July/August 2014 Issue • Volume 42 • Issue 6

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Thank You, Bobbie Spalter-Roth!

Roberta Spalter-Roth

Mary Scheuer Senter, Central Michigan University

Bobbie Spalter-Roth is terrific at project management. While she will continue at the ASA Executive Office after June 30 as a Senior Research Fellow, finishing up several major ASA projects including the Bachelor’s and Beyond project, she will take on new challenges as an affiliate faculty member and Distinguished Research Fellow at George Mason University (GMU). She tells me that the plan—and a best-laid one at that—is to stop working 60-hour weeks!

Faculty members at George Mason are “thrilled.” Amy Best, incoming chair of the GMU Department of Sociology and Anthropology, tells us that “Bobbie brings a lifetime of research experience that will enrich our master’s and PhD program in sociology, and her presence will only strengthen our Center for Social Science Research. She’s also a wonderful colleague to work with, making her move to us all the better.” James Witte, Director of the Center for Social Science Research [CSSR], echoes those sentiments. “Bobbie brings us a wealth of research experience and know-how that is already proving a boon to our research capabilities. Just as importantly, Bobbie has an infectious enthusiasm for the discipline, and particularly for applied research. Combined, this makes Bobbie a great research colleague, and just as importantly she is proving to be a great informal mentor for our junior faculty and graduate students as we seek to develop a research culture here at CSSR and in our relatively new PhD program in public and applied sociology.”

The rest of us in the sociology community should second Diane Pike’s heartfelt “thank you” to Bobbie. Diane, Professor of Sociology at Augsburg College, editor of ASA’s TRAILS, and ASA Department Resources Group (DRG) member, tells us that, “whether reporting national trends in sociology that DRG reviewers find essential, findings of NSF-funded projects, or digging deep into questions of faculty career paths, Bobbie has contributed a body of research for which we should all be most appreciative.”

First Director of Research

Bobbie joined the ASA Executive Office staff almost 17 years ago as the creator and first Director of the ASA Department of Research on the Profession and Discipline. Sally Hillsman, ASA Executive Officer, notes that “under Bobbie’s leadership, ASA has become a model for other scientific associations that now realize how important it is for them to conduct research on their own disciplines. As a result, Bobbie has a growing cadre of fellow sociologists who are doing similar research in disciplinary associations in the natural and bio-medical sciences as well as in the social sciences.” Willie Pearson, Professor in the School of History, Technology and Society at the Georgia Institute of Technology, agrees, noting that “Bobbie’s evidence-based approach to the analysis of ASA programs and policies has been a model for other professional societies.” And Rachel Ivie, a key researcher at one of those societies as Associate Director of the Statistical Research Center at the American Institute of Physics, concurs. She states, “I never cease to be impressed by Bobbie’s energy and the sheer number of on-target research ideas and projects that she generates. That’s something that I aspire to.“

Have you taken a quick glance recently at the “Research on Sociology” tab at the top of the ASA homepage? Of course, you cannot really make it quick because Bobbie’s research activities for ASA have been extensive. In addition, “Current Projects” embrace a wide variety of topics including studies of the job market in sociology, an exploration of sociologists’ professional networks, research on the status of sociology majors before and after their baccalaureate graduation, information on what students can do with a master’s degree in sociology, data from a department chairs’ survey on what’s happening in sociology departments across the United States, and studies examining the career trajectories of sociology PhDs both in academic and non-academic positions. And then there are the more than 90 research briefs and articles authored by Bobbie and her staff in recent years, available free for download. And, if that does not satisfy your curiosity and you want more tables and figures, you can download trend data on the discipline and profession compiled by Bobbie’s department. Bobbie is proud of her staff of research assistants and associates and recognizes the contributions that they have made to the overall success of the research department over the years.

Throughout her career, Bobbie has focused on ways of assisting groups that have been underrepresented in the academy, in the STEM workforce, and in the larger society. Before coming to ASA, she worked as a research or project director for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Women’s Research and Education Institute. She has been the ASA staff liaison to numerous task forces and research projects designed to document the challenges as well as the successes of underrepresented groups. Whatever the explicit focus of her inquiries, she looks first, for the implicit biases that might disadvantage some in their pursuit of skills, benefits, mentors, degrees, or jobs. Pearson notes, “I have been impressed with Bobbie’s collaboration with Jean Shin (Director of the ASA Minority Affairs Program) to involve former Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) Fellows in the work of the Association.” He goes on to praise her for “taking a leadership role in working across social science disciplines to highlight the value of these disciplines in broadening the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM professions.”

Hillsman, reflecting on Bobbie’s “remarkable career,” remembers how rare it was for sociologists of their generation to choose the world outside the academy as “the place for a rich and exciting professional career that could make a difference to society and to our discipline. Bobbie was doing high-quality public sociology before Michael Burawoy, the 2004 ASA President, encouraged the rest of us to get on board. ”

Pike remembers Bobbie’s presentations at ASA and at the Midwest Sociological Society as “focused, straight-forward, and hard-working.” I have worked with Bobbie on the 2005 and 2012 Bachelor’s and Beyond project. I think of her as the consummate research-focused, practical sociologist who nonetheless maintains a keen eye for situating research in a larger theoretically informed, political context. She works and works until she gets it right and then steps back to tease out the policy implications.

Best Wishes

And she may remember that response rate that she was so worried about when the two of us met for dinner at an ASA Annual Meeting a couple of years ago. Well, typical for Bobbie’s work, she tried harder, and the response rate topped out at more than 60 percent! Best wishes, Bobbie, as you move beyond the Rockaways, Bloomington, K Street, and the District to help launch, not only new sociology majors and sociology PhDs, but new projects at GMU and new adventures of your own. If you wish to reach Bobbie, contact her at Spalter-Roth@asanet.org and rspalter@gmu.edu.

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