Making Sociology Count

Luke Hanna and Stephanie Wilson

September 2018 | Edited September 2019
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Does sociology really matter to people outside of the academic bubble?

In early 2000, late sociologist Jay Weinstein wrote commentary in 
Contemporary Sociology about recent conversations at the annual American Sociological Association (ASA) meetings about the state of sociology. He took concern with the fact that most participants were focused on how their research could reach the often-unreachable policy-maker. His concern for this approach to making sociology meaningful is due to what he saw as a “a top-down, elitist attitude. For it assumes that the academic branch of the discipline, and especially the most privileged individuals within that branch, are uniquely entitled to define what is ‘useful’ sociology and to lead in its pursuits.”

 

Weinstein was advocating for a sociology for and by the people—a sociology that takes knowledge “outside of academic circles, bringing the fruits of the sociological imagination to society and its members.” This type of sociology would be well-known, useful, broad-reaching, and—most importantly—it would count. 

 

When we tell people we are sociologists, we are often met with confused looks. We believe that confusion results from a division between academic sociology and the rest of the world. Starting with this publication, we hope to bridge that divide by making sociology count.

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At Applied Worldwide we believe in a Dynamic Sociology—as defined by Lester F. Ward—where sociological knowledge is both produced and applied to enact positive changes in communities throughout the globe. We understand a lot of good sociology goes unnoticed. Students spend months on term papers, only to place them permanently in archived folders. Works deemed “not theoretical enough” may go unpublished. “Side-projects” in local communities may not appear scientific enough to distribute. Practitioners have limited outlets for projects, and worst of all, there are virtually no platforms for the public to engage with sociology.

 

We believe that everyone’s experience matters. We all make observations and develop our own theoretical understandings of society. Sociology provides a system by which we can make sense of our everyday experiences. It is a tool that the public should have access to and be able to help shape. 

 

Our mission is to build a bridge between the discipline of sociology and everyday life to improve the well-being of society. We aim to provide educational resources that allow people, with or without sociological training, to experience their life through a sociological perspective. The sociological perspective is a powerful tool that can help transform communities, organizations, and societies into efficient, effective, and equitable spaces. We are devoted to spreading the wisdom of sociology to allow others to tap into their sociological perspectives. Most importantly, we are devoted to making sociology count.

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Applied Worldwide began in August of 2015 when we attended the annual ASA meetings together in Chicago, IL. In the early stages, we merely dreamed of a way to “change the game” of sociology, to use our knowledge to bring positive change to communities around the world, to make sociology count. Little did we know, only four short years later we would start to make that dream a reality by creating Applied Worldwide.

 

It's taken us years of suffering and blossoming in U.S. sociology graduate programs to finally take the leap and use our sociological knowledge in a way that feels right to us. We started our training as professional sociologists earning our bachelor's and then master's degrees in the sociology department at the University of Northern Colorado (UNCO). We spent two years earning our master's degrees in a department full of sociological trailblazers. We conducted research with our communities, for our communities, and as a part of our communities. Our experiences at UNCO, although unparalleled, made our transition to a traditional PhD program that much harder.

 

We graduated with our terminal master's degrees from UNCO in 2016 and moved to the unfamiliar scenery of Indiana to pursue doctoral degrees in sociology at Purdue University. As we transitioned from an applied sociology department to an academic sociology department, our yearning for change in the discipline only grew. We felt limited by the type of research and writing that is supported in academic environments, and slowly started making plans to forge our own paths as sociologists.

 

Now, four years after our initial conversations about "changing the game," we are setting out on our own path to make sociology count in the best ways we know how: through​ learning, exploring, and teaching. We are life-long learners who are eager to share everything we learn as sociologists and humans. We are also life-long explorers, always looking for our next adventure and ways to experience the world through our sociological imaginations. Lastly, teaching has been one of the most powerful and rewarding ways we've made sociology count, and we are continually eager to share our experiences of teaching sociology in both formal and informal settings.

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