students will have stage to themselves at regional meeting
professor Rae Blumberg's graduate seminar in Social Change
and Development includes (from left): Kathleen Dutt, Chris
Stevens, Blumberg, Laura Bethke, Evan Hunt, Patricia Goerman
and Ken Oman.
Blumberg stresses to her graduate sociology students the importance
of presenting papers at professional meetings. But even she couldn't
have anticipated what will happen in New Orleans later this month.
5 p.m. on April 20, in the Cabildo Room of the Hotel Monteleone,
all six of her Sociology 781 students will present papers at the
Southern Sociological Society's annual conference.
who's taught previously at California-San Diego and Wisconsin,
said a session devoted to presenting the work of a single graduate-level
class is a first in her experience.
will be only two other sessions presenting one class' work among
the 150 scheduled, said North Carolina State University associate
professor Cathy Zimmer, the conference program chair. The conference's
theme this year stresses blending research, teaching and learning.
Blumberg's graduate seminar in "Social Change and Development"
was actually held in the fall semester, but once the papers were
accepted, the group continued to meet regularly through the spring
semester to continue the research and writing process and prepare
their presentations. Their trip is being supported by grants from
department and the College
of Arts & Sciences.
Several of the students have never presented before, but said
the all-for-one approach has been helpful. "It takes away
the stress, knowing it's going to be just the six of us presenting
to the room," said Laura Bethke, one of the five doctoral
students in the class. Although this is her first conference,
she will actually be presenting two papers -- she had another
variety amongst the paper topics may have been a selling point
in earning the group its own session, "Development and Social
Change in the New Millennium,' Blumberg said. The students and
Hunt, the lone master's student in the group, calls himself "the
young pup with the off-beat paper." He is applying Blumberg's
gender stratification theory to the increasing number of women
purchasing Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Inspired by the spectacle
of "Bike Week" in Myrtle Beach, S.C. last spring, Hunt
decided to look into why more women are buying Harleys, formerly
an ultra-macho vehicular statement. Blumberg's theory, greatly
simplified, holds that as women
gain economically, they also increase their ability to make decisions.
Hunt's application of that theory suggests that as women gain
economically, "more will get off the back of the bike and
buy their own."
is considering making the presentation in full motorcycle leathers,
Kathleen Dutt, a product liability lawyer in Washington who is
returning to school to pursue her doctorate, is applying gender
theory to legal education.
is building on a 1994 study that found that women and men experience
law school differently, and that women with equal or better credentials
than men seem to do less well. Dutt argues that the Socratic teaching
method, which tends to put individual students on the hot seat
for extended periods of time, appears disproportionately injurious
to female students -- she calls it "abuse of students by
professors." They have a harder time with professors' tendency
to ask for only one correct answer, because women tend to see
more facets to a question than men.
law school grades, in turn, can be a significant career handicap,
she said. "Law is very hierarchical. Grades get you into
power positions. ... Women have less ability to achieve if their
grades aren't way up there."
Bethke is writing about gender differences in communication on
Internet chat rooms.
perceive the chat-room environment as being more hostile than
men do, she said, although her interviews find that the anonymous
format of chat rooms allows men and women to adopt more gender-neutral
communication styles, and both men and women report having uncomfortable
experiences. Men tend to shrug off such experiences, she said,
while women are more likely to move on to all-female chat rooms.
Patricia Goerman is applying Blumberg's theories to Hispanic immigrant
families. Interviewing eight first-generation Hispanic women about
their migration experiences and changes in their family lives
since they have arrived -- not a representative sample, she acknowledges
-- it appears that as women's economic power builds, so does their
say in household decisions.
Incidentally, Goerman and Blumberg received a grant from the Census
Bureau to spend the summer studying whether current census forms
adequately address the complexity of Hispanic households.
Chris Stevens' paper applies a theory of moralism originated by
Donald Black, University Professor of Social Sciences, to war.
Black's ideas are more often applied to conflict within states
-- among individuals and groups -- than that which arises between
states. "But it's a very general theory, and, in principal,
should apply to the largest and most extreme forms of moralistic
behavior, such as war," Stevens said. Essentially, Stevens
argues that, all other things being equal, the greater the social
distance and inequality between two groups, the more severe the
violence will be if they clash.
Finally, Ken Oman's paper is "Employment Inequality in the
Technology Economy: Understanding the Role of Education."
Oman qualifies as a life expert, having retired after spending
more than 20 years in the software business. Already holding a
master's of divinity earned before his career, he is now pursuing
a Ph.D. in sociology, and then has plans to get a law degree.
is also a "veteran" presenter, having attended and presented
at several conferences, he said.
likes the collective approach. "It has been unusual in that
way," he said. "There is a common sense of pride in
presenting together in a meeting."