This year Alpha Kappa Delta, the sociology honor society, put on teaching and learning preconferences at a number of regional conferences. I was fortunate to attend one of these and I came away with a lot of new ideas for things to try in my courses. This experience also provided a reminder that there are great people everywhere. While there were people present from all kinds of institutions, the most interesting discussion I took part in was led by a professor at a community college who had a lot of great ideas for engaging students both inside and outside of the classroom.
I have written a lot about the academic job market over the years and my experiences going on the market twice have reinforced the notion that you are not the status of your institution. Institutional resources and departmental norms may influence the amount and type of work that somebody is able to do, but we should not assume that those things influence the quality of somebody’s work, much less their intelligence. It is frustrating when sociologists overlook the structures that lead to differences in status and it is important to remind ourselves from time to time that at a conference the name of somebody’s institution is not as important as the name above it.
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