In the News: Tyrone Forman (Sociology)

Tyrone Forman, associate professor of sociology and director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute, made the list of Creative Loafing‘s “20 People to Watch in 2013” (Jan 3, 2013) for his work in opening up the conversations about race and difference. According to the article:

Emory University’s Tyrone Forman has a rare perspective and keen understanding about race in ‘the city too busy to hate.’

As an associate professor of sociology for more than a decade, he has studied the attitudes between different racial and ethnic groups. Last year, he was tapped as the new director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute (JWJI), an Emory organization that tries to build awareness about the modern civil rights movement on both the academic and public levels.

As he takes the institute’s reins, Forman wants to change the dialogue about race and other forms of “difference” such as class, gender, religion, and sexuality throughout metro Atlanta. In particular, he wants to find a way for people to have a more nuanced conversation about these issues.”

Read full article



Korean Studies on the Rise

Korean Studies is on the upswing in the College thanks to the addition of a second full-time position in the area — sociologist Sun-Chul Kim, assistant professor of modern Korean society and culture in Emory’s Department of Russian and East Asian Languages and Cultures — and funding from the Korea Foundation. An independent organization affiliated with the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the foundation strives to promote better understanding of Korea in a global context through scholarship and teaching, as well as academic and cultural exchanges.

Through a special grant, the foundation has partnered with Emory to financially “seed” a tenure-stream position on modern Korea, while Emory faculty conducted a search for the position, made the selection, and articulated course content.

Other developments at Emory this academic year include:

  • The Halle Institute for Global Learning is finalizing plans to host “Korea 2020: Technology, Commerce and Policy,” an interdisciplinary conference to broaden and deepen engagement with Korea among students, faculty and the community this spring.
  • The launch of a teaching-assistant fellowship between Emory and Yonsei University, a private, Christian research university in Seoul, South Korea. This fall, Kyeongwon Yoon arrives at Emory as the first TA from Yonsei. The project was funded by a grant from the American Association of Teachers of Korean in partnership with the Korea Foundation.
  • Ongoing support for study abroad at Yonsei University, Seoul.
  • Plans to develop a degree minor in Korean Studies; a proposal will be submitted this year to the curriculum committee.
  • Faculty partnerships with other units at Emory to support new Korean Studies initiatives, including talks with Candler School of Theology as it explores a project at Methodist Theological University in Seoul.
  • Ongoing support from The Halle Institute for faculty study trips to Korea.

See full article in Emory Report

Robert Agnew (Sociology) on Criminology

Robert Agnew, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Sociology, was recently elected president of the American Society for Criminology (ASC), the leading organization for academic and research criminologists in the U.S. and world. The ASC has over 4,000 members and publishes over 7 journals, including two of the top journals their fields.

In the YouTube videos below, he talks about his background in the field of criminology, especially his work on general strain theory, and his juvenile and delinquency class (SOC 220), which covers the four basic theories of crime: general strain theory (certain stressors increase the likelihood of crime), control theory (a breakdown of social controls), social learning theory (individuals learn to commit crime from others), and labeling theory (people who are identified as criminals increases the likelihood they will continue to commit crimes).

Gerontology Studies Take a Leap Forward

(New Thinking on Old Age, by Hal Jacobs, from the Fall 2011 Quadrangle Magazine | see html version)


When sociology professor Ellen Idler invited a guest speaker to talk to her spring 2011 class about aging, she didn’t need to look far to find the perfect spokesperson.

Following a few steps behind a Secret Service agent, former President Jimmy Carter, a University Distinguished Professor at Emory, strolled into the classroom greeting students with his megawatt smile and piercing blue eyes. At 86 years old (he turned 87 October 1st), Carter is still a human dynamo.

“The way he wove together the personal and political issues was just terrific,” says Idler a week later in her office. She acknowledges that aging isn’t the most sexy topic. “Most students don’t believe they’re ever going to get old or that old people were ever young.”

But Carter may have changed a few minds. Over the course of his talk (available on the Emory YouTube channel) and his Q&A with students, he affirmed—and embodied—the importance of staying active and involved.

Katy Kruse 13C, a double major in anthropology and sociology, calls it a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

“I saw it less about him being old than about him talking about how to live your life to the fullest,” says Kruse.

“One thing I got from President Carter is that he’s just a genuinely good person,” said psychology major Evan Plys 11C. “He cares about people. I was more impressed by his presence than anything else.”

Carter also reinforced one of the most important themes of the class: today’s aging population in the U.S. will have an enormous impact on the students’ future.

“This is a big year for gerontology because this is the year that the baby boomers are turning 65,” says Idler. According to an article in the New York Times (12/31/10) that also cited research by Idler and her former Rutgers University colleague Julie Phillips, the oldest members of the Baby Boom Generation are now turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 people a day for the next 19 years. That’s 79 million baby boomers, about 26 percent of the population, placing greater demands on society, from parks and products to senior care facilities.

While the study of gerontology has long been a mainstay in medical and nursing schools, it is now taking a leap forward in Emory College thanks to Idler and associate professor of sociology Corey Keyes.

Flourishing Matters

As a graduate student in the early 1990s, Keyes sensed that things were coming to a head—that the Baby Boomers were going to be living longer, but society wasn’t prepared for it.

So he delved into how people could live healthier and more successful lives, not just longer ones. He began seeing health as something positive, something more than just the absence of disease or infirmity. He created a scale related to flourishing (see Wikipedia for more info) that measures a person’s sense of well-being and purpose.

“It’s amazing,” he says. “At all ages, people who are flourishing are protected from premature morbidity.” He wants people and clinicians—especially the pre-med and public health students who fill his classes—to stop focusing so much on preventing problems from occurring, and start focusing more on promoting and protecting good health, especially mental health.

He also believes that how one starts life will have a great impact later on. “What we’re finding is young people breaking down at alarming rates between the ages of 15 and 24—depression, panic disorder and substance abuse, all three come online between those ages. Once you have it, you’re wounded, scarred for the rest of your life. The risk of it returning is greater as well—we see an upswing of suicide at the end of life.

“So instead of waiting for a cure, we want to treat this by focusing on what it is you really want in your life.” Purpose, meaning, relationships—these are just a few of the things (expressed by Carter as well) that add up to flourishing.

Developing New Programs

Idler’s background in sociology and public health has made her a valuable asset at Emory. After 25 years at Rutgers, she arrived in 2009 with a joint appointment in the College and Rollins School of Public Health; she was also named director of the Religion and Public Health Collaborative, which draws together religion and theology faculty with others in the School of Public Health, the Nursing School, the Medical School and the Ethics Center.

“The recruitment of Ellen Idler to Emory marks an important milestone for aging inquiry at Emory,” says Ted Johnson, MD, MPH, a professor of medicine and epidemiology and director of the Emory Center for Health in Aging. “It’s not simply her own impeccable scholarly credentials, but also her ability to create excitement, lead students to choose aging as a focus of their study, and help develop whole new programs.”

For her spring class, Idler developed partnerships with three centers in the Emory community, giving students an option to perform 20–25 hours of volunteer work instead of writing the traditional research paper. Even she was amazed by the contributions her students made.

Evan Plys created a “Reminiscence and Relaxation” program at A. G. Rhodes Health & Rehab that brought patients together on a weekly basis to talk about their lives and form new bonds. He admits the service learning component of the class gave him the push he needed to go off campus and try something new.

“I was a little hesitant to go to a nursing home and work,” says Plys, who’s also a varsity baseball player. “I love older people and think they’re great, but I just wasn’t sure I could handle it.”

His interest in gerontology was sparked by a variety of factors: his strong relationship with his grandparents, who cared for him when he was young and for whom he returned the favor when they were older; his advisor in the psychology department, senior lecturer Nancy Bliwise, who is also a licensed clinical gerontologist; and a previous summer internship experience for an NPR radio show (“Voices in the Family”) where he researched topics on aging.

“He went above and beyond anything I would’ve expected,” says Melissa Scott Walker, an activities director at A. G. Rhodes. “I think it’s important for him to be recognized for what’s done—creating a community among people where there wasn’t one before.”

Katy Kruse says she was leaning toward being an elementary or special education teacher before taking Idler’s class, which she signed up for mostly because of the service learning.

She then found herself growing more interested in gerontology issues after getting involved in the Toco Hills NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community), an organization that connects seniors who live independently in the community to services and social activities.

“I found that I absolutely loved working with older people,” says Kruse, who began assisting at luncheons and eventually took on a larger role handling psychological assessments. “The class really changed my outlook on what I want to do in life.”

Mary Ruf, a rising junior in the Nursing School, volunteered at Clairmont Place, a full-service, independent living retirement condominium community, where she hosted special events and recorded one woman’s oral history. She’s now thinking about going into a geriatric specialty in nursing. She says she learned a lot about resilience from the older people she met. “It got me thinking about what I want my aging experience to be like,” she says.

The class also made her think more about new services, inventions, laws and public policies that are needed for an aging population—something Idler hoped students would take away from the class.

“There really isn’t any professional school that shouldn’t be thinking of aging,” says Idler. In her short time at Emory, she has met “pockets of research and people” from across campus interested in the area. Now it may be a matter of pulling the threads closer together.

From the point of view of Plys, who plans to attend graduate school in clinical gerontology, it seems obvious. “Emory has an opportunity to distinguish itself in a field that is going to be huge. We have Jimmy Carter, we have great hospitals and nursing homes, we have older people living around here, and we have Professor Idler. Emory should be the top school for gerontology.”


A Journey of 5,000 Miles

In a Chronicle of Higher Education article about Commencement 2011 (CHE, June 5, 2011), two Emory graduates are profiled: Anna Snyder 11C (anthropology major), who is crossing the U.S. on a tandem bicycle with Kevin Kelly 09C-09G (sociology). The two are seeing the country and raising money for pediatric cancer research.

For more details (and to check out their progress), see their website, The Touring Tandem.

Also see a May 5th Emory commencement-related profile.

Pres. Jimmy Carter on Aging

President Jimmy Carter recently visited an Emory sociology class (Social Gerontology) to talk about the virtues of aging (April 7, 2011). President Carter was appointed University Distinguished Professor at Emory in 1982 and is a frequent guest lecturer in undergraduate classes. [See clip above or entire talk on YouTube.]

For more information about the course, contact Prof. Ellen Idler.





Emory Students Receive Truman, Goldwater Scholarships

Three Emory University students have recently received the highly competitive Truman and Goldwater national scholarships.

Emory University junior Stephanie Spangler (see photo), who has been selected as a 2011 Truman Scholar, one of only 60 students in the nation to receive the competitive fellowship meant to foster careers in government and public service. Students are selected on the basis of leadership potential, intellectual ability and likelihood of “making a difference.”

As a Truman Scholar, Spangler will receive $30,000 for graduate study. She is the 12th Truman Scholar from Emory, and the first since 2006.

An Emory Woodruff Scholar, Spangler was described by her nominator as “one of the most celebrated and outstanding leaders to attend the Emory College of Arts and Sciences in many years.” She maintains a 4.0 GPA in sociology and history, and is an active volunteer with the AmeriCorps program JumpStart, through which she tutors and mentors low-income, pre-kindergarten students. Spangler plans to dedicate her career to advocating for children, especially for high quality early education for all.

In her role as vice president of the Emory College Council, Spangle’s signature effort has been the establishment of a volunteer council to better coordinate volunteer efforts, outreach and cooperation across all of Emory’s schools and units. She was recently selected for Emory’s yearlong Community Building and Social Change Fellowship.

Emory juniors Moiez Ali and Jonathan Lin are recipients of the Goldwater Scholarship, named for the late Sen. Barry Goldwater. The award provides up to $7,500 annually for tuition or other education-related expenses in their remaining years at Emory.

Ali is a biology major and plans to complete dual M.D./Ph.D. degrees in neuroscience and eventually conduct research on neurodegenerative disease.

Lin is a neuroscience and behavioral biology major. He plans to complete dual M.D./Ph.D. degrees in neurology and conduct research in biomedical science, with a particular interest in vision and ocular disease.

Sophomores and juniors in the hard sciences, math and engineering may apply for Goldwater Scholarships and must have an excellent academic record, substantive research experience and plans to pursue advanced degrees after graduation in preparation for a career in research. They were among the 278 recipients chosen from a pool of students across the country.

See full news release

SIRE Supports Undergraduate Research

Kristen Clayton 11C (Sociology major) talks about her undergraduate research in biracial identity and the support she’s received from Emory’s SIRE (Scholarly Inquiry and Research at Emory) program, which promotes undergraduate research projects through grants, faculty-student research partnerships, and summer research stipends.

Several programs, each suited to different student levels or needs, are offered each year, and students may be accepted in more than one program per academic year.

For more information, see the SIRE webpage.

Related Media

College senior Jain wins 2011 Marshall Scholarship

Emory University senior Shivani Jain has been awarded the 2011 Marshall Scholarship for graduate study in England. The sociology major plans to study global health and economic development at University College London, health policy at Cambridge University, and infectious disease control at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Competition for Marshall Scholarships is extremely rigorous, and more than 800 candidates in the United States are interviewed each year for the exclusive awards. The scholarships finance up to 40 young Americans of high ability to study for a degree at the university of their choice in the United Kingdom for two years. Jain is the second consecutive Emory student to receive the scholarship and the 14th overall from the university.

See the eScienceCommons profile on Jain