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Sociology

illustration of girl writing math equations on chalkboard
Spring 2020

How to encourage a girl: Improving diversity in STEM

“Your daughter is obviously good at math,” the teacher says to the girl’s parents at a fourth-grade parent-teacher meeting.

The parents have noticed this, too, and suggest to the fourth grader that she study physics, astronomy, maybe engineering or another math-intensive field. As she gets older, she remains interested in all those things, but she’s also picking up messages that are telling her something quite different.

She and her family are avid Big Bang Theory fans. They’ve watched every episode. So even as her parents and teachers are saying, “You’re good at this!” and “Follow your passion!” she’s seeing portrayals of men in gendered professions, … » More …

Bags of donated food
Winter 2018

Hungry

At Rosario’s Place, food on the shelves comes and goes like a tide. When staff at the Women’s Center at Washington State University, which manages Rosario’s, puts out a call for donations, stock rises and then falls again as students take what they need to get by.

Rosario’s Place has a private entrance on the Pullman campus, and that simple fact, says Women’s Center director Amy Sharp, reduces stigma; no one asks who you are or what you are doing. You just come in, take what you need (or leave what you can). In addition to food, Rosario’s also stocks baby and toddler supplies … » More …

Sunday breakfast at Rico's Public House with James F. Short on May 6, 2018, one week before he passed. (J. Michael Short)
Fall 2018

James F. Short Jr. 1924-2018

I am privileged to have known Jim Short and to have worked with and learned from him. When we met in 2000, Jim (’51 PhD, University of Chicago) recently had become professor emeritus of sociology at Washington State University and was beginning to “unwind” after an illustrious career spanning half a century. I was a graduate student in my second year of the doctoral program and had just learned that my first mentor would be departing WSU for what were very understandable personal reasons. I am forever indebted to him for walking me three doors down the hall to introduce me to Jim.

» More …

Winter 2017

Going postal

While digital communication has made a lot of things easier—like video calling someone on the other side of the world—it has made collecting public opinion and behavior data more challenging.

Government agencies rely on that data from censuses, public opinion, and behavior surveys to make extensive policy and financial decisions that impact quality of life, such as healthcare measures that curb smoking.

Don Dillman, a Washington State University Regents Professor in sociology and internationally renowned survey methodologist, has dedicated his career to improving the design of surveys to collect that information.

When he started his career in the 1970s, he had to worry about … » More …

Winter 2016

When Jermiha marched home

Military homecoming is usually a time of immense joy and relief, but for many veterans the weeks that follow are daunting. Each month in Washington state alone, 1,000 service members transition from active duty to civilian life—moving from a structured, often traumatic environment into the looser routines of home. Along the way come unexpected challenges, especially when returning to college or entering the job market.

Jermiha White ’16 served eight and a half years as an Army cavalry scout on the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. As a combat veteran, White began experiencing anxiety when he enrolled as a student at Washington State University … » More …

Just Mercy
Spring 2016

Just Mercy

Dozens of witnesses, including a police officer, saw Walter McMillian at a church fish fry when a young woman was killed in nearby Monroeville, Alabama in 1986.

Police later arrested the self-employed African-American tree trimmer anyway. A nearly all-white jury convicted him and a judge sent him to death row. That’s where Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard-educated lawyer, met McMillian.

Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, battled a hostile criminal justice system to uncover improperly concealed evidence that led to McMillian’s exoneration in 1993.

But the frightening way McMillian was so quickly condemned raises broader questions about America’s criminal justice system, which incarcerates more … » More …

Ed Hume, trash
Fall 2014

Talking trash

One of the green, rolling hills in the Palouse isn’t quite like the others.

Aside from a PVC pipe sticking out of its ridge, it looks—and smells—no different than any other mound. But instead of having a loamy center riddled with earthworms, it’s made of garbage. Tens of thousands of tons of it, though no one really knows how much.

The trash was collected throughout Whitman County over about 30 years until 1993, when the county sealed the landfill, built a transfer station next to it, and began shipping garbage elsewhere. Since then, four to six 18-wheelers leave the transfer station just north of Pullman … » More …