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   from the issue of March 11, 2004

Sociology focuses on building on department’s strengths

This is one in a recurring feature spotlighting the ways that results from the 2002 Gallup survey have been used to make positive changes in departments across campus.

The Department or College: Department of Sociology. Al Williams, chair of the department, answered our questions about the department’s results.

The question addressed from the Gallup survey: “We focused on I 06, ‘At work, I am encouraged to use my unique talents.’ However, we noted in our Impact Plans that we believe the actions we take with respect to Q 01 (‘I know what is expected of me at work’) and Q 03 (‘At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day’) will contribute to helping us meet our goal for I 06 as well.

“Our goals were: to develop a common understanding and clarify performance expectations; to re-assess the use of department resources to better facilitate opportunities for faculty members to do what they do best, in light of current faculty size and goals; and to develop a ‘team atmosphere’ of cooperation and helping each other to take advantage of our strengths.”

Why was this question addressed? “Our department has a history of cooperation to reach department goals and collaboration on research through research teams and Study Groups. Thus, the choice of encouraging each other to capitalize on our strengths as individuals and as a department was an easy choice. The question encouraged us to ask how can we do this even better.”

What was the action taken? “We developed two ‘actions’ for the department and one for the Bureau of Sociological Research. The bureau is the research laboratory for the department.

“1. Faculty will meet for lunch to assess what we can do best and how we can help each other accomplish our research and teaching goals.

“2. Study Groups will discuss and, where appropriate, help implement grant-writing and research teams for projects of mutual interest.

“3. Reorganize weekly Bureau of Sociological Research staff meetings to facilitate a better understanding of the matching of personnel with unit needs.”

How has the survey and its results benefited your department?

“1. Faculty lunch: To accomplish this the department chair has designated one or two “brown bag” lunches each month during the academic year. These have been very well attended and thus far an agenda has not been necessary. Lunch together in an informal setting has allowed for spontaneous discussion and some innovative, useful ideas have emerged. Discussions have included such subjects as ways to improve the graduate program, developing a department colloquium series, and how to deal with sensitive issues in the classroom.

“Perhaps the most important aspect with respect to climate has been the spirit of cooperation and camaraderie that is encouraged by our meeting together with the express goal of helping one another.

“2. Study Groups: The department has several Study Groups that have been meeting for years. These include the Family and the Life-course Study Group, the Deviance and Social Control Study Group, and the Social Inequality Study Group. Although they did not arise entirely through the Study Groups, the department now has several grant-writing and research teams and several have secured research grants.

“3. Bureau reorganization. The bureau is undergoing a fairly extensive re-structuring and promises to be even more effective than it was. One of the major difficulties now faced by the bureau has arisen in part because of our success in securing grants. This problem is one included in the Issues Outside Team Control area: not having enough office space for research.”



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