The Gift of a Vocation: Learning, Writing, and Teaching Sociology
Keywords:Mentoring, Writing, Teaching, Graduate School
To write a sociological festschrift for a scholar necessarily means looking at a chain of influence instead of one person. In this essay, I honor William Shaffir, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at McMaster University, who taught me as I worked towards the MA. I examine what I learned from him by starting with my undergraduate experiences at McGill University, where Billy (I never heard anyone call him William) received his PhD. We shared influences there, including those who had studied with Howard S. Becker at Northwestern University. I then turn to my time at McMaster, and how Billy strengthened my knowledge of symbolic interactionism and qualitative methods, as well as taught me important lessons about writing. He also reduced graduate students’ anxieties, including mine, through two words: “No problem.” My experiences with Billy provided a model of mentoring that challenged the usual hierarchy between graduate students and professors. Those lessons were reinforced as I pursued a PhD at the University of Minnesota and spent two quarters at Northwestern University as a visiting student. These connecting influences helped me write and teach sociology in a largely quantitative department at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where I lacked the kind of support I had received as an undergraduate and graduate student. I taught there over 37 years, practicing the kind of sociology and mentoring that Billy generously modeled so many years ago.
Becker, Howard S. 1970. “The Nature of a Profession.” Pp. 87-103 in Sociological Work: Method and Substance, edited by H. S. Becker. Chicago: Aldine.
Blumer, Herbert. 1969. Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Ferrales, Gabrielle and Gary A. Fine. 2005. “Sociology as a Vocation: Reputations and Group Cultures in Graduate School.” American Sociologist 36:57-75.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12108-005-1005-1
Goffman, Erving. 1961. Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and other Inmates. New York: Doubleday.
Haas, Jack and William Shaffir. 1977. “The Professionalization of Medical Students: Developing Competence and a Cloak of Competence.” Symbolic Interaction 1:71-88.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/si.1922.214.171.124
Haas, Jack and William Shaffir. 1991. Becoming Doctors: The Adoption of a Cloak of Competence. London: JAI Press.
Kleinman, Sherryl. 2006. “A Fine Hen.” Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women 23:66-70.
Kleinman, Sherryl and Martha Copp. 2009. “Denying Social Harm: Students’ Resistance to Lessons about Inequality.” Teaching Sociology 37:283-293.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0092055X0903700306
Kleinman, Sherryl, Martha Copp, and Kent Sandstrom. 2006. “Making Sexism Visible: Birdcages, Martians, and Pregnant Men.” Teaching Sociology 34:126-142.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0092055X0603400203
Mead, George H. 1934. Mind, Self, and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Miller, Jean Baker. 1987. Toward a New Psychology of Women. Boston: Beacon.
Puddephatt, Antony J., Benjamin W. Kelly, and Michael Adorjan. 2006. “Unveiling the Cloak of Competence: Cultivating Authenticity in Graduate School.” American Sociologist 37:84-98.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12108-006-1024-6
Weber, Max. 1958. “Science as a Vocation.” Pp. 129-56 in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, translated and edited by H. Gerth and C. W. Mills. New York: Oxford University Press
How to Cite
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.