Sociology Newsletter 2012


Welcome to the second annual edition of the UGA Sociology newsletter. I hope that the profiles of faculty, staff, and students, past and present, are of particular interest. This year's edition includes profiles of Kathy Lou, who is well known to every Sociology alum from the past 15 years, Ron Simons, one of UGA's most successful researchers, Maria Paino, a graduate student who is working on her dissertation, and two Sociology majors who are about to graduate, Kelsey Daniels and Sergio Ardilla. It also includes profiles of two of our alumni, Sheriff Ira Edwards and Amy Wolfe Sawyer, who reflect on how their degree in Sociology has influenced their lives and careers. Please send your thoughts, comments, and suggestions to the newsletter editor, Darys Kriegel (

William Finlay, Department Head


Department News

Joe Hermanowicz has been promoted to full professor, effective fall semester 2012.

Justine Tinkler, who received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Stanford University, will be joining the department as an assistant professor in the fall semester, after spending four years at Louisiana State University.

William Finlay was named a Josiah Meigs Teaching Professor, the University of Georgia's highest teaching award. He is the fifth member of the department to have received this honor since 1999.

Ron Simons was first author of an article, "Social Environment, Genes, and Aggression," in the December 2011 issue of the American Sociological Review, the top journal of sociological research. One of his co-authors was Sociology graduate student, Man Kit (Karlo) Lei.

Paul Roman received a MERIT award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, to extend his research on adoption of innovations in private alcohol and drug treatment centers.

Graduate students Bonnie Semora, Daniel Shank, and David Johnson successfully completed their dissertations and begin new jobs in the fall at Dalton State College, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Rice University respectively.

Jackson Bunch and Tim Gill won Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Assistant awards. Jackson also won a summer scholarship from the Emory Center for Injury Control, the only graduate student in the social sciences to receive this award.

David Johnson won the department's B.O. Williams Award, which is given to an outstanding graduate student who has finished his or her Ph.D. degree within the past year.

Becca Hanson won the department's Certificate of Excellence award, which is given to a graduate student who passed his or her comprehensive exams and has shown outstanding academic performance and demonstrated professional accomplishment.

Tiffani Everett was the first recipient of a new department award for graduate students, the E.M. Beck Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The department gives four awards to outstanding Sociology majors every year. In 2012, Nicole Wilson won the Phyllis Jenkins Barrow Scholarship, which is given to a Georgia resident who has an outstanding academic record, plans to attend graduate school, and has acted with the same "selfless public spirit" exemplified by the Barrow family. Kasey R. Mckeral won the Ray Payne Award, which is given to a student who has excelled in his or her courses and in research, thus demonstrating a commitment to sociology and great potential for professional development in that field. Frances A. Brito received the Service Award, for her work as the president of our sociology honor society, Alpha Kappa Delta. Finally, the department's newest award, the E.M. Beck Study Abroad Scholarship, was awarded to Ji Min Mo, who will be studying in the UGA program in Paris.


Student Profiles

Graduate Student Profile: Maria Paino

Maria Paino (left) works with her advisor Dr. Linda Renzulli

Why did you become interested in Sociology?

At first I was all set to go to law school. I took the LSAT, filled out all the paperwork, and then I went to the Honors program for ASA (The American Sociological Association). After coming back, I didn't know if I wanted to give sociology up. So I took both paths, took the GRE and I started meeting with faculty about grad school. They kept encouraging me, and I applied to both law and sociology schools. But then I pulled all my law applications and started hearing back from Sociology programs. I was sure this is what I wanted to do.

What do you consider unique about Sociology at the University of Georgia?

I really like the collaboration between students and faculty, and I've heard at some schools this isn't very common. I work really closely with Dr. Linda Renzulli. Her work is on education, specifically on charter schools. With her I was involved in every step of the research process, including getting a grant and writing academic papers in addition to doing my own work.

What can you tell me about your dissertation work?

My research is about the coupling of organization activities, in the case of schools. We can think of teachers being closely coupled to principals, is he/she always checking in on them, they can't just close their doors. Or they can be loosely coupled, they can teach how they want, maybe not thinking about the mission of the school, or they do care, but just do it their own way. I got this great question about this in my Ph.D. comprehensive exam, and enjoyed writing about it. My answer to that question was written in one day and now I can't even use any of it! So now I am looking at how organization coupling changes over time, and how it influences teachers and student environment, verbal abuse, cutting class, and school violence. Not so much the academic outcomes…that is the next project.

Do you have a working title?

I do, but let me get back to you, it's long and boring.

Undergraduate Student Profile: Kelsey Daniels

Kelsey Daniels in Kayamandi, South Africa

What areas of sociology have interested you?

When I started at the University, I had no idea what I wanted to study. I spent days on the Bulletin looking at classes that interested me. Fortunately, I stumbled upon the list of Sociology classes and fell in love due to their class descriptions. Sociology of the Family, Personality and Social Structure, Race and Ethnicity, Sociology of Morality, Sociology of the South, and Sociology in Film were the classes that sold me on the major. I chose Sociology because I found the classes and information offered to be fascinating and I looked forward to class daily because I am/was so interested in learning about such applicable issues and theories.

What will you do after receiving you bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia?

I found my niche in my desire to fight human trafficking via an extracurricular organization, the International Justice Mission. Therefore, I am currently pursuing Internships/Fellowships with NGOs that fight the commercial sexual exploitation of children. I feel as though my degree in Sociology will undoubtedly benefit me in unexpected ways throughout my future. I understand social interactions substantially more than my peers and take joy in dissecting relationships between people and people, people and institutions, people in society, etc.

What is a unique and rewarding experience you have encountered through the Sociology Department?

No question about this: my study abroad experience in South Africa with Dr. Finlay. It was a treat to get to know my department head while studying and living in another country, and looking for looking for zebras and giraffes on safaris.

Undergraduate Student Profile: Sergio Ardilla

Sergio Ardilla

Have you been involved in research activities as a Sociology Major at the University of Georgia?

Yes, I was part of the LaSSI (Laboratory for the Study of Social Interaction) research team for two semesters, run by Dr. Robinson and Dr. Clay-Warner. As a member of LaSSI I first went through the facial recognition learning process during the summer. The class culminated in passing the final test for the system, and receiving a certification to accurately code facial actions. During the school year I was a member of a four person coding team. We were responsible for individually coding 10 to 15 hours of video per week, attending weekly meetings, and receiving two certifications in ethical research practices.

What areas of sociology have interested you?

I have always been interested in the overall sociological perspective. However, sociological factors that strongly affect personal relationships and religious choices have interested me the most.

What will you do after receiving you bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia?

I will be attending law school in the fall.


Staff Profiles

Kathy Lou

Kathy Lou, UGA Sociology Academic Advisor

How long have you worked at UGA, and in your current position as academic advisor?

I started working at UGA in 1996 and my first job is with Sociology. I have been here for 16 years and love it.

What do you consider the most rewarding aspect of being an academic advisor?

There are so many aspects of advising students that are rewarding. I get a chance to know these students and they truly are amazing people. It is so exciting to watch these young people grow and mature and at some point, come to the realization that they have accomplished so much in such a short period of time during their college career. We get to share laughs, exchange stories and even shed a few tears together over their life events.

How do you "unwind" and what hobbies do you have?

I enjoy the arts. Recently, I have attended the concerts in the Hugh Hodgson Hall. There have been some truly great musicians and some of them are world renowned. There were string quartets, brass bands, orchestras, and there was even a ballet performance. The Performing Arts Center really brought in some top notch artists.

Having worked on Wall Street, I discovered that I enjoy watching people and their reaction to things. I guess I am curious about how things work. When I bring up certain topics like current events, I get very strong reactions from people. In a way, it is the same with instruments. A few choice instruments played together can bring about a certain reaction in the audience.

Most times, I can just sit and listen to music or talk with people for the pure joy of it.


Alumni Profiles

Ira Edwards

Ira Edwards, Clarke County Sheriff

When you were at the University of Georgia what made you decide to study Sociology?

I find the subject matter inherently interesting, because when I think about sociology I'm really thinking about understanding the big picture. It allowed me to definitely pursue the career that I am currently in.

How did sociology help you choose your career and prepare for it?

When I think of sociology I think of social issues, and when you are in law enforcement you definitely have to address that. Whether it be a complaint from the community or you are just walking through the jail and you have an inmate that wants to talk to you. Being an ordained minister as well it has allowed me to do marital counseling, I've used some of the things I've learned with my degree in sociology to counsel people on marriage and in many areas.

Do you have any advice you would give to the students that are majoring in sociology today?

I would say that because I find this subject matter inherently interesting, I would say if you are looking for a major to really expand your boundaries, sociology would definitely be that major. You can tap into so many fields, community affairs, public administration, counseling, business, and research. I went on to get my master's in public administration; sociology can be a jumpstart if you would like to pursue a wide variety of careers.

What did you enjoy the most at the Sociology Department at UGA?

I think the hands on instruction of the professors, they had a real caring heart and they really wanted to see you succeed. They were determined to see you succeed, and as a result of that those are the lasting memories I have of the Sociology Department at UGA.

Anyone you would want to highlight that helped made your time in the Sociology Department special?

My academic counselor Kathy Lou, and Cynthia Hewitt, they both gave me the time I needed and Dr. Hewitt helped me understand the information, and really spent time helping me. There is an old saying that people don't know you care until you really show it, and they really exemplified that they wanted to see the students succeed.

Amy Sawyer

Amy Sawyer, UGA Sociology, class of 1999

Why did you decide to study sociology at UGA?

Having majored briefly in history and then anthropology, I was still searching for a major that felt like the right fit. I took an intro level sociology class and was intrigued by the way the course made me step outside of myself and see the world around me in a new light. Exploring the interplay between people and their environment, analyzing the role of gender and race, and appreciating the nuances of organizational culture challenged me not just in the classroom but in life outside Baldwin Hall.

How did sociology help you prepare for your career?

Over the course of my undergraduate study I came to understand that the insights gained from a sociological perspective could be applied to numerous careers. My interest in cultural identity and the sociology of religion led to a year-long internship in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where I witnessed firsthand the clash of cultures and applied my sociology background to grass roots work in conflict resolution. This experience motivated me to complete an M.A. in international relations with a concentration on conflict studies.

Even as I now shift gears and pursue a doctorate in physical therapy, my sociology roots influence the way I serve ethnically and socioeconomically diverse patient populations. The statistical and analytical skills I learned though sociology research courses also help me interpret and evaluate current research in my field.

What advice would you give students majoring in sociology today?

Explore a variety of courses and topics and pursue what you are passionate about. Take advantage of the opportunity to get to know your professors –those relationships can extend far beyond your years on campus. Consider the study abroad programs offered through the department, as they can broaden the undergraduate experience and challenge your understanding of yourself and the world around you.

What did you enjoy the most about the Sociology Department?

When I decided to enroll in Georgia's flagship state university of 30,000+ students it was not without some reservations. I worried that I would be overwhelmed, having heard stories of huge lecture halls with hundreds of students and classes where I might never even meet the actual professor. It was therefore a welcome surprise when I declared Sociology as my major and found myself among a group of engaging, accessible, and passionate professors.

Faculty Profiles

Dr. Ronald Simons

Ron Simons on vacation in Santorini, Greece

How did you become involved in Sociology?

As an 18 year-old working class kid, sociology opened my eyes to the various social processes that had been at work in my life. I was especially fascinated by the courses that I took on social stratification, gender, and race/ethnicity. As an undergraduate, I was also a psychology major. And, while I really enjoyed my psych courses, I felt that psychology as a discipline was missing the big picture. I thought my psych friends lacked imagination; they only saw individuals and couldn't see the broader social and cultural structures impacting their behavior. My sociology courses provided a name for their cognitive limitation. They lacked a "sociological imagination."

What has driven you to your areas of study?

Perhaps as consequence of my working class heritage, my research has always been guided by a concern with the underdog. My research projects have focused, in large measure, on the way that social processes related to social class (e.g., community disorganization) and to race/ethnicity (e.g., discrimination) influence outcomes pertaining to physical and mental health, crime, and intimate relationships.

How would you characterize your past research endeavors?

I firmly believe that sociology can only have an impact if it does great science. Our recommendations are often challenging and provocative, and they will only be accepted if they are based on compelling evidence. If we want to sit at the table with policy makers, if we want Congress to listen to us, we have to counter the stereotype that we are simply a bunch of ideologues by conducting excellent studies. One of the best ways to do this, in my opinion, is to become involved in interdisciplinary research.

Since the mid-90s, I have been part of an interdisciplinary team consisting of sociologists, psychologists, geographers, and psychiatrists. This collaboration has been based on our mutual interest in the way that various social forces (e.g., family, community, peers, school) combine to influence development across the life course. We decided at the onset that the best way to address these complex issues was to draw a sample of families and follow them over a period of many years. Since 1996, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Center for Disease Control, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse have been funding us to conduct such a project. We call it the Family and Community Health Study (FACHS). It is a longitudinal study of roughly 850 African American families. The target children were 10 years old when we began and are currently 26 years of age. We have focused, in large measure, on mental health outcomes (depression, antisocial behavior, and violence), educational achievement, intimate relationships, and substance use.

What projects are you currently working on?

My new focus is upon how social processes get under your skin. There is now strong evidence that chronic low-grade inflammation and metabolic syndrome are major biological pathways leading to development of chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer (the diseases that eventually kill us). Thus we are in the process of writing a proposal that will allow us to draw blood from our FACHS sample and perform assays for biomarkers of chronic inflammation and metabolic syndrome. We will then test models regarding the manner in which various stress and protective processes operate across the life course to influence these biomarkers.


What is most rewarding to you about being a member of our sociology department?

I love working in the UGA Sociology Department. The primary reason is the people. Most academic departments are riddled with conflict and divisiveness. Faculty splits and hidden agendas impede these departments from accomplishing even the most mundane tasks. In contrast, the UGA department provides a culture of mutual support and respect. Further, my colleagues are not only nice people, they are also excellent scientists involved in interesting projects. Therefore, it is always enjoyable taking with them. It really is the best working environment that one could hope for.

How do you unwind, and what hobbies do you have?

I have a routine that works well for me. I do mediation first thing in the morning, listen to music (usually a little too loudly) while driving to and from work, exercise at the Omni Center on the way home from work, and then have a glass of wine and process the day with Leslie as soon as I get home. Add to this the fact that I go sit on the white beaches of Florida at least three times a year, and I stay pretty mellow.


Research Spotlight

The Laboratory for the Study of Social Interaction (LaSSI)

Testing physiological response equipment

"I didn't know that sociologists did experiments!" That's what students often say when they learn about the Laboratory for the Study of Social Interaction (LaSSI), located in Baldwin Hall. In fact, sociological social psychologists often conduct laboratory experiments because the lab provides a controlled environment ideal for studying the processes involved in social interaction. Laboratory experiments also allow researchers to gather physiological data that is difficult to gather outside of the lab. For example, LaSSI houses equipment for measuring heart rate, peripheral and core skin temperature, skin conductance, facial temperature, and respiration. LaSSI researchers use these kinds of measures to determine how the body responds during different types of social interaction.

Since the lab was established in 2004, UGA sociology professors Dawn T. Robinson and Jody Clay-Warner have conducted numerous experiments in LaSSI on topics as diverse as justice, emotion, identity, and status. In recent projects, Drs. Clay-Warner and Robinson have explored the usefulness of infrared thermography as a measure of emotion and studied people's varied responses to positive evaluations. As LaSSI co-directors, they also are responsible for obtaining funding for the laboratory. They have received funding from a variety of sources including the UGA Office of the Vice President for Research, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, and the Army Research Office. With the help of these and other funding agencies, thousands of UGA students have participated in LaSSI experiments.

LaSSI also provides hands-on research experience to undergraduate and graduate students. To date, over 60 students have served as research assistants in LaSSI. These students recruit participants, conduct experiments, and code and analyze data. Several students have also utilized LaSSI for their own undergraduate projects, master's theses, and dissertations. For example, recent UGA graduate Daniel Shank conducted his dissertation research in the lab. In his project, Dr. Shank examined whether people respond differently to human organizational representatives than they do to computer organizational representatives. Former UGA undergraduates Trent Mize and Tré Myers analyzed data gathered in LaSSI assessing the effects of skin tone on the validity of facial temperature as a measure of emotion. As seniors at UGA, Trent and Tré presented their research at the annual meeting of the Southern Sociological Society. Trent currently is pursuing doctoral studies in sociology at Indiana University and Tré is entering the Ph.D. program at Kent State University this fall. Trent and Tré, though, are not the only former LaSSI undergraduate researchers in grad school. Recent LaSSI alums have either completed or are currently pursuing graduate or professional degrees at a number of different universities across the country. Some of these universities include Stanford, Cornell, Purdue, Texas A&M, Florida State, Georgia State, Vanderbilt, Washington University, Santa Clara Law School, and Johns Hopkins.

A new chapter in LaSSI begins fall 2012, when Dr. Justine Tinkler joins the sociology faculty as an assistant professor and LaSSI affiliate. Dr. Tinkler is an experimental social psychologist who obtained her Ph.D. from Stanford University. She will be using LaSSI resources to gather and analyze data on the role of status in small group interactions. With the addition of Dr. Tinkler, LaSSI will become one of only a handful of sociology labs in the country that houses the research of three experimental social psychologists. This means even more research opportunities for students and a bright future for experimental research at UGA!

Lab assistant looking over infared equipment


Fall 2011

Daniel Shank, Sociology, University of Georgia
"How Do Computer Representatives Alter Emotions Directed Toward Their Organizations?"

Christen Bradley, Sociology, University of Georgia
"For-Profits Changing or Changes For Profit? An Examination of the Effects of For-Profit Colleges and Universities on the Institutional Environment of Higher Education"

Monica Gaughan, Health Policy and Management, University of Georgia
"University Determinants of Women's Academic Career Success"

David Johnson, Sociology, University of Georgia
"The New Reward System in Academic Science"

Yu Xie, Sociology, University of Michigan
"Has Social Mobility in America Declined?"

Kandauda Wickrama, Child and Family Development, University of Georgia
"Do Unhealthy Lifestyle factors Play a Stress-Buffering Role For African Americans?"

Spring 2012

Barry Schwartz, University of Georgia
"Where There's Smoke, There's Fire: Collective Memory and the Problem of Historical Realism"

Jim Dowd, University of Georgia
"Patriotic gore: Why Americans love their military"

Alice Goffman, University of Wisconsin—Madison
"On the Run: An American Ghetto in the Era of Surveillance and Imprisonment"

John Levi Martin, University of Chicago
"From Causation to Explanation"

Neethi Menon, Trivandrum Jawaharlal Nehru University & Fulbright Visiting Scholar, Department of Geography, University of Georgia
"Globalization Lived Locally: Inquiries into Kerala's Local Labor Control Regimes"

Robb Willer, University of California, Berkeley
"Dual Motivations Sustaining Social Order: Status and Altruism Offer Complementary Solutions to the Collective Action Problem"

Jonathan Imber, Wellesley College
"Religious Accommodations to Medical Science: The Challenges of Separation"

Support the Department

There are many ways to support the department. Financial contributions are most welcome, but we also appreciate our alumni who give their time to speak to our current students and new graduates by providing advice about careers in specific areas. Thank you!

Make a Donation

The Department of Sociology appreciates your financial support. Every dollar contributed to the department has a direct impact on our students and faculty. Your gift is important to us and helps support critical opportunities for students and faculty alike, including lectures, travel support, and any number of educational events that augment the classroom experience. For more information about additional ways you can help, please contact Jennifer Messer, Director of Development, at 706-542-0068 or email at

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