Alumni News

Reza Ansari (Ph.D. 1986) works for the California Department of Public Health and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Laura Backstrom (Ph.D. 2014) is an Assistant Professor of sociology at Florida Atlantic University, and lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. A book based on her dissertation research (Weighty Problems: Embodied Inequality at a Children’s Weight Loss Camp) will be published by Rutgers University Press later this year.

Todd Beer (Ph.D. 2012), was recommended for promotion to Associate Professor and granted tenure in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Lake Forest College (north of Chicago) beginning September, 2018. He recently gave a TEDx talk on climate justice as part of the Lake Forest College TEDx event. Todd also continues to maintain a blog, The Sociology Toolbox, that has received over 370,000 page views in the last two years.

Catherine (Katie) Bolzendahl (Ph.D. 2006) is Associate Professor of Sociology and Equity Advisor for the School of Social Sciences, UC, Irvine ( She recently published Measuring Women’s Political Empowerment across the Globe ( and is working as Culture Section co-editor for Contexts with the Rojas and Ray team!

Kara Cebulko (Ph.D. 2009) is at Providence College. She is living in the Providence area and is now Associate Professor of Sociology and Global Studies and Chairperson of Sociology.

Curtis Child (Ph.D. 2011) was recently promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in sociology at Brigham Young University. He is living in Provo, UT, on the Wasatch Front of the Rocky Mountains and is surviving a teenage daughter and a newborn!

Aaron Culley (Ph.D. 2002) has been employed as a faculty member in the Sociology Department at Wingate University (near Charlotte, NC) since 2000. He has been serving as the department chair since the start of the fall semester in 2016. In May, 2017, he was presented with the Paul and Hazel Courts Award for Excellence in Teaching at Wingate’s graduation ceremony. This is the highest teaching honor given to undergraduate faculty at Wingate.

Pedro R. David (Ph.D. 1963) is Director of the Law Doctorate and of the Magister in International Penal Law, offered in cooperation with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute. He served as Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and has undertaken advisory missions to more than 120 countries throughout the world.

The recent collaboration of two IU graduates reflects the sociology department’s long history of strong training in methodology. In 2009, the College of the Holy Cross hired Jeff Dixon (PhD 2006) to replace Royce Singleton (PhD 1973), who was retiring. Both Dixon and Singleton are quantitative methodologists, which was the basis of the hire. And as it happened, both were trained at IU, where Singleton minored in mathematics and Dixon in research/quantitative methods. Not long after Dixon joined the faculty at Holy Cross, he and Singleton began a collaboration that has resulted in two publications: an edited volume, Readings in Social Research: Studies in Inequalities and Deviance (Sage, 2013), and a textbook co-authored with Bruce Straits, The Process of Social Research (Oxford University Press, 2016). The second edition of The Process book is scheduled for publication in summer of 2018. Further strengthening the IU connection, prominent research examples in this book include Jessica Calarco’s field study of children’s help seeking in elementary school, Bernice Pescosolido, Elizabeth Grauerholz (PhD 1985) and Melissa Milkie’s (PhD 1995) content analysis of blacks in U.S. children’s picture books, and Brian Powell’s surveys on Americans’ definitions of family, reported in Counted Out, co-authored with Catherine Bolzendahl (PhD 2006), Claudia Geist (PhD 2008), and Lala Carr Steelman.

Christy L. Erving is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to joining the faculty at Vanderbilt in 2017, she was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an Assistant Professor at University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Her primary areas of research and teaching include medical sociology, mental health, race/ethnicity/ immigration, and social psychology. When she’s not working, she enjoys attending church, singing, dance cardio, watching TV, and sleeping!

Judson Everitt (Ph.D. 2009) recently published Lesson Plans: The Institutional Demands of Becoming a Teacher. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Emily Fairchild (Ph.D. 2008) is Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of Gender Studies at New College in Sarasota, FL.

Oluwatope “Tope” Fashola Mitchell (Ph.D. 2011) started her own business and then began consulting with businesses. She lives in North Carolina and is an Assistant Professor for the M.B.A. program in the College of Business and Economics at UNC Fayetteville State University and a business strategy consultant with THREE Group in Cary, NC. She has been married for ten years and has a beautiful two-year old daughter named Sophia Rose.

Suzanne Goodney Lea’s (Ph.D. 2005) primary work is in organizing and facilitating deliberative dialogues for the Interactivity Foundation (, where she has been a Fellow since 2009. She is also an adjunct instructor at the University of Maryland- Baltimore County, and lives and works in the Washington DC/Baltimore region. Suzanne is working to create opportunities for dialogue between citizens and police in the region and putting final revisions on a project exploring how communities can anticipate and prevent mass shootings. She is also working with Elsa D’Silva to develop a crowd mapping solution (the Safecity app, see to address sexual harassment and assault in public places. She would love to find ways to work with other alums, especially on the sexual assault/harassment project.

Kerry Gross (M.A. 2016) Since graduating with her M.A. in December 2016, Kerry has been hard at work on the Women Who Dare project. As some of you know, she spent the spring and summer biking across the country, interviewing women who’ve inspired others. Starting March 6, she is releasing these interviews and episodes about the journey as a podcast called Women Who Dare. It’s on iTunes, check it out! In other news, she is living in upstate Vermont, wondering where life might take her next.

On January 1, 2018, Mike Hout (Ph.D. 1976) became Chair of the Board for the National Academies’ Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, ( He is still Professor of Sociology at NYU where he continues his teaching, advising, and research.

In July 2015 Walt Jacobs (Ph.D. 1999) became the Dean of the College of Social Sciences at San José State University. He is also a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences. A resident of Oakland, CA, he frequently writes Facebook posts about his 2-hour commute each way to/from San José, CA. He also maintains a blog, “Dispatches From a Dean” (

Joe Johnston (Ph.D. 2015) is in his third year as an Assistant Professor at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Gonzaga and Spokane have been very generous to him, his partner Abigail Martin (Community Programs Coordinator for the City of Spokane), and their dalmatian pup, Clementine. He’s recently become enamored with community-engaged learning. Students in his sociology of education course walk elementary school kiddos to school as part of the “walking school bus” program, while also collecting field notes for a mini-ethnography. He also accompanies students on a week-long “Justice in January” immersion trip to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Shibashis Mukherjee (Ph.D. 2016) is working as an Assistant Professor in one of the top 50 business schools of the world named Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. He is in the Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Development department.

Shiri Noy (Ph.D. 2013) recently published Banking on Health: The World Bank and Health Sector Reform in Latin America (London: Palgrave Macmillan), as well as several related articles, including an article with fellow alum Jessica Sprague-Jones, “Comparative dynamics in public health spending: Re-conceptualizing delta-convergence to examine how convergence occurs in the OECD and Latin America.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

Kathleen (Casey) Oberlin (Ph.D. 2014) is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Grinnell College.

Timothy O’Brien (Ph.D. 2013) is Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Tom O’Dowd (BA 1979) is Marketing and Exhibits Manager for PLRB, a Property and Casualty Insurance Trade Association, located in Downers Grove, IL.

Matthew Oware (Ph.D. 2002) is the current Lester Martin Jones Endowed Professor of Sociology at DePauw University. He was promoted to Full Professor in 2016. He served as chair of the Sociology and Anthropology Department from 2010-2016. His work focuses on constructions of masculinity in and the politics of rap music. His research has appeared in the Sociology of Race, Poetics, Journal of Black Studies, and Journal of African American Studies, among others. His manuscript, “I Got Something to Say: Gender, Race, and Social Consciousness in Rap Music” is currently under review at Palgrave Macmillan press.

Donald C. Reitzes (Ph.D. 1977) is back in Sociology and pursuing new research and teaching projects after several years as chair of the Sociology Department at Georgia State University and three years as Associate Dean for the Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Kim Smith (Ph.D. 2000) has taught sociology at Portland Community College (PCC) since 1996 and was the co-founder and Director of the Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network (GPSEN), acknowledged as a Regional Center of Expertise (RCE) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) by United Nations University, in 2013. Her commitment to professional development is demonstrated by her past service as PCC’s Service- Learning Coordinator, Teaching Learning Center Co-Director, and Training Coordinator for PCC’s Summer Sustainability Institute (funded by NSF). She also works closely with many non-profits, including the Northwest Earth Institute and Hands on Greater Portland, where she served on the Board for six years. She represented the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) at the United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit, in 2012, and served on AASHE’s Board of Directors from 2014-2017. She also is an International Fellow with the U.S. Partnership for ESD and a higher education envoy for UNU, and led the U.S. delegation to the UNESCO World Conference on ESD. She is committed to offering hope for a sustainable future through education, professional development, and civic engagement.

Mary Lindenstein Walshok (Ph.D. 1969) lives in Del Mar, California and continues to work at UC San Diego where she is an Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Programs, Dean of University Extension and a professor in the Department of Sociology. In the nearly 50 years since she received her Ph.D. she has authored six books, numerous journal articles, book chapters, and policy reports. The focus of her research, writing, and administrative role is the innovation economy, job creation, and the new skill demands that come with globalization and innovation as well as the role research universities play in helping communities adapt to these disruptive changes. As an interesting note she is currently part of a major EDA funded project led by Indiana University’s School of Information, Computing and Engineering Sciences focused on demonstrating how new web based analytical tools can elucidate with more accuracy and relevancy the economic dynamics of regions.