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David M. Newman

Why Sociology?

Like many college students, I lacked focus when I was an undergraduate. As a little kid growing up in the sixties, I was always interested in understanding the intricacies of everyday life and criticizing inequality, inequity, and disadvantage. But I really had no idea how to translate those interests into a career. It wasn’t until I took my first Sociology course as a sophomore in college—and received my first exposure to a conceptual and theoretical vocabulary that helped me understand my interests intellectually—that I realized there was an academic discipline for me. I guess you can say I was a sociologist long before I knew what the word meant.

The rest, as they say, is history. I declared my major, went on to get a PhD, and have been a college professor for nearly 30 years. To this day, sociology remains the perfect discipline for me. It continues to help me to understand the full range of social life—from the mundane routines of everyday experiences to the formation of relationships to the global workings of massive social institutions.  In that sense, sociology is the quintessential liberal arts discipline. It is a sophisticated guide for examining the complexities of human life and how the world works.

Research and Teaching Interests

After teaching at the University of Washington (where I earned my PhD) and the University of Connecticut, I came to DePauw University in 1989.  I have taught a variety of courses here, including Contemporary Society, Social Deviance, Sociology of Family, Sociology of Madness, Individual & Society, and Research Methods.  

My scholarship has taken several forms. Early on, my research interests focused on the intersection of gender and power in the context of intimate, romantic relationships. I have also written extensively on the teaching of sociology. More recently, I have been involved in an exciting book-length project on the cultural ideology, institutional context, historical underpinnings, and personal experiences of “second chances” in everyday life.  Though the concept of “second chances” is a ubiquitous feature of U.S. culture, it remains largely unexamined by social scientists.