Cities are fascinating places—abuzz with creation and conflict, rife with possibilities, riddled with inequities, in constant flux yet surprisingly stuck. They are places of great sociological interest to me because they provide myriad opportunities to investigate how inequality is produced, perpetuated or challenged. My research program examines these processes in the context of neighborhood life—drawing together the areas of community and urban sociology, culture, and inequality to address core social science and policy concerns. My work explores, for example, the movement of evangelical Christian families from affluent suburbs to high-poverty communities, how residents of a race- and class-diverse neighborhood make sense of and live with diversity, and how neighborhoods deal with crime.
My book, Live and Let Live: Diversity, Conflict and Community in an Integrated Neighborhood, sheds light on the everyday processes of negotiating difference in Riverwest, a socially diverse neighborhood in Milwaukee, one of the nation’s most segregated cities. Through an in-depth examination of life “on the block,” I show how residents maintain relative stability in their community without insisting on conformity, challenging widely held assumptions about what “good” communities look like and what well-regulated communities want. Live and Let Live shifts the conventional scholarly focus from “What can integration do?” to “How is integration done?”
My approach to teaching is rooted in my love of learning. For me, the exhilarating moments of discovery are moments of connection and integration. As a teacher, I strive to cultivate students’ capacities to build and make sense of important connections—among ideas, with each other, with their life experiences, and between classroom and community. I teach variety of courses that focus on urban and community sociology, culture, race, social class, inequality, social problems, and research methods. In all courses, I encourage students to take risks associated with thinking critically about the social influences on their opportunities and implications of their actions—an often uncomfortable, but rewarding endeavor.
Outside the Classroom
I thoroughly enjoy returning home to visit my native Milwaukee and exploring new spots on the globe. It’s humbling and amazing to make sense of a new place – by making friends, exploring new food, new drink and new forms of trouble-making, learning a language, feeling out a local music scene, getting lost and finding my way again.
“I have always felt that the action most worth watching is not at the center of things but where edges meet. I like shorelines, weather fronts, international borders. There are interesting frictions and incongruities in these places, and often, if you stand at the point of tangency, you can see both sides better than if you were in the middle of either one.” - Anne Fadiman
B.A., Sociology, Colorado College
M.A., Sociology, Indiana University
Ph.D., Sociology, Indiana University