PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2003
MA, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1998
BA, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, 1996
My approach to teaching sociology is to invite students into the world of the sociologist - to give them a glimpse of what I do as a practicing sociologist. Who are sociologists? What do they do? And how do they see the world? In short, I want students to understand sociology as a field of practice. Since research is what sociologists do and the basis for how we see the world, sociological research is at the center of my teaching.
In the classroom, I highlight sociological research through the use of research monographs, journal articles, and other multimedia. Textbooks typically do not feature prominently in my courses, since most mention sociological research only in passing. I also structure my courses around bodies of sociological knowledge, rather than sociological topics. I want undergraduate students to learn how sociologists carve out areas of research and to appreciate how sociological knowledge is contested among scholars.
Finally, I assign coursework that teaches students core sociological competencies, such as conducting a literature review and evaluating different types of evidence. Most of my assignments touch on one or more of these competencies, such that students understand how sociologists go about studying society. In the end, my goal is to provide a window for students to see into my "laboratory", which is not a sterile room with glass beakers and lab coats, but a world of fascinating social patterns that tell us something about the human condition.
My research involves three critical areas of sociology: development and social change, international migration, and gender and work. Broadly speaking, I am interested in how individuals and communities respond to a changing global economy. Though my geographic focus has varied, my research questions are always the same. How do individuals adapt to major shifts in the economy? How do these adaptations reconfigure family and class relations? And what do these processes suggest about the nature of economic change?
Among the research projects I have conducted since the start of my career is an ethnographic study of a city in Costa Rica that has undergone extensive economic and social change. For this research, I collected work and migration histories of the city's residents, charting the ways that their livelihoods and lifeways changed with evolving economic circumstances. This research was published in a book called "City of Flowers: An Ethnography of Social and Economic Change in Costa Rica's Central Valley."
Another recent project examines a guest worker migration program in southern Spain that recruits Moroccan mothers to work in seasonal agriculture. For this study, I investigated how ideas of motherhood figure into new forms of labor recruitment and control in the global economy. Finally, I am starting a new research program that examines students at Pacific who are going to school full-time while caring for children. I am interested in the role that education plays in their mobility strategies and how these strategies are complicated by their caregiving responsibilities and the changing system of higher education.