Introduction: A Sociology Blog on Grad School, Balance, and Race

Hello, Internet-dwelling beings. It’s me, back at it again with a new blog. Since the Korea travel blog, it seems I haven’t been able to stop. I may not be very good at Twitter, and I’m gradually disappearing from Facebook, but I’m definitely a blogger.

And this time, I’m pretty excited. Friends…I think this blog might be the one.

I’m in graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Sociology. That’s right, I capitalize Sociology now (well, only sometimes). If all goes well here, I’ll work nonstop for five to  seven years, land an academic job after graduation, and continue the nonstop work thing until I become a tenured professor. And as bizarre and unpleasant as all that sounds, I think this is what I truly want.

Plus, I try to romanticize the nonstop working with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical talents.

But I also know I want to be present outside of academia. One of the coolest things about sociology is that we study issues that have a clear, real impact on people’s lives.

Why are schools so unequal? Where does racism come from? How much of our identities are shaped by our environments, organizations, and cultures?

Many of these topics are depressing but pretty darn important. My particular poison is race. And so in this blog, I hope to bring race issues to light in a productive, interesting way, because we need to be talking about it. Conversation is the first step to understanding and change. Over the course of this blog, whether we agree or disagree, let’s have some good conversations.

If talking about race makes you uncomfortable or gets you down, don’t worry, that’s not all I have in store. Much of this blog will also address graduate school and life as a graduate student. I’ll write about three main topics tied to three main reasons behind why I’m starting this blog.


What Can You Expect to See in This Blog?



Graduate School Reflections

I’m a big believer in documenting processes as you go. Advice given in retrospect is helpful, but it’s easy to forget the concerns that seemed monumental before you learned to get over it. My mindset will change quite a bit while I’m here. The things that seemed super weird to me at first will slowly become normal. That’s what graduate school training is for – not just skills but socialization into academia.  

So this blog is a record of my thoughts, highlights, and struggles as they happen, before I’m in too deep to remember how they felt. Right now, my mind is preoccupied with adjustment. I’m just learning how to do this thing. You can expect a lot of posts about challenges and mindset shifts. My hope is that as I get older and wiser (or just more accustomed to grad school life), these posts will contain a few nuggets of sage wisdom for those coming up after me.


Life Beyond Graduate School

I have a silly confession for you here. Before starting grad school, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to anything except school. No joke. I genuinely wasn’t sure if I’d be able to have a life outside of graduate school. There are many ways that this viewpoint has been affirmed for me before and after starting my program:

  • A professor once told me that World War III could break out and a good graduate student wouldn’t even know it. (They would be too focused on school.)
  • Another professor told me I would have to work nonstop, not just in school, but for the first 15 years of my career.
  • I reached out to several grad students who identified as artists in some way. All of them said they didn’t really have time for art anymore.
  • A professor at my current school asked a small group of graduate students about their hobbies. There was an uncomfortable silence.

I find these stories to be a combination of depressing and funny. But now that I’m in graduate school, these concerns seem unreasonable. Of course I can have a life outside of grad school. Or put differently, I have to build a life beyond grad school. Otherwise, I’ll come out on the other side of 30 and wonder why all I have to show for myself is a budding career.

Grad school will always take up a disproportionate share of my time. But in our overtime-heavy, always hustling, get ahead, gig economy, everyone needs to take a step back and negotiate their work-life balance.

Graduate students aren’t an exception.

Balance can’t look the same for everyone. My version of balance may not work for you. But I’m happy to share what my balance looks like. And in particular, you can expect to see some hard negotiations on how I balance my art and running an art business alongside graduate school.


Public Sociology

This is my final reason for starting this blog. What in the world is public sociology? If you’re asking, you’re in good company. Sometimes public sociology is just a buzzword. But it’s an important one. I wouldn’t want to do sociology without it.

Academics are often criticized for working in an “ivory tower” where they do their research without actually engaging in the real world. You could say they study the world, but never come down to see what things are really like on the ground. I think and hope that this is changing.  

I never want to remain cooped up in my corner of the world.My goal is to break out of the tower. Or more realistically, my goal is to at least spend nights and weekends outside of the tower.

Especially for sociology, a field that is obviously near and dear to my heart, I have high expectations. A field that addresses social issues can’t remain disconnected from the general public…not without a lot of wasted opportunities.

Unfortunately, I have to learn the ways of the ivory tower.To get hired by these tower residents someday, I need to learn their skills and values. But even as I embark on this path to the ivory tower, I’m trying to ensure I won’t get stuck inside.

I don’t yet know how I’ll do this. Do I bring a ladder? Grow Rapunzel princess hair? Get a grappling hook? I’ll keep working on this metaphor, but if you have any ideas, let me know.

The point of all this tower talk is to say that public sociology to a way to remain grounded. By sharing what academics learn from their research with the general public, we can close the divide. I think a blog is one small way to start sharing knowledge and encouraging conversations.

So there you have it, my lofty, perhaps overly optimistic reasons for starting a sociology blog. I hope you enjoy some of what you read today and in posts to come. Consider this post a personal invite to engage – let’s comment, ask questions, and build conversations in a constructive, respectful way.

4 thoughts on “Introduction: A Sociology Blog on Grad School, Balance, and Race

  1. Thank you for this great introduction to your blog! In the spirit of engagement, I thought I would ask a question (or two) about public sociology. What do you see as the balance between public sociology and what Weber called “value neutral” (or “value neutral”) social science? How should we think about objectivity when our science is so clearly oriented to questions of inequality, justice, and human flourishing?

    1. Thanks for jumping in with some questions Max! Personally, I lean toward the camp that believes complete objectivity is impossible. But that’s not to say we can’t discover truths from subjective accounts. In acknowledging our own subjectivity and keeping an open ear to others’ critiques about our biases, sociologists can and do produce rigorous, insightful research.

      As for your first question on public sociology vs. value neutral science, I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. I believe Rashawn Ray approaches public sociology with this mindset, leading with data so people can come to their own conclusions and values. My approach to public sociology will undoubtedly be far messier, but I’ll have to take my own advice and acknowledge my subjectivity along the way. 🙂

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