April 2012 Issue • Volume 40 • Issue 4

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New Task Force on Community College Sociologists

Margaret Weigers Vitullo, Academic and Professional Affairs Program

At its February 2012 meeting, ASA Council approved the development of a three-year task force on community college faculty. Although there are more than 400,000 full- and part-time community college faculty in the United States, making up more than 40 percent of all faculty members nationwide, they receive relatively little attention from researchers. Townsend and Twombly (2007) examined the scholarly literature on community college faculty and found that between 1990 and 2003, eight percent of articles in the five major higher education journals examined community college issues. “What is intriguing about the neglect of community college faculty members in the research literature and the lack of respect they often receive is that their numbers alone suggest they should at least merit attention” (Twombly and Townsend 2008).

Disciplinary Associations Taking Action

Over the past five years, a broad range of disciplinary associations—including biology, chemistry, engineering, English, geosciences, history, math, physics, and psychology—have begun to take action to support community college faculty and students. Some associations have sponsored “two-year curriculum discussions,” others have developed Community College Sections, and still others are offering special workshops or conferences on community college teaching.

The National Science Foundation has expressed interest in the disciplinary movement to support community college faculty as well. Katherine R. Rowell, co-winner of the 2012 ASA Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award and Director of the Sinclair Community College Center on Teaching and Learning, has been working with Mark Maier, Glendale Community College (CA) and Cathryn Manduca, Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College (MN), on an NSF-funded initiative to promote the use of innovative economic education resources by community college faculty.

Rowell was also the 2010 President of the North Central Sociological Association. In her Presidential Address, “The Community College Conundrum: Pitfalls and Possibilities of Professional Sociological Associations,” she discussed reasons community college faculty merit scholarly and professional attention within the discipline of sociology. She points out that, in addition to the new national level of attention on community colleges produced by President Obama’s initiatives, community college faculty have the opportunity to introduce sociology to more than 40 percent of the nation’s first-time freshman. Furthermore, among all 2008 doctoral recipients, 20 percent attended a community college for some part of their studies. Rowell argued that because community colleges disproportionately serve students of color and students from less privileged backgrounds, increasing focus on sociology faculty and students in community colleges is central to the discipline’s social justice goals.

As Townsend and Twombly (2007, 2008) discuss in general terms and Rowell (2010) expands upon for sociology, we have surprisingly little information about the characteristics, needs, and interests of sociologists and their students in community colleges, information that is essential in determining how professional disciplinary associations in general, and the American Sociological Association in particular, could best support community college faculty at this important juncture in the evolution of American higher education.

ASA’s Actions Regarding Community College Faculty

This task force proposal is an extension of community college related efforts previously undertaken by ASA.

Charge to the Task Force

Given the increasing reliance on community colleges in our nation’s system of higher education and the dearth of information on community college faculty in the discipline of sociology, the task force is charged with gathering empirical data on faculty teaching sociology at community colleges. They will collect information on both ASA members and non-members at community colleges in order to better understand their characteristics, credentials, professional identity, professional goals, and professional development needs, as well as working conditions and structural arrangements that impact sociological curricula and its implementation in their institutions. Based on those findings, the Task Force will then develop a series of recommendations to Council regarding appropriate and effective strategies for supporting sociology faculty in community colleges.


Rowell, Katherine. 2010. “The Community College Conundrum: Pitfalls and Possibilities of Professional Sociological Associations.” Sociological Focus 43(3):167-184.

Townsend, Barbara K., Susan Twombly. 2007. Community College Faculty: Overlooked and Undervalued. ASHE Higher Educational Report 32(6).

Twombly, Susan, Barbara K. Townsend. 2008. “Community College Faculty: What We Know and Need to Know.”  Community College Review 36(1):5-24.


Interested in Volunteering for
the ASA Task Force on
Community College Faculty? 

Sociologists interested in becoming members of the new Task Force on Community College Faculty in Sociology should contact Sally T. Hillsman, ASA Executive Officer, at hillsman@asanet.org, or Margaret Weigers Vitullo, Director of Academic and Professional Affairs, at mvitullo@asanet.org. Community college faculty in sociology as well as faculty in four-year institutions who have research interests or working relationships with community college sociologists (through articulation agreements or dual credit arrangements, for example) are encouraged to apply.

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