Sociology Department Faculty

Front Row:  Heidi Gottfried, Janet R. Hankin, Heather E. Dillaway
Middle Row:  Michelle R. Jacobs, Krista M. Brumley, Sarah C. Swider, Nicole Trujillo-Pagan, Jen Haskin, Shirin Montazer
Back Row:  Zachary W. Brewster, David M. Merolla, R. Khari Brown, David Fasenfest

Not Pictured: Jeffrey Kentor, Department Chair


Zachary Brewster uses his research to explore the everyday nature of racial discrimination as it is manifested in the US restaurant industry. His recent work has focused on assessing the nature and pervasiveness of restaurant servers’ proclivities to provide service that is informed by the race of their customers. Derived from this line of research he has had recent articles published in Sociological Forum, Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, Sociological Inquiry, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research, and The Sociological Quarterly. Brewster is currently in the process of collecting and analyzing primary data derived from a survey of U.S. restaurant consumers.  In this study he hopes to shed additional light on the subtle ways in which race continues to shape people’s thoughts, actions, and experiences in US consumer markets. More generally Brewster’s interest areas include race and ethnic relations, work and organizations, medical sociology, and scholarship of teaching and learning.

Khari Brown’s research interests primarily involve the intersection between race, religion, and social activism.  Dr. Brown is currently working on a series of articles on the association between political discourse within houses of worship and racial attitudes, same sex marriage attitudes, immigration attitudes, and racial solidarity.  All of these projects rely upon the National Politics Studies (NPS), a national study of White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Black Caribbean Americans.  Dr. Brown is also working with a team of research scientists at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research to seek funding to collect another wave of NPS data.    

Krista Brumley's research uses qualitative methods to study gender, work, organizations, social movements, and globalization in Mexico. She conducted ethnographic field research at a Mexican multinational company, including in-depth interviews, participant observation, and archival research. Her earlier research was an extensive case study of non-governmental organizations and political participation in Monterrey, Mexico. Based on this research, she has forthcoming articles in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, “From responsible debtors to citizens: Collective identity in the debtors’ movement in Monterrey, Mexico,” and the Journal of Family Issues, “‘It was like a revolution:’ Women’s perceptions of work-family practices at a Mexican Multinational Corporation.” She is also the author of “Understanding Mexican NGOs: Goals, Strategies, and the Local Context,” in Qualitative Sociology and “Gender, Class, and Work: The Complex Impacts of Globalization,” in Advances in Gender Research. She received the Outstanding Author Contribution award from Emerald Publishing for the article in Advances in Gender Research. She received a University Research Grant and a Faculty Fellowship from the Humanities Center for her research work in the past few years, and recently won the President's Excellence in Teaching Award at Wayne State.

Heather Dillaway's research focuses on women's menopause  and midlife experiences. Much of her sole-authored work focuses on women's experiences of dealing with menopausal symptoms in front of others, how women react to the biomedical discourse surrounding menopause, racial-ethnic differences in menopause, the uncertainty women feel during perimenopause, and the meanings women attach to midlife.  With co-authors Dr. Dillaway also explores the reproductive experiences of women with spinal cord injuries and impact of disability on women's access to reproductive health care. This work on physical disability has led Dr. Dillaway to question what access to quality health care really is and, therefore, she will be expanding her research in this area. Dr. Dillaway writes about women's experiences of combining paid work and motherhood,  aging with HIV/AIDS, and successful aging as well.  Her recent articles have appeared in journals such as Disability Studies Quarterly; AIDS Patient Care and STDs; American Journal of Occupational TherapySex Roles; Journal of Applied Gerontology; Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal; Journal of Family Issues, Journal of Women & Aging, and Healthcare for Women International. She is currently editor of the online, open access journal, Michigan Family Review.

David Fasenfest is developing a model for assessing and including urban and social sustainability criteria related to new manufacturing development in Southeast Michigan.  As co-PI of a 2 year NSF engineering grant to develop a national network, Professor Fasenfest's focus will be to work with engineers and other scientists at several major universities to expand the engineering decision making process so that it will include social dimensions in a final calculus determining the optimum investment and technology strategy.  For the 2012-2013 academic year he has been awarded a Humanities Center Fellowship allowing him to pursue this line of research, and to develop a set of measures that will capture sustainability.  Finally, in addition to his work editing the journal Critical Sociology, and overseeing the book series, Studies in Critical Social Sciences (soon to publish the 50th book in that series), Professor Fasenfest is the Program Chair for the 2013 SSSP Annual Meeting, to be held in New York City.

Heidi Gottfried is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Wayne State University.  She has published several books and articles on the themes of gender, precarity and work.  Her recent book entitled Gender, Work and Economy: Unpacking the Global Economy, explores the relationship between gender and work in the global economy.  She has edited or co-edited several books, including: Gendering The Knowledge Economy: Comparative Perspectives; Equity in the Workplace: Gendering Workplace Policy Analysis; and Feminism and Social Change: Bridging Theory and Practice.  In her new book The Reproductive Bargain: Deciphering the Enigma of Japanese Capitalism (Brill, 2015), Gottfried develops a gendered institutional analysis of work and employment in Japan.  With Stephen Edgell and Edward Granter, she edited The SAGE Handbook of the Sociology of Work and Employment, a forthcoming landmark collection of original contributions by leading specialists from around the world.

Janet Hankin was Interim Department Chair from 2009-2011.  She received the 2012 Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award from Wayne State University for her outstanding work with graduate students. She also received a Service Award from the Medical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association (ASA) for “Exceptional service as the organizer and principal editor of the special issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Section and for her service in other multiple roles to the Medical Sociology Section,” in 2011.  She was recently Chair of the Medical Sociology Section of ASA as well.  She is a member of the ASA W.E.B. Dubois Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award Committee (2010-2012) and the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Team of the Detroit Department of Health & Wellness Promotion. Her current research focuses on two different topics within medical sociology: 1) the prevention of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and 2) the quality of care in radiation oncology treatment. 

David Merolla’s  primary research agenda focuses on racial disparities in educational attainment (i.e., years of education completed, degree attainment, persistence in college) and achievement (i.e., test scores, academic success) using quantitative methods.  A common thread linking all of is research is that he investigates how the organization of society, rather than individual characteristics of students, leads to racial disparities in educational outcomes across students’ educational careers.  Moreover, his research seeks to understand how subjective, social psychological characteristics (e.g., identities, aspirations) serve as mechanisms linking social structural locations (e.g., race, class, gender, geography, social networks) to individual level educational outcomes.  In contrast with trends to attribute socioeconomic disparities in education to individual characteristics of racial minorities and the economically disadvantaged (e.g., an oppositional culture, lack of investment in their own education, dysfunctional families), his research seeks to highlight the role of historically determined, macro-level social inequality as the fundamental cause of educational disparities by race.  In short, Dr. Merolla’s research seeks to develop distinctly sociological explanations of racial disparities in education by locating the distal causes of these disparities in patterned social relationships rather than the individual attributes of students.   Current projects include a study of how differences in young adult and college experiences lead to differences in college degree completion rates, a project investigating the role of neighborhood cultural context on academic achievement, a study of how substance use affects college performance, and a methodological project regarding interpreting the effect of race in quantitative models.. 

Shirin Montazer is a quantitative researcher in the area of Mental Health and Immigration. Specifically, her research focuses on the relationship between country of origin, length of residence and/or generation, and the mental health outcomes of immigrants, and children of immigrants, to Canada and the United States. She also has a strong interest in the impact of work-family conflict, inter-generational “replication” of work and family conditions, and more contextual stressors on mental health outcomes. Her dissertation has won the Best Dissertation Award from the Mental Health section of the American Sociological Association for 2012-2013. She is a co-investigator on a Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant titled “The Intergenerational Transmission of Gender Egalitarian Family Environments: A Follow Up Study" (Dr. Blair Wheaton, PI; $242,697).

Sarah Swider’s research is focused on understanding labor in a global perspective.  Her earlier work, "Working Women of the World Unite? Labor organizing and transnational gender solidarity among domestic workers in Hong Kong" in Global Feminism:  Women's Transnational Activism, Organizing, and Human Rights, edited by Myra Marx Ferree and Aili Mari Tripp (NYU Press) examined transnational labor cooperation, seeking to understand different forms of cooperation, conditions under which cooperation was likely, and factors that influence the outcome.  This research included a case study of a successful women migrant domestic workers union in Hong Kong that explored the innovative organizational forms and strategies these women deployed to gain and protect rights within the national and global context.  More recent research, "Permanent temporariness in China's construction industry," a chapter in the forthcoming edited volume by Sarosh Kuruvilla, Mary Gallagher, and Ching Kwan Lee, looks at the migrant labor workforce which has developed as part of extensive ethnographic field research in China focused on migrant construction workers in the informal labor market.  On the macro-level, it shows how these migrants, who have limited citizenship, are spatially, socially, and economically integrated into China's global cities.  On the micro level, the study identifies mechanisms that channel migrants into a segmented informal labor market and shapes the labor process.  Dr. Swider is in the process of preparing a book manuscript based on this research.  Lastly, she is working on developing a research proposal on the informal labor market in China which builds off of the work that she has already completed.  Dr. Swider is also interested in conducting similar research (on labor, migration, gender, and the informal market) in Detroit.

Nicole Trujillo-Pagán’s research explores how state institutions shape racial and ethnic identities and affect the contours of social inequality. This research agenda is informed by three general questions: 1) how does the colonial experience inform Puerto Rican identity; 2) how does the selective enforcement of immigration and labor policy influence the nature and structure of Latinos’ work; and 3) how does immigration policy shape Latinos’ socio-legal status? Dr. Trujillo-Pagan supports social justice through my research, an agenda shared by many Latino scholars and value-committed sociologists. As a result, her professional activities seek to promote the development of students’ research and the enhancement of community resources.

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