behavior has only become more important as we have moved into the era of human gene editing. My current research examines how germline editing pushes us toward a new eugenics, one that is imbued with faulty notions of race, gender, sexuality, among other behavioral discourses.
How did you become interested in sociology? 
I am part Indonesian and part American, and I grew up in a working-class immigrant community where parents worked all hours and schools were in crisis. Despite the rich diversity of my home and school environment, white racism and was rife. As early as preschool, I experienced racial taunts and threats on a daily basis. However, I also encountered counter-discourses of empowerment as I learned about black, brown, and red power movements. By the time I entered college, I was beginning to think critically on my own. But it wasn't until I began taking undergraduate required courses that I learned of Sociology. Once I began reading, thinking, conversing with a sociological imagination, I was hooked. 
Tell us about your teaching interests and your plans for any new courses.
I love teaching anything to do with health, medicine, and science and technology, but with a focus on how these social domains impact race, gender, and sexuality. I will begin this Fall with a graduate course on science and technology that I have perfected over the past four years. In Spring, I will create two novel courses on health and society, and race, science, and medicine. These courses will combine cutting edge theories of difference and inequality with the latest research in medical sociology, and science and technology studies.
What book do you wish everyone would read?
I enjoyed reading Factfulness: Ten Reasons Why We Are Wrong About the World and Why It's Better Than You Think. It will be interesting to visit it now in the midst of a pandemic. But really the essential reading I'd recommend is the article: "The Case for Reparations" by Ta-Nehisi Coates. That is one reading that I wish everyone would take to heart. 
And finally, what do you like to do in your free time? 
I love to read fiction and take long aimless walks. These are things I haven't done in a very very long time.
Welcome, Tom!
Tell us a little bit about your research.
In my main area of research, I study how political actors including social movements, political parties, and their supporters use social media to make claims and to organize. Not only have these technologies transformed contemporary politics but they present a unique opportunity to study politics in general using the digital traces of online interactions, for example likes and comments on Facebook posts. In particular, I am interested in why radical right populists appear to have been particularly successful at using social media to attract an unprecedented number of supporters. In addition to my work in political sociology, I am interested in using digital trace data in conjunction with computational methods to study culture.
How did you become interested in sociology?
During my undergraduate studies in the humanities at the University of East Anglia I was exposed to the study of social problems through the prisms of history and literature. I came to sociology somewhat accidentally when I was advised to take an introductory sociology class as a study abroad student at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. I was particularly excited about how I could use sociological theories to directly study contemporary social problems. There is also an interesting Rutgers connection, as I took another sociology class my second semester at Reed on the political sociology of the collapse of Communist rule in Eastern Europe and Russia, taught by Alexandra Hrycak, who received her bachelor's degree from Rutgers. I went on to complete a master's in political sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science before starting my doctoral studies at Cornell.
Tell us about your teaching interests and your plans for any new courses.
This year I will be teaching undergraduate courses in political sociology and the sociology of culture. I'm particularly excited about a new graduate class, Computational Sociology, which I'll be teaching in the spring. I plan to use this class as a practical introduction to how to collect, synthesize, and analyze data from the internet and social media. I plan to cover cutting-edge computational techniques for the analysis of text and large-scale datasets. I hope students will be able to use this class as an opportunity to collect data and begin analyses for their qualifying papers and dissertation projects.
What book do you wish everyone would read?
Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste by Pierre Bourdieu. Bourdieu's writing touches upon so many areas of sociology including politics, culture, and social stratification, as well as the interconnections between these different spheres of social life. The book is also a great example of how qualitative and quantitative methods can be used in tandem.
And finally, what do you like to do in your free time?
I'm currently spending my time exploring New Jersey by bicycle and reading at home with my cat.
Welcome to our incoming cohort of graduate students! Sarah Aparicio, Fatoumata Ceesay, Juliana de Oliveira Horst, Genesis Pia and Fred Traylor. Check out their profiles on our website to learn more about their research interests. We look forward to working with you.  See you on Zoom.


Sharon Bzostek accepted the position as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education in the School of Arts and Sciences this summer. We know she'll do great things for undergraduate education at Rutgers.

Congratulations, Sharon!

Dissertation Defenses
Congratulations to Brooklynn Hitchens who defended her dissertation "Stress and Street Life: Black Women, Urban Inequality, and Coping in a Small Violent City” on July 28, 2020! Brooklynn’s committee members were, Lauren Krivo and the late Patrick Carr (co-advisors), Dana Britton, and Yasser Payne. Dr. Hitchens will be joining the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland as a post-doctoral scholar for the 2020-2021 academic year and then as a tenure track Assistant Professor beginning in the fall semester of 2021.
Student Awards

Congratulations to Aaron and Niina!

Aaron Martin has been awarded a graduate fellow position at the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis for the 2020-2021 academic year. As a fellow, he will participate in the year long "Life & Death" seminar series, which applies a multidisciplinary and cross-cultural lens to explore what it means to be alive or dead.

Niina Vuolajarvi received a 2-year post-doc position at the New School Zolberg Institute for Migration and Mobilities that starts in January. 

Faculty Awards
Brittany Friedman, Paul Hirschfield, and Alexis Karteron (Law) received a grant from the Rutgers Center for Covid-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness to establish the “Project on Covid-19 and New Jersey Prisons.” The project will track the changing conditions of confinement in New Jersey and is a collaborative effort between the Department of Sociology, the Constitutional Rights Clinic, and the Center for Security, Race, and Rights. Congratulations, Brittany and Paul!
Faculty member Ali R. Chaudhary's research on the ascriptive stigmatization of Pakistani immigrant organizations in London and New York City has been published in International Migration Review.

Chaudhary, Ali R..  "Constraints and Capacities: Pakistani Diaspora Organizations in Toronto and New York City" in an edited volume titled Diaspora Organizations in International Affairs (Routledge 2020).

Chip Clarke and Rick Phillips published an oped for the Star Ledger entitled What If Covid-19 is Here to Stay? It appeared on August 2. Rick got his PhD from Rutgers. He's been at the University of North Florida since 2001. 

Lei, Lei and Scott J. South. Forthcoming. “Explaining the Decline in Young Adult Sexual Activity in the United States.” Journal of Marriage and Family.  

Lei, Lei, Sonalde Desai, and Feinian Chen. Forthcoming. “Fathers’ Migration and Nutritional Status of Children in India: Do the Effects Vary by Community Context?” Demographic Research 43.

Lei, Lei and Scott J. South. 2020. “The Comforts of Home: The Effect of Coresidence with Parents on Young Adults’ Residential Mobility and Migration.” Population Space and Place 26:e2323
Krivo, Lauren J., Christopher J. Lyons, and María B. Vélez. Forthcoming. “Ethno-Racial Inequality in U.S. Urban Neighborhood Crime, 2010-2013.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity (currently available as online first).
McLean, P.D. The management of chance in renaissance florence. Am J Cult Sociol (2019).

Poling, Jessica, with co-authors Marsha Rosenthal, Aleksandra Wec, Elizabeth Connolly, Beth Angell, and Stephen Crystal. 'Medication is Just One Piece of the Whole Puzzle': How Nursing Homes Change Their Use of Antipsychotic Medications." Journal of Applied Gerontology.
Presentations and Addresses
This year, the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association were held virtually due to COVID-19.  Congratulations to our department members who participated in the program in some way.
Undergraduate News
Welcome Back, Rutgers Sociology Undergraduates!
We hope you all had a great summer in spite of the challenges that many of us face during this time.  We are very sorry not to have you back on campus - we miss your presence very much.  Nonetheless, we are excited to begin our classes online and see you virtually.  The faculty has been hard at work preparing for online courses over the summer.  We intend to provide up-to-date information on our website to keep you informed about COVID-related news. You can also always find information here: Rutgers Universitywide COVID-19 Website.

Please don't hesitate to reach out to the department and/or your instructors if you have any difficulty or problems. Our undergraduate administrative assistant (Carissa Nadonley: is also available for drop-in advising hours via Zoom every Friday from 10am to noon. We know this is a challenging time for all, and we are here to help you. We hope you have a great semester!

Congratulations to Jeff Dowd, who has taken on the role of acting Undergraduate Director. Jeff will be holding advising hours every Thursday from 11am to 1pm this semester.  Drop in and say hello and get all your questions answered.
Alumni News
Miah Hagood is starting her second year of law school at Rutgers Law in Newark and is the Secretary for the Association of Black Law Students on campus. She interns at Union County Counsel where she works on various matters in the context of government law related to environmental issues, civil rights law, employment law, personal injury, and election law. This semester she is participating in the Education & Health Law Clinic, which provides free legal representation to low-income parents of children with disabilities in special education, early intervention, and school discipline matters.  

Hwa-Yen Huang has accepted a position as an assistant professor of sociology at National Dong University.
Ying-Chao Kao
  • published in 2020 a book review of Vulnerability Politics: The Uses and Abuses of Precarity in Political Debate by Katie Oliviero.” American Journal of Sociology 125(6):1716–19.
  • awarded a project from the Taiwan Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwanese Overseas Pioneers Grants for New Scholars. 2019–2020 entitled “Liquid Conservatism and ‘Hetero-Hegemony’: Transnational Religious Networks of Taiwanese ‘Pro-Family Movements’ and Their Inter-Asian/American Allies”.
  • received the Burnside Watstein Award (LGBTQIA+ Community Contribution Award) at Virginia Commonwealth University, 2019.
Janet Lorenzen, Associate Professor of Sociology at Willamette University in Salem, OR completed her 80th interview on climate policy and published the article “‘For Us Climate Action Never Dies’: A Legislative Process Analysis of Environmental Movement Tactics in Oregon” in Environmental Sociology.

Étienne Meunier received a grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities for his project Acceptability of HIV Treatment as Prevention among MSM (R21 MD014701). Project period 6/15/2020 – 1/31/2022. Total amount: $457,801.

Dena Smith was promoted to Associate Professor at University of Maryland this summer. She also had a baby in December.

Hakim Zainiddinov published several articles.

  • 2020. “Divergent Perceptions of Muslim Americans on Being Stereotyped as Terrorists.” Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression
  • 2019. “Trends and Determinants of Attitudes towards People Living with HIV/AIDS among Women of Reproductive Age in Tajikistan.” Central Asian Journal of Global Health 8(1) doi: 10.5195/cajgh.2019.349.
  • 2019. “Factors Shaping Mother-Child Interaction in Post-Soviet Countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.” Early Child Development and Care doi: 10.1080/03004430.2019.1572133. (with Nazim Habibov).
Brittany Friedman
  • received an RU Research Council Grant to purchase civil lawsuit data from the Michigan Attorney General's Office in support of her project "The Dark Side of Pay-to-Stay: Suing Prisoners for the Cost of Incarceration."  The project is a collaborative effort between myself, April Fernandes (Assistant Professor, North Carolina State) and Gabriela Kirk (PhD Candidate, Northwestern University).
  • participated in an virtual panel on the historical connections between slavery, police brutality, and abolition: Breaking the Thin Blue Line of Bigotry: How Outcries for Police Reform have led to Calls for Abolition. June 29, 2020
Paul Hirschfield's expertise on police violence and accountabiity has been featured recently in various news outlets including CNN (GPS with Fareed Zakaria), Time, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Newsweek, Sinclair Broadcasting, Vox (podcast), Al Jazeera, and (Spain). You can read more about his work in these other outlets as well. Joanna Kempner helped to write a successful NSF Rapid response grant application, for which she is now a consultant. "Assessing Ethical Challenges in Conducting Do-it-yourself (DIY) Science During the COVID-19 Pandemic." Co-PIs: Anna Wexler and Lisa Rasmussen. Institution: University of Pennsylvania

Norah MacKendrick
David Popenoe retired from Rutgers in 2007. He is now 87 years old, living in his home in Princeton.  Although his wife sadly died of Alzheimer's disease in 2016, David continues to travel extensively (at least pre-COVID), including many visits to his daughters and grandchildren in Michigan and Sweden.  The National Marriage Project, which he founded at Rutgers in the 1990's, is still in operation at the University of Virginia. David hopes that all is going well with the Sociology department. Thanks for being in touch, David. 

Rachael Shwom, Associate Professor of Human Ecology and a full member of our graduate program faculty, is currently the chair of the ASA Section on Environmental Sociology. 
Jess recently got engaged to her partner Jake Treinish.  
Congratulations to Jess and Jake!
September 2               
10am-12pm.    Incoming Student Orientation with Faculty
3-4pm.    Incoming Student Orientation with Staff
September 11             
10-11:30am.    Masters Panel: Tali Dax, Jomaira Salas, Hannah Troxel
September 16            
1pm.    Professionalization workshop: Identifying and Winning Grants
September 23            
11:30am-1pm.    Deborah Carr, Boston University
 “Interpersonal and Institutional Discrimination among U.S. Adults with Disability”
October 14                
11am-12:30pm.    Matthew Rafalow, Google and UC-Berkeley
 “Digital Divisions: How Schools Create Inequality in the Tech Era”

1 - 2pm.    Professionalization Workshop: Career Opportunities in Tech for Sociologists
October 21                    
11:30am-1pm.    Masters Panel:  Endia Hayes, Sirine Mechbal, Allegra Pocinki
November 4                  
12-1:30pm.    Teaching Lunch co-sponsored with GUSS
November 11                
11:30am.    Jason B Phillips Memorial Lecture: Niina Vuolajarvi
November 18              
11:30am-1pm     Wendy Roth, University of Pennsylvania 
“Genetic Options and Constraints: Findings from a Randomized Controlled Trial on How       Genetic Ancestry Tests Change Ethnoracial Identities”

November 26                                        
Happy Thanksgiving!
December 9                  
12 -1:30pm.    Holiday Gathering
*    All gatherings to take place on Zoom with invitations to follow
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