Mary Virnoche, PhD: Applied Sociology and Supporting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Higher Education
This profile is brought to you through a joint collaboration between Applied Worldwide and Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS). Thank you to SWS and all those who made valuable contributions to the Profiles in Applied & Clinical Sociology series.
This profile is presented as part of a larger project with the intentions of: 1) providing students with examples of applied sociology, 2) providing market value to sociological skills and services, and 3) promoting the work of individual sociological practitioners and organizations. You can find a directory of all profiles included in this project here.
Mary Virnoche began her journey to applied sociology through first earning a BA in Journalism at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. Moving foward she earned two master's degrees, including an MA in Sociology from the Unviersity of Northern Colorado in Greeley and an MA in Human Resources Management from Truman State University located in Kirksville, MO. Dr. Virnoche then continued her sociological training at the University of Colorado at Boulder to earn her PhD in Sociology.
Now, as an applied sociologist, Dr. Virnoche's "research and programmatic work supports diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education." She also "[partners] with colleagues in STEM fields on teaching and research projects. In recent years [she] worked on developing and evaluating major-based peer mentor programs. In 2020 [her] campus scaled up to an all-campus mentor program." Dr. Virnoche also shared the following example of some of her applied work as a sociologist:
During 2020-21 I served as General Faculty President and University Senate Chair. My leadership goals for my term focused on evaluating through an equity lens governance experiences and needs, as well as our structures and practices. I collaborated with others to develop a strategic plan focused on inclusive governance culture, anti-racist policy priorities, and leadership diversity in campus governance and change.
Continue below for insight from Dr. Virnoche on pursuing an applied sociology career!
Mary Virnoche, PhD
Using Sociology in Practice
In general, how do you use sociology in practice?
Applied theory for program design and development. Applied methods for evaluating programs and collecting information for program design and organizational change.
Lessons for Future Practitioners
What types of courses should undergraduate students take in preparation for a career similar to yours?
Study sociology of education and take methods courses.
What types of courses should graduate students take in preparation for a career similar to yours?
Study sociology of education; methods courses with opportunities to apply
What types of experiences should undergraduate students seek in preparation for a career similar to yours?
Seek opportunities to collaborate with faculty or staff on applied research projects.
What types of experiences should graduate students seek in preparation for a career similar to yours?
Regularly volunteer or secure paid work on short projects for agencies, community organizations, or campus offices.