What are you doing now?

I am a Region 4 Safety Field Program Specialist with the Division of Family and Children Services (this is a fancy way of saying that I am a regional child safety consultant).

How have the skills and knowledge you learned in the Sociology M.A. program translated to your current job?

I think one of the most difficult aspects of my current job is predicting human behavior in diverse populations. My Sociology M.A. allowed me the opportunity to cultivate my critical thinking skills with those whose perspectives and culture may differ greatly from my own. That experience has better prepared me to work with families with various backgrounds and apply those important critical thinking skills to my daily work in order to make the best possible decisions regarding child welfare.

What topics did your M.A. thesis address? What research methods did you use and what did you find?

"Who or What is the Tea Party: A Meta-Ethnography of the Tea Party." Noblit and Hare’s meta-ethnographic approach was utilized, which involved analyzing multiple studies of the Tea Party, making cross-case comparisons, identifying common or divergent themes, and synthesizing those interpreted as relevant. What was learned is that who and what the Tea Party is can be found in the sum of its parts: the return to traditional conservatism, the Christian symbolism and patriotic imagery, the economic and racial shifts of the times, the platform for gender equality, new technological ways to interconnect, the meddling involvement of elite media interest groups and even the contradictions and incoherence often found when people mobilize. These all combine to paint a powerful picture of a broad-based but influential modern conservative social movement.

What broader lessons did you learn from working on your thesis or applied paper?

I think in retrospect, what I learned is that my curiosity has always led me to asking a lot of questions, and that answers to questions often leads to more questions, which for some reason, I find uniquely satisfying. And, that furthermore, certain questions can best be answered by going into the field, talking to folks, learning where they are coming from and making observations, along with reviewing the work of others who have done the same. This directly applies to my work today where I am tasked with consulting with child welfare staff, championing best practice and policy, providing them with feedback regarding their investigative approaches and overall engagement with families. In sum, I learned that the benefit of an ethnographic approach translates beyond the classroom! Our child welfare staff uses this approach every time they meet with a family and then documents their experience. My days are filled with reviewing real-life ethnographies, so in a sense, I remain a student!

What advice would you give to current students in the M.A. program?

First, you can do it! It certainly felt daunting when I was completing my M.A.; however, once you have your topic and research methods, it's all downhill from there (and a lot of typing ... so ...much ... typing). Secondly, build relationships with your peers and your professors, their support and guidance is central to your success. Finally, take it seriously, because what is sort of cool at the end of it all is that through a very challenging experience, you learn a lot about who you are, what you are capable of and what brings you joy … always chase your joy!