Dr. Rachael Russell, PhD

Rachael Russell successfully defended her dissertation last week!

It will go down in history as one of the most memorable defenses ever.  Rachael was not only calm and composed under difficult questioning from her committee, but she managed to stay cool during the FIRE ALARM that erupted in the middle of the defense.  I’m not kidding, the whole building was evacuated.  But, Rachael wasn’t flustered at all and picked up right where she left off when we returned to the seminar room.  That kind of poise definitely scores points during a defense.  :)

The dissertation is entitled “Constructing Global Womanhood: WINGOs, Women’s Ministries, and Women’s Empowerment.”

The project builds directly on Nitza Berkovitch’s terrific book “From Motherhood to Citizenship”, which examined the growth of international women’s organizations.  Rachael turns to many of the same issues, but with a quantitative lens.  She content-coded the aims of women’s INGOs and traces their aims and agendas.  Then, she does a standard world society diffusion analysis, showing that WINGOs (as well as other international factors, like ratification of CEDAW) accelerate the formation of national ministries devoted to women and gender issues.  Finally, she uses panel data models to show that those same international forces are also associated with improvements in the status of women, as measured by things like labor force participation and participation in higher education.  The project thus adds to the growing body of work showing that “world society” is not just associated with policy reform, but also seems to affect tangible outcomes.

Congratulations to Rachael!

Tricia Wins Academia

The other big news this month is that Tricia Bromley was hired at the Graduate School of Education at Stanford.

One look at her CV, and you’ll know why Stanford wanted Tricia back.  She has been producing great papers like crazy — such as her recent ASR with Amanda Sharkey on actorhood among US firms and her stream of outstanding comparative papers on school curricula.

Huge congrats to Tricia!

Stanford is quite a place to build a career, especially if you can come in with a big leg-up on tenure, as is the case here.  The status and resources are a enormous… but the really amazing thing about Stanford is the phenomenal people that are there or always coming across the transom.  A huge win for Tricia…

And, it is great to see the world society tradition staying so vital at Stanford, with John and Chiqui showing no signs of slowing down and two outstanding younger people (Tricia and Christine Wotipka) who bring lots of energy.

By coincidence, we are fortunate that Tricia will be visiting UCI this week to give a talk… something that was set up before the Stanford job came through.  Hopefully the trip won’t interrupt all her packing…

Soo-yong Byun tenured at PSU!

First, some wonderful news:  Last week Soo-yong told me he was promoted to associate professor with tenure at Penn State!

If anyone deserves tenure it is Soo-yong.  He is incredibly bright and motivated, and has a stunning publication record.  Last time I looked he had something like 40 refereed publications and almost a dozen chapters, with terrific pieces in Soc of Ed, Comparative Ed Review, AERJ, and so on…  He has already established himself as a leading scholar of comparative education, who has really contributed to our understanding of social capital, shadow education, and several other important topics.  But even if tenure is expected, it is always very exciting when the final news comes through.

Soo-yong is the very first student that I worked with who has earned tenure.  I had the pleasure of co-chairing his dissertation with Dave Chapman a the U of Minnesota.  It has been incredibly rewarding to watch Soo-yong launch his career right in front of my eyes.

Congratulations, Soo-yong!  Your accomplishments are well-deserved!

Back from the salt mines…

I’ve decided to get back to blogging again! I stopped mainly because I was feeling very much behind on things. I can’t say that I’m fully caught up — or even close to caught up — but I’ve cleared out several old projects that were really hanging over me.

So, more time for fun stuff!

Professor Shorette!

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

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!

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!