some of us are brave

Papers, Presentations, For-Profits, Social Media and Justice

The season of U.S. sociology professionalization is upon us.

This year will be my most active as the American Sociology Conference joins the American Black Sociologists and the Sociologists for Women in Society in New York this week. New to the discipline, I spent my first couple of years just lurking about. This year I am presenting, task forcing, moderating and meeting.

My study on admissions at for-profit colleges is complete. The paper is making the peer review rounds. There is a small hope that it might be published before I die. In the meantime, Friday at 4pm I present some of my findings at ABS:

Screen shot 2013-08-05 at 12.15.49 PMThe corresponding paper took “honorable mention” at this years ASA Public Sociology division awards. I’m honored even as I cringe at the early draft! The abstract for that paper currently reads as follows:

Organized for Urgency: Admissions in the Expanding For-Profit College Sector


Sociology understands organizational characteristics of college admissions as representative of social processes that stratify access to education and subsequent occupational rewards. The rapid expansion of the high cost for-profit college sector disproportionately enrolls marginalized student groups historically served by less expensive public colleges. The effects of decoupling price from prestige has led researchers to examine labor outcomes and student characteristics. To date, we understand the social and economic consequences of their decisions but little about why students choose for-profit colleges . This study contributes to the literature how for-profit college enrollment works and why it appeals to low-status, high-risk students. Data are from participant observation in the enrollment process at nine representative for-profit colleges, semi-structured interviews with 31 currently enrolled for-profit college students and content analysis of 121 marketing, enrollment and corporate training materials. I find that the for-profit college enrollment process is organizationally distinct from traditional college admissions. That distinctiveness cannot be attributed to institutional differences and, thus, are attributed to for-profit status.  Characteristics of the enrollment process include: urgency, bureaucratic simplicity, and structural motivation. Analysis reveals evidence that economic insecurity accounts for the correspondence between student behaviors and organizational characteristics. Contrary to technical-functional explanations, social reproduction theories of educational expansion best explain these data.

I will also join a panel of amazing colleagues for a panel on social movements, academics and social media. I never imagined this as part of my academic repertoire. But, over the last year I have probably had as many invited talks, published essays, and training sessions evolve from my social media ruminations as from my core work on inequality and education. I certainly apply my organizational theory hat to media often enough.

This paper draws on a case study of particular interest to academics: the Chronicle of Higher Education and Black Studies Critique from last year. I argue that the organizational logics of social media, traditional media, and corresponding organizational status cultures shape the trajectories of “successful” social media campaigns. Social movement scholars and activists would benefit from attention to the organizational conditions under which social media is either signal-booster or action-initiator. The talk is Saturday at 10:30 am.

Screen shot 2013-08-05 at 12.22.05 PM

As a member of the ASA social media task force, I will actually be drawing on all of this work to contribute to our professional organization’s engagement with the public through social media.

My engagement in this year’s conference bonanza reflects much of how I will likely enter the academic market. I am a sociologist. My expertise is in stratification and organizations. My dissertation research examines the privatization of public goods, specifically through an analysis of the expansion of the for-profit college sector. My future research agenda includes interests in new work arrangements, corporate “work-life” policies, and student debt narratives as a social movement among others. I would just about kill to study gendered, racialized work in university settings and how tuition assistance benefits are used by office staff and the like.  I care about inequality and public engagement. I obsessively collect examples of “doing sociology” from media to hopefully model for my students the form and value of developing a sociological imagination. I teach stratification, education, research methods (mixed and research design), as well as undergraduate courses in race/gender/class. Some of my students love me and I admit to loving them back:


If you’re at the Soc Conference Extravaganza this week, please try to say hello if you’re so inclined. Meeting the people I interact with through citations, social media, and comments is one of my favorite conference-y things to do.


One comment on “Papers, Presentations, For-Profits, Social Media and Justice

  1. rglw
    August 5, 2013

    Hoping I’ll see you around ASA this weekend. Good luck with your very active agenda in NYC!

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This entry was posted on August 5, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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