Sociology Newsletter -- Spring 2018

The Sociology Program invites you to see....

Chair's Guest Corner: Dr. Connie Frey Spurlock and Sydney Cook
Course Bio: Sociology at Work (338)
Get to Know Our Faculty: Professor Flo Maatita
Meet an Alum: Maurice Davis
Graduate Student Showcase: Josh Lucker
Thinking about Sociology: Articles You May Enjoy

Chair's Guest Corner: Dr. Connie Frey Spurlock and Sydney Cook

In this newsletter we hear from two people in the University who are dedicated to sociology and sustainability. Dr. Connie Frey Spurlock, associate professor, has put SIUE on the map among other universities for her work at SIUE on educating and creating sustainable campuses. Sydney Cook, BS '18, is a recent graduate beginning her work in sustainability. 

Cook and Frey Spurlock are both critical sociologists who work in the area of sustainability. They ask a lot of questions about why things are as they are, and they have a particular concern for the environment. I invite you to check out this dialogue of sorts between them and you, the reader, about sustainability and sociology. 

Linda Markowitz, PhD
Chair and Professor, Sociology

Course Bio: Sociology at Work (338)

Linda Markowitz has taught the sociology at work class since coming to SIUE 22 years ago. The biggest change since she began teaching is that fewer and fewer people in the world own most of the global wealth. The class is one of the three that our Employment Relations students take to graduate.

Everybody has to work, right? Even though we may not get paid for it, we do have to work! The interesting conundrums I address in the sociology at work class is A) what do we consider work, and B) how come most of us expect to hate what we do. We begin the class recognizing that human beings have a biological will to be productive. Without that will for productivity, we’d die off as a species. So the fact that some of us, or many of us, would prefer vegging out on the couch rather than being at our paid jobs shows that the way we organize work in the United States does not mesh with our biological drive.

All semester, we discuss how the market economy has turned us into consumers first and citizens second. So we do jobs we hate, because we want to buy lots of stuff. We’d rather have the freedom to buy than the freedom to find meaningful work. We discuss various theories that help us think about why consumerism has become more important than citizenship–from neo-liberal theories to Marxist theories. What I love about the class is that many of the students come from the business school, so they have been trained much differently than students in sociology. The different training always leads to interesting conversation!

Get to Know Our Faculty: Professor Flo Maatita

Dr. Flo Maatita has been at SIUE for over a decade and is one of the most beloved teachers in the department. We are proud that she, along with Sandra Weissinger, Liz Stygar and Connie Frey Spurlock, was one of 21 University faculty nominated by students as a Phenomenal Woman.

You have developed lots of interesting classes during your time at SIUE. Which class is your favorite? Tell us more about it.

The safe answer to this question is that I have no favorites! Yes, I have developed some interesting classes: sociology of Harry Potter; sociology of immigration; social inequality; and social inequality and the body. Next fall I’ll be offering a graduate seminar on sociology of the body and an interdisciplinary course with Dr. Laura Fowler, associate professor of historical studies, on the history of social protest in spring 2019. I think I am most proud of my sociology of immigration class. I teach it every spring, and the students I have this semester are so engaged and curious. They certainly make my job easier!

This course also means a lot to me because it is a tribute to my family. My father emigrated from Indonesia (and the Netherlands) in the mid-1950s, and my mother emigrated from Mexico in 1960. I am incredibly proud of my immigrant family histories, and I want to celebrate it not just because I’m proud of those who came before me, but because we are in the midst of a historical moment where there is so much vilification and criminalization of immigrants.

In August, you presented a paper about the St. Louis Women's March. Can you sum up what you found most interesting about the research?

I presented my paper, “This is What Inclusion Looks Like: Negotiating, Managing and Presenting Race and Gender in the Women’s March on St. Louis,” at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems in Montreal. This paper was born out of my interest in discussions, primarily on social media, prior to the women’s marches in January 2017 where many women criticized march organizers for privileging white women’s voices and experiences. St. Louis was not unique in critics’ charges of racism, and I thought that this particular moment could have been an opportunity for a constructive dialog about intersectionality in a city that is one of the birthplaces of the Black Lives Matter movement. As a result of dialoging and negotiating, the march in St. Louis was capped off by a rally that featured 11 speakers, eight of whom were women of color. I was curious about the process of choosing speakers.

At the time of the presentation, I did not have time to interview speakers at the rally. I was, however, able to use discussions on social media, namely Facebook, and the pictures posted on various sites (e.g., St. Louis Post-DispatchRiverfront Times). Threads on social media revealed some constructive discourse about racism, intersectionality and white privilege. Some exchanges were not so productive as well. The images I found presented a group of marchers that were diverse in terms of gender identity, sex, race-ethnicity, age and religion.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to continue with this project, but it is on my to do list….

It’s no secret that you have a soft spot for UConn Women’s basketball team.  Is there room in your heart for the SIUE women’s team?

Actually, there’s a lot of room in my heart for the SIUE women’s and men’s teams. I have had season tickets to their home games for years, and I have been a faculty mentor for both teams for the past three years. I was also on the committee to hire Coach Paula Buscher in the spring of 2012. I think she has done an outstanding job with the women’s program, and I love watching their hustle and ferocity on the court.

I cheer as loud as I can for these student-athletes on and off the court, although it is no secret that my cheering wouldn’t be as loud if SIUE ever matched up with my beloved UConn Huskies.

Meet an Alum: Maurice Davis

Maurice Davis received his master's in the department not long ago. He explains here what he loves about sociology.

Which kind of sociology superhero are you?

In high school, I took my first sociology class and instantly fell in love. I have since come to realize that sociologists are the closest things to superheroes in this world. They challenge one another, but also larger societal institutions on issues such as racism, addiction and poverty that impact communities like mine. They might not have superhuman abilities, but they are by no means powerless.

Sociologists’ powers glean from their abilities to mobilize, advocate, and inform. As a recently recruited superhero (I mean sociologist), I’m able to not only get involved in the community but also be aware of what my role needs to be; use my agency to help others have agency of their own; and do work for and with people that helps to reaffirm my faith in humanity. 

While I enjoy most areas of sociology, I love to study race and sexuality. Studying these areas more in-depth has almost been therapeutic as I’ve been more thoroughly able to understand and define my intersecting identities as a queer identified African American male. My knowledge of intersectionality also allows me to help those who identify similarly to me and educate those who do not. In this research, I find passion, hope, and resilience; all things that continuously make these topics fresh and exciting.

What I loved most about my sociology experience at SIUE in particular was the support that I received from the faculty. The department was like a family, and I’m thankful to be a product of a wonderful group of people who were giving of their time and knowledge. It’s this same spirit and wisdom I try to impart in my work in higher education to impact educational processes, settings and policies to create a more equitable experience for both students, staff and faculty.

Graduate Student Showcase: Josh Lucker

Josh Lucker is finishing up an exciting research project on millennials. He tells about his project here.

There has been much written about the millennial generation in the popular press. Millennials have been blamed for the death of various industries and have been called selfish and apathetic. However, numerous studies have shown that nothing could be further from the truth. Millennials, defined broadly as those born between the early 1980s to the early 2000s, are extremely politically engaged. They are also the most educated generation on record. Despite their education, many millennials find themselves unable to find work or unable to find work in their fields after graduation, thus sometimes called “graduates with no future.”

Further, polling data shows that millennials are coming to reject some basic tenets of the ideology of liberalism, in the broadest sense, i.e. bourgeois liberty, equality, justice, and are turning towards socialism. Millennials were active in Bernie Sanders' campaign. Furthermore, in the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have seen their numbers swell from 6,000 to over 35,000, making them the largest socialist organization in the United States since World War II. How did these millennials, in particular the “graduates with no future,” who have joined the DSA, come to reject the traditional liberal ideas that are enshrined in the United States and taught throughout the education system and reinforced through myriad social structures and popular media?

In my research, I conducted interviews with 27 members of DSA from four different locals/chapters, St. Louis, Memphis, the Twin Cities, and the East Bay. Through these interviews, participants reported widespread skepticism about “justice,” “equality,” and “freedom,” understood in the form of abstract ideals. Interestingly, many reported having encountered socialist ideas and critiques of liberalism in college, only to find their way to praxis through the Sanders campaign and its aftermath.

Thinking about Sociology: Articles You May Enjoy


"Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys"   Black boys raised in America, even in the wealthiest families and living in some of the most well-to-do neighborhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds, according to a sweeping new study that traced the lives of millions of children.  White boys who grow up rich are likely to remain that way. Black boys raised at the top, however, are more likely to become poor than to stay wealthy in their own adult households.   Read more in The New York Times.


"Does the White Working Class Really Vote Against Its Own Interest"  As his first year in the White House draws to a close, Donald J. Trump remains in almost every respect a singular character. He exists well outside the boundaries of what most observers previously judged possible, let alone respectable, in American politics. To catalogue the norms he has violated, the traditions he has traduced or trampled, and the rules—written and unwritten—that he has either cunningly sidestepped or audaciously blown to smithereens would require volumes.  Read more at Politico

race "How America Has Silently Accepted the Rage of White Men"  In the wake of one of the worst massacres in modern American history, our government's highest leaders will be silent about why things like this keep happening. "Warmest condolences" will be tweeted to families of those who lost their lives, minutes of mourning will pass and murmurs of mental health issues and lone-wolf actors will taper into silence. Taming homegrown terror and tightening gun control will be dismissed as inappropriate or unnecessary politicizing of a tragedy and quickly become secondary to more pressing issues on the administration's agenda. America has been here before.  Read more at