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Welcome to Dr. Roman R. Williams

The department of sociology welcomes Roman R. Williams, Ph.D. (Boston University, 2010) as Assistant Professor. He joins the faculty after two years at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, where he was Assistant Professor and Program Director for the Department of Sociology. Roman is a sociologist of religion who uses visual methods in his research on the role of religion in everyday life. His publications include pieces on lived religion, visual research methods, and the importance of sociology in Christian higher education.   

Currently, Roman is working on a book manuscript and journal articles based on his doctoral thesis, “God's Global Professionals: International Students, Evangelical Christianity, and the Idea of a Calling.” This project emerges from his own experiences studying and working abroad (Ecuador and Russia), and brings together his interests in lived religion, visual sociology, culture, globalization, and missiology. Drawing upon fieldwork conducted in Boston and two cities in China, his writing explores the role of religious narratives in shaping identity and informing action among evangelical Christians from Asia who are enrolled in American colleges and universities.

At Calvin Roman will begin work on his next project, “Seeing Religion in Everyday Life: Visual Methods in the Sociology of Religion.” This fall he will teach courses in introductory sociology and the sociology of religion. Roman is joined by his spouse Joelle and children Elizabeth (10), Alexander (8), and Isaac (5).

Yale professor to lecture

Dr. Elijah Anderson, one of the nation’s leading urban ethnographers and cultural theorists, presented a lecture entitled “The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life" at Calvin College on Wed., Oct. 10, at 3:30 p.m. in the CFAC Recital Hall. He holds the William K. Lanman, Jr. Professorship in Sociology at Yale University, where he teaches and directs the Urban Ethnography Project.

Dr. Anderson received his B.A. from Indiana University, his M.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University, where he was mentored by Howard S. Becker. Anderson has written and edited numerous books, book chapters, articles, and scholarly reports on race in American cities. His most prominent works include Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City (1999), winner of the 2000 Komarovsky Award from the Eastern Sociological Society; Streetwise: Race, Class, and Change in an Urban Community (1990), winner of the American Sociological Association’s Robert E. Park Award for the best published book in the area of Urban Sociology; and the classic sociological work, A Place on the Corner: A Study of Black Street Corner Men (1978; 2nd ed., 2003).

In 2008, he edited Against the Wall: Poor, Young, Black, and Male (Penn Press), which is based on a national conference, “Poor, Young, Black, and Male: A Case for National Action?” which he organized at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006. His most recent work is: The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life (2011, W.W. Norton).

This lecture was sponsored by the Department of Sociology and Social Work and was underwritten by the department Heyns Fund. For more information on Dr. Anderson, go to or to his own website at                           

MSA Conference at Calvin in October

The Michigan Sociological Association (MSA) is an organization dedicated to the promotion and growth of sociologists in Michigan. MSA members are Michigan professors, graduate students, undergraduate students, and any others with sociological interests. The annual conference of the Michigan Sociological Association (MSA) was held at the Covenant Fine Arts Center at Calvin College on October 26-27, 2012. Prof. Elisha Marr was this year's conference organizer. This conference offered the opportunity to present sociological papers to an audience, hear about a wide variety of research projects, and to network with professionals in the field.

The conference opened on Friday evening, Oct. 26, with a hors d’oeuvre reception and grand opening of the Voces art exhibit in the Calvin Art Gallery. On Saturday, the conference included a luncheon keynote address by Dr. Tracy Ore, Professor of Sociology from St. Cloud State University. She spoke on the social construction of difference and inequality: domestic and global realities.

Dr. Elaine Howard Ecklund lectures on Dec. 5, 2011

On Mon., Dec. 5, at 3:30 p.m., Dr. Elaine Howard Ecklund presented a lecture on “Science, Atheism and People of Faith: The Need for Dialogue” in the Commons Lecture Hall (link to lecture Dr. Ecklund is Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of Graduate Studies at Rice University in Houston, TX.This event was sponsored by the Christian Perspectives in Science Seminar Series and the department of sociology and social work.

Dr. Ecklund joined the Rice University sociology faculty in fall 2008, where she is also director of the Program on Religion and Public Life in the Social Sciences Research Institute and a Rice scholar at the Baker Institute for Public Policy. Exploring mechanisms of institutional change draws together Ecklund's research. Specifically, she is interested in how individuals develop cognitive schema—ways of interpreting the world—that are at odds with institutions that constrain them. She then examines how individuals use such frameworks to bring changes to these larger institutions. Her research addresses this theoretical topic in the areas of religion, immigration, science, and civic life.

Ecklund received a 2004 PhD in sociology from Cornell University. In the past seven years she has authored twenty-five academic articles, including those in the Annual Review of Sociology, American Behavioral Scientist, and Social Forces, and two books --“Korean American Evangelicals New Models for Civic Life” as well as “Science Vs Religion: What Scientists Really Think,” both with Oxford University Press. In addition she has authored op-eds and essays for USA Today, the Washington Post, and The Scientist, among other popular outlets. Ecklund's research has received coverage in national and international media outlets including: USA Today,,, Times Higher Education, Chronicle of Higher Education, The Scientist, Nature and Xinhua News. Over the past five years Ecklund has completed the largest study to date about what scientists at top research universities think about religion. In the course of her work she surveyed nearly 1700 scientists and sat in their offices and labs to interview 275 of them.

Ronald Numbers, Hilldale Professor of the History of Science and Medicine at University of Wisconsin has this to say: “Since surveys of scientists' religious beliefs began nearly a century ago, no one has produced a study as deep and broad as Ecklund's. Surely Science vs. Religion will be the gold standard of such surveys for decades to come.”

Students present research results at a state conference

A testimony to the interconnectedness of sociology and social work, five students and a professor from both fields completed a content analysis evaluating how transracial adoption is portrayed in popular magazines. The research results were presented by Rebecca Dyer, Daniela Garcia, Shari Hasford, and Deborah Kennedy at the 2011 Michigan Sociological Association Annual Conference held at Grand Valley State University on Saturday, Oct. 29. The fifth collaborator, Logan Gingerich, graduated in the spring of 2011 and was unable to attend.

“Their presentation was professional, informational, and engaging,” remarked Professor Elisha Marr, a sociology professor who oversaw the project. The students used this opportunity to thank Professor Marr and Professor Rachel Venema, their research methods course instructor, for their guidance on this project. The project was completed as part of the social work research course in the spring of 2011.

Dr. Mary Pattillo lecture

On Wed., Nov. 3, at 3:30 p.m., the department of sociology and social work presented the 2011 Donald Bouma Lecture Series speaker, Dr. Mary Pattillo, Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University in Chicago. Dr. Pattillo lectured on “Race, Poverty and ‘Choice’ Policies” in the Commons Lecture Hall (link to lecture

‘Choice’ has become the buzz word across the policy spectrum, and especially in housing, schools, and health care. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s book Nudge lays out a case for “nudging” people toward choices that are in their best interest, but does not address inequalities that inevitably arise when relying on a choice framework. This talk questions the assumptions, ideology and philosophy that undergirds ‘choice,’ and presents preliminary data from two small qualitative studies – one on parents ‘choosing’ high schools for their children and the other on individuals using a Housing Choice Voucher to search for an apartment. Findings show that 1) many on the receiving end of these policies aren’t even aware that they have a choice, 2) there are socioeconomic differences in who chooses, racial inequalities are not overcome by such policies, and 3) there is a misalignment in what policy makers and the targets of these policies deem important.

Professor Pattillo's areas of interest include race and ethnicity (specifically the black middle class), urban sociology, and qualitative methods. Professor Pattillo uses the city of Chicago as her laboratory and strives to be an expert in Chicago history, politics, and social life. In her book, Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril Among the Black Middle Class (University of Chicago Press, 1999), Pattillo investigates the economic, spatial, and cultural forces that affect child-rearing and youth socialization in a black middle class neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. Black Picket Fences won the Oliver Cromwell Cox Best Book Award from the American Sociological Association.She is also author of Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City and Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration. Current research projects include a study of how parents negotiate school choice and how families make housing choices in Chicago. Pattillo is also a member of the MacArthur Foundation-funded Research Network on How Housing Matters for Families and Children.

This event was part of the Donald Bouma Lecture Series.

“Always with us? The Movement to End Homelessness in the U.S.”

Homelessness is the most extreme manifestation of poverty in our society and is often treated as an inevitable, intractable feature of urban life in the U.S. Over the past decade, however, a conviction has developed that it is possible to end, not just manage, homelessness. Hundreds of cities across the nation have developed Plans to End Homelessness and in 2010 the Federal government for the first time released a plan to end homelessness in the country.

Bill Pitkin, Director of Domestic Programs for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, oversees the planning, development, implementation, and evaluation of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s domestic priority areas. He led the development of the foundation’s strategy for addressing chronic homelessness in Los Angeles and continues to have direct oversight over that strategic initiative. Prior to joining the Hilton Foundation, Pitkin was director of research and planning at United Way of Greater Los Angeles, where he oversaw the publication of research reports and led a strategic planning process resulting in that organization’s 10-year action plan to fight poverty in Los Angeles.

In a lecture on April 13, 2011, at 3:30 p.m. in the Meeter Center Lecture Hall, Bill Pitkin outlined the current dynamics and trends of homelessness and major policy and programmatic shifts in addressing homelessness in recent years. He covered national trends but also focused on the case of Los Angeles, the so-called "homelessness capital of the nation." Presented from the perspective and experience of one of the largest philanthropic institutions in the U.S. working to end homelessness, the talk provided lessons learned for effective public-private-nonprofit partnerships.


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