Yale’s Sociology Department has hired two senior professors from universities recognized as sociology powerhouses to begin teaching this fall, a move that nearly completes its rebuilding effort.
Sociology continues to expand in what several professors characterized as a remarkable turnaround for a department that a decade ago, due to a University budget crisis, was in line to become extinct.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Philip Gorski, a comparative sociologist specializing in religion and politics, and the University of Michigan’s Julia Adams, an expert in gender and political sociology, are the latest in a four-year flurry of additions to the department.
Department Chairman Jeffrey Alexander said Gorski and Adams, both of whom are in their mid-forties, will bring youthful energy and fresh ideas to the revitalized department.
“Those two are the future of the department at the senior level,” Alexander said. “We’ve really concluded a major phase of our rehiring.”
Wisconsin and Michigan are consistently listed among the nation’s top four in U.S. News and World Report’s annual ranking. That Gorski and Adams are leaving those schools for Yale shows that Yale’s rebuilding efforts have proven to be successful, Alexander said.
“They both indicated they were ready to leave the Midwest,” Alexander said. “It was both a recognition and confirmation, a furthering of the fact that we’ve been pretty successful in the building.”
Gorski said the quality of the undergraduate students and the opportunity to help the department attracted him to Yale.
“It was partly the excitement and challenge of trying to build up the Yale Sociology Department, which had its trials and tribulations in the past,” Gorski said.
After several senior professors retired in the late 1980s, Yale Sociology hit a low point in the early 1990s when the administration threatened to eliminate the department. Since then, it has begun an exhaustive hiring campaign to rebuild the department.
Gorski said he is excited to begin working at Yale, although he said he will miss the camaraderie in Wisconsin’s department.
“It is true that Sociology here [at Wisconsin] is the 800-pound gorilla,” Gorski said. “It’s the department that gets resources when nobody else gets resources. But there’s also something to be said about having the wind in your face some more. I’m certainly under no illusions of what I’m giving up here and what I’m getting into at Yale.”
Wisconsin Sociology Chairman Adam Gamoran said his department’s large size makes it possible to cover many areas of the discipline.
“We can lose a person in one area and hire someone in another area without feeling like our enterprise is threatened,” Gamoran said. “Here at Wisconsin, there’s very strong support for the social sciences. We are highly valued.”
Alexander said hiring Michigan’s Adams — who could not be reached for comment Monday — is a coup for Yale.
“She’s one of the most sought-after people in the field, and she’s young,” Alexander said.
Sociology major Dewayne Guy ’04 said he is excited about the growth of the department in recent years.
“We all hope that the Sociology Department will expand so it can offer a deeper breadth of areas of study,” Guy said. “There have been good moves, but we want to see a little bit more as well.”