American Sociological Association

ASA Footnotes

A publication of the American Sociological AssociationASA News & Events
November 2016

Sociology of Education Welcomes New Editor Linda Renzulli

Brian Powell, Indiana University

Linda Renzulli

Linda Renzulli

Taking on a major editorship is daunting. Taking on the headship of a department may be equally so. But taking on both a major editorship and a headship is, for most people, a herculean task. But Linda Renzulli is not like most people. She has embraced the dual challenge of accepting the editorship of the ASA journal Sociology of Education and the headship of the Department of Sociology at Purdue University. With Linda’s seemingly endless energy, crystal clear focus, and exceptional leadership skills, both the journal and the department are in very good hands.

Linda is Professor of Sociology and Head of the Department of Sociology at Purdue University. Prior to Purdue, she taught at the University of Georgia from 2001 until last summer. She received her PhD from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2001. As the new editor of Sociology of Education, she succeeds the University of Minnesota’s Rob Warren, who served as editor since 2014.

That Linda was selected to be the 16th editor of Sociology of Education probably does not surprise most sociologists of education. She is a highly visible presence in the field. She is known and respected for her high-quality, methodologically rigorous and real-world, policy-relevant scholarship that addresses core questions in the field of sociology of education—questions regarding the extent to which schools are organized and stratified and how school and educational advantages (and disadvantages) are promoted or minimized. Much of this work has focused on charter schools, a topic she has studied since the beginning of her professional career. Many if not most in the sociology of educational community consider Linda the preeminent sociological scholar on charter schools. This distinction may explain another distinction: she is a ubiquitous presence in Sociology of Education, being one of only two sociologists who have published in the journal five times since 2005.

When I asked sociologists of education to describe Linda Renzulli, the responses I received tell us why Linda makes a compelling choice for editor of Sociology of Education: “Creative.” “Energetic.” “Driven.” “Both effective and efficient in leadership as well as management.” “Top, top, top scholar.” “Superior communication skills and follow-through on decisions large and small, whether easy or not.” “Phenomenal ability to build consensus while also standing her ground and expressing her stance clearly.” “Pays utmost attention to ethics in research and professional ethics at large.” “Ridiculously productive.”

In describing his enthusiasm for Linda’s selection as SOE editor, Richard Arum, chair of the ASA Sociology of Education section, commented that:

“Renzulli’s expertise in both organizational dimensions of schooling and social inequality in education outcomes prepares her well for taking on this important editorial responsibility for the subfield. She has a long track record of being a dedicated scholar, mentor, and citizen.”

The most reassuring sign, though, is the unequivocal support of her editorship by her predecessors. As David Bills, Sociology of Education editor, 2010–2013, noted:

“As a former Editor of Sociology of Education, I was thrilled when I learned that Linda Renzulli had been chosen as the new Editor. Like Barb Schneider before me and Rob Warren after me, editors develop a real affection for their journal. More than anyone, former editors understand how delicate the whole operation is, and how crucial it is to have someone at the helm who will be decisive, smart, dedicated, humble, and absorbed in the well-being of authors, reviewers, and readers, I’ve known Linda for a long time, and she brings all of this and more to SOE.”

Linda plans to continue the journal’s movement toward greater methodological and substantive diversity. In her proposal for the editorship, she lauded previous editors for changing “the reputation of SOE from being a journal for quantitative scholars only” and emphasized her commitment to “publishing work with these broader theoretical and substantive foci, and with methodological diversity.” To accomplish this goal, she plans to promote scholarship that focuses not only on schools, but also on education, defined very broadly. As she writes:

“To be clear, I believe that schools are formal organizations worthy of study in their own right, yet education is also a more diffuse project that occurs in and across multiple social organizations…We can do much better sociologically speaking by highlighting the fundamental nature of education as a social institution—an institution embedded with a larger social, cultural, and institutional complex.”

To that end, she hopes to see more submissions—and, in turn, more publications—that link education to insights from literature on social movements, political sociology, family sociology, social psychology, culture, and organizations, among others. Continuing to further expand and diversify Sociology of Education will increase the journal’s visibility, making the journal a must-read not only for scholars of education, but also for sociologists in other subareas.

A clear signal of Linda’s leadership and inclusive vision of Sociology of Education is her selection of a terrific team of Deputy Editors: Katerina Bodovski, Associate Professor of Educational Theory and Policy in the Department of Education Policy Studies at The Pennsylvania State University, whose interests are in comparative and international education, family and education, and cultural capital; Thurston (Thad) Domina, Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Sociology in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, whose areas of interests are in empirical methods, sociological theory, and educational inequality; Jennifer C. Lee, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Sociology at Indiana University, whose areas of interest are in racial/ethnic disparities in education, immigration, Asian-American studies, and quantitative methodology; and Karolyn Tyson, Professor and Associate Chair in the Department of Sociology at Indiana University, whose areas of interest are in racial/ethnic disparities in education, special education, and qualitative methodology.