November 2012 Issue • Volume 40 • Issue 8

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Heather Gautney Is the 2012-13 ASA Congressional Fellow

heather gautney

Heather Gautney

The 2012 American Sociological Association (ASA) Congressional Fellowship was awarded to Heather Gautney. She began working in the office of Senator Bernard Sanders (D) from Vermont in September. “It’s a really exciting time to be in Washington, DC, because of the recent elections. As an ASA/AAAS fellow, I am on the front lines of the political process.”

Before her fellowship, Gautney was an assistant professor at Fordham University. She has a strong background in policy development through her past work with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1199 and her recent work on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Her major research interests include social and political movements, political sociology, labor, social welfare institutions, political economy, globalization, and social and political theory.

Gautney’s research and policy-related experience will serve her well during her fellowship. As a consultant for the SEIU Training and Employment, Pension and Benefits Fund, she conducted policy-related work in the area of health care, working with other sociologists to evaluate the effectiveness of the union’s communication skills training program. She also worked with SEIU Local 1199 to initiate its Foreign-Trained Professionals Program. Following her work with SEIU, Gautney worked with the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the union of faculty at the City University of New York. She compiled a report of select training and upgrade programs offered by other unions in the city which was used to create a training strategy for PSC.

“My training in ethnographic methods and sociological understanding of organizations and social inequality were vital to the success and integrity of the [SEIU] evaluation,” Gautney said.

Her latest research has Gautney applying her research experience in the field of industrial and workforce development to the entertainment industry. She is working on a study assessing the impact of state policies and investment in film production on workforce and industrial development.

Interests on the Hill

“Now is sociology’s time to influence policymaking,” said Gautney in her Congressional Fellowship application.  “Concepts like social class have become central to the national conversation on the future of our country, but have also become subject to misuse and political posturing. Sociologists must demonstrate the analytical utility of such concepts. They are the cornerstone of our discipline, and more importantly, are absolutely crucial to understanding social problems like heath care and educational inequality, and creating effective policies to address them.”

Gautney’s interests align with Sen. Sander’s priorities. “I am interested in working on corporate personhood, an issue for which Sen. Bernard Sanders and Rep. Dennis Kucinich have garnered a great deal of support from within the Occupy movement,” she said. In addition, she is interested in job creation, which directly relates to her current research on workforce development and state tax incentives in the entertainment industry, international trade, and educational policy linked to No Child Left Behind.

Gautney has authored number of books and articles on politics, globalization, and social movements, especially in relation to trade policy. She believes that the use of sociology in policymaking should not stop on Capitol Hill. The work of sociologists in policymaking should expand to the classroom. “A policy perspective would enable students to test sociological concepts within real life contexts and better assess their implications.”

“The new Congress has a series of incredibly important decisions to make during this upcoming lame duck session—the sequestration, tax code, the federal budget,” said Gautney. “Working in the Senate means I am part of these debates. I’m particularly excited to be working for Senator Sander of Vermont. I have been a huge fan of the senator for years and to have direct access to him, work on his agenda, and suggest new policy is a real thrill.”

For more information on the ASA Congressional Fellowship, see the Funding page on the ASA Website. The deadline to apply is February 1, 2013.


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