"I am an advocate of strong families and deep community ties, so I want my students to improve not just their lives with what they know but the lives of others around them."
I'm the author of "God Hates: Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and the Religious Right" (University Press of Kansas 2016) and recently served as the guest editor of the "Journal of Hate Studies." My scholarship has appeared or is forthcoming in Youth and Society, Contention, "Journal of Hate Studies", Radical Teacher, and "Journal of Religion and Popular Culture" as well as in the "Oxford Handbook of the Bible in American Life," Oxford's new "Introduction to Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies: Interdisciplinary and Intersectional Approaches."
Which online degree program(s) do you teach?
Which classes do you teach online?
Sociology of Sex, Sociology of Aging, Sociology of Disasters, Minority Groups, Collective Behavior
What do you want students to learn in your classes?
I want every student to leave my class feeling confident that they can ask informed questions, that they can identify credible research to answer those questions, and that they can engage respectfully across lines of difference on tough topics.
I also want them to approach every problem by asking, "Whose interests are served by the status quo in this situation? Who is harmed by the ways things are? How can we create a more just situation right here?"
Why did you start teaching?
I believe that teaching changes not just the lives of students but their whole family trees. Everything that comes after them, for generations, can be different because of what they learn in the classroom. I am an advocate of strong families and deep community ties, so I want my students to improve not just their lives with what they know but the lives of others around them.
What advice would you give to those considering this program?
Accurately monitor how you use your time before you begin. Plan on spending 18 hours per week on each class. Decide where that time will come from NOW, before you start your classes. Schedule your time for studying. If you don't put in the time, you can't learn what you need to learn.
What qualities make someone particularly successful in sociology?
Critical thinking skills, which means an ability to look at a problem from multiple perspectives; creativity, especially in designing how you will study an issue or problem; compassion, because we need to be able to feel, at least to some extent, what the people we are studying feel so that we can understand their perspective.
I also think that sociologists need to know history. Every social phenomenon happens in a historical context.
What do you think is the biggest challenge sociologists face today?
Unfortunately, many people do not understand what sociologists do. Even our Supreme Court Chief Justice has shown a disregard for our work that, I think, is rooted in simply not knowing the scope of our work. That is in part our fault, because we have not insisted on our place in the public sphere. We have to use our voices better to be part of these public conversations, because there is no big issue of our day—climate change, political turmoil, racism, economic worries—where we don't have something useful to contribute.
What is the one book you think everyone should read?
"Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919" by Bill Tuttle, which will teach you about this moment in history as well as about how to be a scholar; "The Cross and the Lynching Tree" by James H. Cone, for those interested in the link between theology and violence; and "The Joke" by Milan Kundera, to have your heart broken.
Tell us something your students may not know about you.
I'm not a "type-T" in my personal life, but I am invigorated by field work with hate groups.