Sociology Matters Spring 2021

Letter from the Chair

The end of any academic year is a time of celebration and new beginnings, and in this 2021 is no different from any other year.  While our conversations are still mostly on Zoom, we’ve grown more comfortable with that. Necessary practice has made us pros at producing virtual events, like celebrating our 2021 graduates. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, 2021 also marks the first year we have been able to fund all of our graduate students in the summer, and as vaccination rates continue to rise, we look forward to a reimagined community back on campus, and in Savery Hall, in September. 

The challenges of this past year have rung changes throughout our lives and in our work, not all of them bad.  The constant Zooming gives us glimpses into each other’s days, including a chance to visit with each other’s children and pets. As sociologists, the continued pandemic and the urgent movement for racial reckoning have engaged us in new ways, putting our research and scholarship in the forefront of important public conversations. Steve Pfaff has written a thoughtful essay that applies insights from research he conducted for his recent book The Genesis of Rebellion:  Governance, Grievance, and Mutiny in the Age of Sail (Cambridge 2020) to highlight the impact of poor governance on citizens’ grievances and protests during the pandemic.  Closer to home, both Katherine Beckett and Kyle Crowder lead teams that are studying homelessness and the housing crisis in Seattle, while Julie Brines is working with a graduate student and an undergraduate to investigate the pandemic’s effect on families and couples. Meanwhile, Pat Louie, Alexes Harris, and many others continue their work on racial disparities in health, the criminal legal system, and other major institutions. This work, and the conversations they provoke, reflect our collective commitment to contributing knowledge that advances a more just, equal, and sustainable world. 

We’ve also learned a lot about social interaction, and what can and cannot be done well remotely.  Many of us—myself very much included!—have been pleasantly surprised at the quality of Zoom-based discussions and seminars.  (My pet theory is that the equally sized boxes on the Zoom screen upset some of the traditional hierarchies that can stifle conversation.)  As a result, many of our students are more engaged than ever, and as a department we have had substantive discussions about our undergraduate program’s mission, and about better mentoring of graduate students. Both conversations strengthen the foundation of the department going forward.

In the midst of all of this we have successfully recruited three new faculty members who will join us in Autumn Quarter.  Magda Boutros just completed a one-year postdoctoral fellowship at Brown’s Watson Institute, where she worked on a book on racialized policing in colorblind France.  Jelani Ince is an ethnographer studying micro-interactions in intentionally diversifying settings.  Jelani will complete his PhD at Indiana University this summer, and his presence will reinvigorate social psychology and organizational studies at UW.  Finally, Theresa Rocha Beardall, a lawyer and a sociologist, comes to us from Cornell via Virginia Tech.  Theresa studies policing and tribal sovereignty and has an exciting new collaboration with alum Frank Edwards (PhD 2017) focused on how child welfare policies affect children and families in Indian Country.  We are thrilled to welcome each of them, and excited about how they will shape the department in the coming years.

In the meantime, I’m delighted to share with you our latest edition of Sociology Matters. I hope you will enjoy catching up with UW Sociology, and will drop us a line from time to time.  Your support makes much of what we do possible, and with some luck, we’ll see you on campus this fall.

Katherine Stovel

Professor and Chair

Congratulations, 2021 Sociology Graduates! 

It has been an honor to work with and learn from you during your time with us at UW. We are proud of your many accomplishments and your resilience in the face of an exceptionally challenging final year. We know that you are poised to make positive impacts on the world around you, and wish you all the best in whatever comes next. Stay in touch!

We invite you to watch the latest Voices of Sociology video and learn why sociology matters to some of our graduates.

Watch Voices of Sociology


When Zack Almquist joined our faculty last spring, he realized a cherished ambition: rejoining the academy while solving the so-called “two-body problem.”  As an interdisciplinary scholar grounded in mathematics, statistics, and sociology, Zack combines modern social network analysis with demography to investigate how populations interact, often in novel circumstances like tracking disaster displacement and climate change, and improving how we estimate… Read more
Seven courageous students started our graduate program last fall, at the height of the pandemic.  From virtual orientations to remote classes, online TA duties and Zoom stats study session, their first year experiences have been like no other.  Most still haven’t set foot on campus or inside Savery Hall, let alone met their colleagues in person.  How have they navigated the challenges of acclimating to graduate school while remaining physically isolated?  Did they manage to build supportive and… Read more
The last time Ann Frost, a lecturer in the Sociology Department and Law, Societies, and Justice, taught a course that focused on juvenile justice she and twelve UW undergraduate students traveled to the Monroe Correctional Complex as part of  a mixed-enrollment class with men who were incarcerated. Three years later, she’s teaching in a completely different context: now it’s a large lecture course to Sociology majors, offered remotely because of the pandemic, and taking place during a period… Read more
Article by Ulrika O'Brien It’s not unusual for sociologists to discover their calling late. Musicians, mathematicians, artists, and doctors may know even as kids what they will be when they grow up, but there just aren’t a lot of youngsters dressing up as sociologists for Halloween. Of course, you don’t find a lot of longitudinal data play sets at Toys R Us, either. Sociology is disadvantaged when it comes to kid appeal. But once a young scholar destined for sociology actually finds it… Read more
After completing his PhD and an MS in statistics this summer, Yuan Hsiao will begin his career as an assistant professor in the University of Washington’s Department of Communication in the Fall of 2021. A deeply sociological thinker, Yuan studies how new technologies like twitter and texts have transformed grassroots efforts at social change, and this has made him a rising star in the exciting field of Political Communication. Yuan also has an impressive record of collaborating with scholars… Read more

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