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Sociology Out Front

The second of five articles in a series on the State of the State Sociological Societies.

by Ron Wimberley, North Carolina State University

Several years ago, Cathy Harris of Wake Forest University and Mike Wise of Appalachian State University coordinated a couple of issues of The American Sociologist (Winter, 1998; Spring 1999), publishing articles on ways to apply sociology. Much of this involved examples of things done through state sociological associations and their members active at the local levels. The articles ranged from applied sociology to sociological publicity, sociologists’ grassroots, community involvement, high school sociology, and the sociological job market.

Some of the things that state associations can help sociologists do are highlighted in the opening article of The American Sociologist collection. For example:

  • Help sociologists get public recognition for their skills through volunteering in community and local area activities.
  • Help sociologists learn to consult for pay and help them learn how to locate potential clients who often live nearby.
  • Help give visibility to the skills and accomplishments of sociologists through awards, news releases, opinion-editorial page contributions to newspapers and popular journals on social issues, and other public appearances.
  • Help place our graduates—both undergraduates and graduate students—in applied jobs in addition to those in teaching and research.
  • Help sociologists work with colleagues in other disciplines to mutually improve socioeconomic well-being for ourselves and our families through our academic and nonacademic workplaces.

The presentations made in the state associations session at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association showed examples of what sociologists can do proactively—in our communities—to improve sociology’s visibility. Basically, the goal of those presentations is to get sociology out front. State sociological associations operate out front on the local, public level in our states and communities. Indeed, state associations can provide a supportive local community for sociologists in different types of colleges and universities and in applied settings. In our national sociological association and in our regional and specialty associations, we have overlooked this function of providing a supportive local community and perhaps cannot do that. But the price we pay is losing contact with a lot of sociologists whose careers take them—and sociology—out to the local fronts in states and communities across our country and the globe.