Professor Shorette!

January 14, 2014

More good news:  Kristen Shorette will be joining SUNY Stony Brook next year as an assistant professor of sociology!

Kristen recently finished up her PhD here at UCI, having written a terrific dissertation on the global emergence of Fair Trade markets.  Stony Brook has had strength in global/transnational sociology for a long time.  Kristen, will find herself right at home there.

Kristen’s interview brought back some memories:  I actually had my very first job interview at Stony Brook, long ago.  I was very nervous, and didn’t get the job… but I nevertheless enjoyed the visit.  I got to meet people like Jackie Smith, Said Arjomand, Dianne Barthel, etc.  Since then, Stony Brook has continued to hire really smart global people like Tim Moran, Kiyo Tsutsui (now at Michigan), John Shandra, etc.  The Stony Brook department is a great fit for Kristen (and vice versa).

Congratulations Kristen!

Congratulations Shawn Wick

December 27, 2013

Belated congratulations to Shawn Wick, who successfully defended his dissertation earlier this fall!

The dissertation is titled “Missionaries of Modernization and Managers of Myth:  Organizational Legitimacy in the Field of International Development.”  The project takes the Peace Corp as a site to examine how development organizations describe themselves and craft narratives to maintain organizational legitimacy in the eyes of external constituencies as well as members of the organization.

The title gives hints at what drew Shawn to this project.  A Peace Corp volunteer prior to entering graduate school, Shawn was struck by the religious-like fervor common to many people and organizations in the development community.  This basic insight — that development is a culturally-infused domain — set the stage for his analysis of organizational narratives and the basis for the Peace Corp’s legitimacy.  Shawn finds that the original narrative developed at the Peace Corp’s inception has really stuck with the organization, and shaped how it has adapted to new political pressures in path dependent ways.

The dissertation is a great read.  Shawn is a terrific writer, and really conveys the feel of the milieu that the Peace Corp was operating in over the decades.

The Ron Aminzade and I were co-advisors, and Ann Hironaka and David Chapman were also on the committee.

I think all my University of Minnesota dissertation committees are wrapped up.  It has been great to see all the terrific students coming out of Minnesota… and to participate in some small way.  The grad program is really impressive (not to mention the faculty!).

Shawn is an assistant professor at Central College in Iowa… and now a PhD!  Congratulations, Shawn!

Mayumi Uno Defends!

August 24, 2013

We have another new PhD!  Mayumi Uno successfully defended her dissertation at the University of Minnesota.  The project is entitled:  “National Institutional Context and Educational Inequality: A Multilevel Analysis of Variation in Family SES Effects on Academic Achievement across OECD Countries.”

Mayumi pursues a question that is of great interest to me:  How does institutional context and the organization of national education systems affect schooling?  In particular, she focuses on educational inequality, operationalized as the slope linking family background (SES) and achievement — which captures the extent that schools reproduce existing inequality.  The dissertation examines a wide range of national-level institutional variables that might influence inequality, including differentiation, sources of funding, private tutoring, labor market incentives, and even welfare state variables.

The dissertation has a ton of interesting findings.  For one thing, strong state control over the educational system is associated with less SES-based inequality.  If the state controls all the funding and curriculum, and if there are more instructional hours in the school year, family effects are reduced.

That makes a lot of sense.  The simplest way to eliminate the influence of family SES would be to send all kids to state-run boarding schools year-round.  Obviously, no country does that…  but there are real differences in the length of the school year, centralized funding of education, etc, which appear to be very consequential for inequality.

The dissertation also has some surprising results.  For instance,  the prevalence of tutoring/shadow education in a country is associated with less SES-related inequality.  Mayumi expected the opposite, and so did I.  You’d think that family resources would translate into much better tutoring.  But, inequalities are greater in societies where there isn’t much tutoring.  Perhaps tutoring has the biggest payoff in societies where few people can afford it?  Like any good dissertation, the project raises new questions to be studied…

The study is a multilevel analysis of the PISA dataset, looking at math achievement among 15-year olds.  The quantitative analysis is superb.  Among other things, Mayumi carefully parses out the within-school vs. between school components of the SES effects… which yield a whole other set of interesting findings.  For instance, the prevalence of private schooling is associated with bigger school-level (contextual) SES effects but smaller within-school SES effects.  It makes sense one I started thinking about it… but I definitely didn’t know that before.  VERY interesting.

I co-chaired the dissertation with Teresa Swartz.  Jeylan Mortimer and Ann Hironaka were also on the committee.  Mayumi also worked with Karen Bradley at Western Washington, where she did her MA.

Congratulations, Mayumi!  You did a terrific job!

Kristen Shorette, PhD

August 21, 2013

Kristen Shorette finished up her dissertation, entitled:  “Institutional Foundations of Global Markets: The Emergence and Expansion of the Fair Trade Market across Nations and over Time”

The project looks at the emergence of “Fair Trade” in the international system.  Fair trade refers to goods (coffee, handicrafts) that are produced and traded in a environmentally and socially responsible manner.  Fair trade usually takes the form of a certification, done by an independent organization, that provides assurance that the goods are produced and traded in “fair” manner.

Fair Trade Coffee Image

The project is mostly quantitative, analyzing the proliferation of Fair Trade certification organizations and fair trade producers, globally.

The dissertation is at an the intersection of institutional theory, globalization, and economic sociology, where lots of people are doing interesting work (e.g., Tim Bartley, Alwyn Lim, Kiyo Tsutsui, Wes Longhofer).

The dissertation shows how much economic sociology has to say about the formation of new markets.  One simple hypothesis is that Fair Trade will simply grow up around existing market relations…  but that isn’t the case at all.

Rather, fair trade emerges from a global web of personal ties, including Peace Corp volunteers and missionaries who begin to import fair trade goods to the US and Europe.  Kristen actually went out and collected data on the destinations of Peace Corp volunteers, and finds that those connections predict the emergence of Fair Trade producers in later years.

After fair trade catches on, a more formal “fair trade regime” emerges — with large international organizations managing the certification process.   In later years, personalistic ties (e.g., Peace Corp volunteers) cease to be important.  Instead, conventional organizational ties (e.g., country-level INGO membership) are predictive of fair trade activity.

This just scratches the surface.  The dissertation is a big, rich project with lots of interesting findings.  But, it really shows how world society research can speak to economic sociology.

Nina Bandelj and I co-chaired the dissertation, and Ann Hironaka also served on the committee.

Congratulations Kristen!

Mike Landis defends!

August 14, 2013

Mike Landis wrapped up his PhD this Spring.  Congrats!!!

The dissertation is a quantitative, cross-national analysis of terrorism events over the last few decades.  One of the take-away points is that terrorism is frequently the spillover from an ongoing civil war.  That finding makes a ton of sense, and provides a better way of thinking about “typical” forms of terrorism, compared to popular accounts that focus on things like 9/11.  The dissertation does a nice job of developing and extending some of Ann Hironaka’s arguments in her book Neverending Wars (Harvard Press, 2005).  The dissertation committee was Ann, David Frank, Ed Amenta, Wayne Sandholtz, and myself.

The dissertation uses the Global Terrorism Database, which was put together by Gary LaFree  and colleagues at the U of Maryland.  The dataset looks pretty interesting.

Again, congratulations to Dr. Mike Landis!

I had to put blogging aside for a while to deal with a mix of work and personal stuff.  Among other things, I’d promised to copyedit Ann’s book, which took a long time.  She sent off the final manuscript to Cambridge right before ASA!  More on that later.  In the meantime, I can do some posting.

I really enjoyed the ASA meetings in Denver this year.

Lots of great conversations with both new friends and old. And, some very good panels (which can sometimes be hit-or-miss).

I was struck by the rapid growth and maturity of the Global & Transnational Sociology section. The organizers and leadership deserve a huge amount of credit, starting with John Boli (who really put it all together) and continuing through to this year’s Chair Sarah Babb… and everyone in between. They’ve built a broad tent, inclusive of scholars addressing a wide range of theoretical, substantive, and methodological issues. And, people are clearly putting effort into making the ASA less American-centric. Last, but not least, it is just a friendly bunch of people.

The growth of the section is creating community and lots of positive interactions… including the terrific pre-conference (organized by Peggy Levitt and Liz Boyle) and some excellent panels.

Also, the section literally helps constitute and institutionalize the global/transnational sub-field in sociology. This year I’m seeing what is surely a record number of jobs for scholars working in “global & transnational sociology”. This is totally new. In the past, one might see postings for scholars whose research is “international” or occasionally jobs for people studying “globalization” or “comparative sociology” or “global political economy”. Now that there is a formal section, we see standardization of job postings around the label. And, the existence of the section presumably makes it easier to list global/transnational as an area on a job ad. The section legitimates the enterprise… so probably more jobs overall.

Overall, this is a Very Good Thing.

Back to Blogging

August 21, 2012

Posting always slows in January — and this year stopped completely — when Graduate Admissions and teaching ramp up.  But, I only have one more year of serving as Graduate Director (together with Nina Bandelj — a terrific person to work with!).  So, hopefully that bodes well for the future of the world polity blog.  :)

Wes Longhofer Defends

December 10, 2011

Last but not least, Wes Longhofer defended yesterday!  Woohoo!  Wes is the first student I’ve worked with from beginning to end, so it was especially rewarding to see it all come together.

Wes’s dissertation, “Foundations of Global Giving”, examines the recent explosion of globally-oriented philanthropic foundations, as well as their consequences for a variety of outcomes.  He also has a chapter on individual participation in charitable organizations, which turn out to be affected by world society variables (in addition to conventional predictors).

Philanthropy isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, and sometimes it has taken transnational forms (from missionary work to the Ford Foundation).  Yet, Wes argues we are seeing a new kind of liberal/American-style philanthropy emerging and becoming institutionalized in world society.  The argument parallels work by John Meyer and Ho-Kyu Hwang on recent changes in the development regime, where models of progress become increasingly Anglo/liberal, locating the key to progress in individuals and their aggregations (e.g., NGOs) rather than states or other collectivities.  Philanthropy is increasingly organized along global (neo-)liberal lines, generating a distinctive new flavor.  Instead of missionaries or the Ford Foundation, we get lots of INGOs and global philanthropic networks, pushing all sorts of new “social ventures” worldwide.

It goes without saying that the dissertation had some diffusion analyses — in this case models of the global expansion of philanthropic foundations (at least one type of them).  It is sort of a rite of passage — everyone in the world polity/world society tradition has to model diffusion at some point or another.  And, there have to be INGOs.  Lots and lots of INGOs.

Wes also examines the effects of foundations on national-level outcomes using statistical data.  Foundations, it seems, have concrete consequences.  Environmental foundations affect some measures of environmental degradation; medical foundations affect some kinds of medical outcomes (e.g., vaccinations), and so on.  Some of the effects are mediated by the size of the state, with bigger effects where the state is smaller.  In a world frequently typified by loose coupling, these direct consequences of foundations are actually kind of surprising…

Wes’s defense was a nation-wide phenomenon, with Liz (co-chair) and Michael Goldman in Minnesota, me and Ann Skyping in from the West Coast, and Michael Barnett on the East Coast.  The defense was particularly lively, with the Michaels doing a great job of pushing back on the world society perspective, in a manner that was thought-provoking and constructive.  It is always great when people ask the hard questions…  I think of it as a sign of respect.  You don’t push people if you know they can’t hold their own.  Anyhow, it made for a fun defense (especially for those of us, who weren’t actually in the hot seat!).

Congratulations, Wes, on a job well done!!!

p.s. Wes won some serious style-points for dedicating his dissertation to their newborn, who is appallingly cute by all accounts:  “For our beautiful daughter, Harper, whose first smiles came as I put this dissertation to bed — an event I chalk up to correlation, not causation.”

Jasmine Kerrissey Defends

December 10, 2011

This past Wednesday Jasmine Kerrissey defended her dissertation, entitled “Union Mergers in the United States, 1900-2005″.

The project examines the causes and consequences of union mergers in the United States over the past century. As I told Jasmine many times, this ambitious project could easily have been two dissertations.  First, she assembles historical data on essentially the entire population of mergers among national labor unions, to understand why and under what conditions unions merge.  Second, she looks at the consequences of mergers for union governance — and in particular, the extent to which unions are internally democratic.

Union mergers are interesting for lots of reasons.  Most of the research on organizational mergers comes from the study of private-sector firms, and so unions provide a fresh arena to test conventional arguments.

But, more interesting and important is the question of how mergers relate to the union movement specifically.  Are mergers a response to external threats and the growing size of corporations which they bargain with?  Changes in the political environment?  Something else?  And, does merging change the character of unions?  No single project could fully address the latter, but Jasmine looks at a key issue:  whether mergers lead to less-democratic governance.  She discusses several reasons why this might occur… and, indeed, she finds that post-merger unions are often less-democratic their pre-merger counterparts (controlling for key factors, such as size). Thus the consolidation of unions has arguably generated some adverse consequences for the labor movement.

The project includes remarkable quantitative data and analyses (building on Judy Stepan-Norris’s unrivaled dataset on American unions), and rich archival research — a real empirical tour de force, with a very compelling case study that unpacks the findings of the quantitative research.

Having known next-to-nothing about unions before meeting Jasmine a few years back, it has been a pleasure to see this project develop, and also to work with Jasmine on various collaborative endeavors.  Judy Stepan-Norris was the chair (Caleb Southworth, Cal Morrill, and David Meyer were also on the committee)…  I was just along for the ride.

Anyhow, congratulations Jasmine!

Karen Robinson Defends

December 10, 2011

OK, still catching up on old news…  We’ve had a bunch of defenses at UCI, starting with Karen Robinson a few months ago.

Karen’s dissertation looks at the rise of choice in university curricula over the past century.  Classically, universities offered rigid “courses of study” — specific sequences of topics, from which students could not deviate.  Or, there were exam-based programs, again affording no options to students.

This, of course, has given way to a world where students choose among myriad elective courses, and even design their own majors to address their highly individualized interests and preferences.

Karen does a wonderful job of telling an intertwined story — that the rise of individualism writ large is bound up with celebration of individualism and choice in university curricula.  On one hand, the university is a fantastic site to interrogate the nature of modern individualism (she has some amazing qualitative material). On the other hand, Karen argues that the university, itself, is a primary locus for the institutionalization and promulgation of individualism in modern societies.  Obviously, this historical shift is related to the rise of students as consumers, but she resists a simple story that student “demand” drives the expansion of choice.  Rather, Karen compellingly argues that the imagery of demand is just one facet of a sweeping cultural shift toward greater individualism in society.

David Frank chaired the committee, and you can see his influence in the massive data collection that Karen undertook.  (David is rather zealous — some would say crazy — when it comes to data.)  She examined university course catalogs over an entire century, focusing mostly on American universities (including elite, land-grant, religious, and historically black universities and colleges).  She also has a comparative chapter that examines diverse cases across the world — and shows that the rise of individualism and choice in university curricula is a global phenomenon.

Congratulations, Karen!

You can get a flavor of the project from Karen’s solo-authored paper in Sociological Forum, which came out in the September issue:  “The Rise of Choice in the U.S. University and College: 1910–2005“.  Congrats on that, too!

Wade Cole joins Utah, too!

October 26, 2011

Deserving of a separate post:  Wade Cole has also recently moved to the University of Utah, in the sociology department.  Congrats, Wade!

Utah has a long history of strength in global/international issues going back to people like Ed Kick (of Snyder and Kick).  Michael Timberlake and Jeffrey Kentor are there, along with more recent hires like Andrew Jorgenson.  And, with Wade and Tricia there, the place keeps building.  They really have critical mass…

Wade has also been cranking out a bunch of great papers, which I’ll take up in a later post…

Professor Bromley!

October 19, 2011

OK, not exactly the newest news item…  I’m doing some long overdue posting.

Tricia (Martin) Bromley landed a job at the University of Utah in the Political Science Department.  Congrats Tricia!

I visited once and really liked it there — the Rocky Mountains are a stone’s throw away.  More on Utah hires in a future posting…

Tricia continues to crank out terrific papers, including this paper with John and Chiqui on student-centeredness in the curriculum, which is forthcoming in Social Forces (congrats on that, too!):

Bromley et al_Stud Cent_Social Forces_FINAL110411

The paper takes on a big and really important issue:  the dramatic shift toward student centrism in education.  Schooling used to put authoritative knowledge at front-and-center… Shakespeare and Plato are important, students are not.  In contrast, modern pedagogy places the empowered student at the center of things.  Instead of learning Shakespeare, they should write their own poetry.  This is reflected very clearly in textbooks…

The paper does two great things:  First, it brings some really amazing cross-national data to bear on the issue.  The Stanford group has assembled a truly remarkable dataset on textbooks from around the world.  Not only does this allow systematic statistical analysis of the issue, but  the examples (scanned images) really drive the points home.

Second, the paper (along with others coming out of the project) shows how the curriculum  is a powerful site for exploring the culture of modernity — in this case, the nature of “individualism.”  There is less work on the foundational culture of modernity than one might expect.  You’d think that sociologists of culture would be all over this stuff, but there sometimes seems to be a tendency to shy away from the foundational aspects of modern culture (there are notable exceptions, for instance Zelizer’s “Pricing the Priceless Child”).  Anyhow, the article offers fresh insights into the culture of individualism — and the role of the curriculum in institutionalizing that culture.

Good luck getting settled in the new job!

Back from ASA in Las Vegas.  Phew!   Fun, but tiring…

The highlight was definitely when John Meyer was awarded the Global and Transnational Sociology Distinguished Career Award.

It was just a really nice event.  Roland Robertson, who won the award last year gave an introduction, Liz Boyle presented the award, and then John made some really thoughtful remarks.  Among the funny parts:  John thanked Roland for the kind introduction — and then mused that he felt he ought to disagree.  (Maybe you had to be there…)  I think some people took a video of the speech (maybe Yong Suk?).  I’ll post it if I get hold of it.

A whole bunch of John’s students showed up, which not only drove home the impact John has had on the field but also made it feel like a big family reunion.  Many of his students are now senior scholars in the field themselves — but there were plenty of mid-career people and recent PhDs in the room, too.  It was quite amazing to see the span of people he’s worked with.  And, Maria Meyer was there, adding her own cheerful warmth to the event.  All in all, a very nice evening.

On top of that, David Frank, Sarah Babb, and Cheris Chan won awards, too…  all terrific scholars (and really nice people, too).

Greetings!  After an unplanned hiatus (meaning, I was busy), I’m back to blogging again.  Anyhow, I have some great news to share:

Wes Longhofer landed a terrific job!  Starting next year, Wes will be an Assistant Professor of Organization & Management at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University.

They have a great orgs group there — Anand, Giacomo, Peter, Chris, and a bunch of other terrific people.  Of course, this continues a trend of B-schools pulling many of the best and brightest from sociology…

Congrats Wes!!!

p.s. now I know what to get Wes as a graduation present:  a sociology-to-MBA dictionary, so he can communicate with the MBAs…  for instance, his dissertation on “global philanthropy” roughly translates as “social ventures in emerging markets”.
p.p.s. I’ll try to hold off on the MBA jokes, but it is hard to resist…


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