Sociology department continues quick expansion, hires new faculty

| News Editor

The sociology department hired three new faculty for this semester, nearly doubling the size of the department that only returned to campus last fall.

The department, re-established in 2014 after a nearly 25 year hiatus, hired its first three professors in the spring of 2015, offering their first classes in the fall 2015 semester.

Steven Fazzari, chair of the department, is confident that sociology will continue to attract interest from students and faculty alike due to the social relevance of the field.

“I’m thrilled to see our department develop to address critical questions about the sources and persistence of social inequality and how social movements lead to change over time,” Fazzari said. “These issues are so important in today’s society; it is great to see them return to the center of intellectual life at Washington University.”

Fazzari explained that this rapid growth is an essential part of the department establishing its presence on campus.

“This commitment was necessary to attract top faculty to our new department. To get to this critical mass requires pretty continuous faculty recruiting in our early years. That said, I’m surprised by our quick progress. We are ahead of schedule,” Fazzari said.

Junior Vamsi Marla expressed interest in the new department but was also concerned about the peculiarities of a new department that is inherently interdisciplinary.

“I’m interested to see what classes will be included that are different from current offerings in psychology and anthropology,” Marla said.

Junior Darren Li, unlike Marla, feels that the new department is not interdisciplinary enough to attract premed students from the hard sciences.

“I don’t think I’d actually be interested in taking a sociology class. I don’t have time in my schedule, and Khan Academy was sufficient for self-learning sociology,” Li said.

The department has already secured office space on the second floor of Seigle Hall, which will be renovated this spring to create an office suite and a special design meant to encourage collaboration among faculty and students.

“We are working hard to put together an undergraduate major. This is just in its early stages, but I am optimistic that students will be able to declare a sociology major soon,” Fazzari said. “Within the next few years, I also hope, and expect, that we will admit our first class of graduate students.”

The three new faculty members, Caitlyn Collins, John Robinson and Ariela Schachter, are all expected to finish their Ph.D. programs by semester’s end at different institutions (University of Texas, Northwestern University and Stanford University, respectively).

Collins is scheduled to teach an introductory course in the fall exploring inequality across race, gender, class and sexuality and Robinson plans on teaching an upper-level course in the fall on poverty and the American city. Schachter will teach an upper-level course on sociology of immigration.