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Sociology Professor Receives Award for His Contributions to Teaching

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    Ed Kain

Ed Kain, professor of sociology and University Scholar at Southwestern, has been named the 2010 recipient of the Southern Sociological Society’s Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award.

The award will be presented at the organization’s spring meeting in Atlanta.

Kain has been involved with the Southern Sociological Society since he was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since then, he has regularly presented papers, served on panels, organized and presided at sessions, led or co-led teaching workshops at the organization’s annual meetings, and served on the Program Committee.

Kain’s contributions to the teaching of sociology fall in three major areas. First, he has done extensive research and writing on the sociology curriculum. As a member of the American Sociological Association’s Task Force on the Undergraduate Major, he co-authored Liberal Learning and the Sociology Major Updated: Meeting the Challenge of Teaching Sociology in the Twenty-First Century (2004) with Kathleen McKinney, Carla B. Howery, Kerry J. Strand and Catherine White Berheide. This document is widely used by departments and programs to strengthen their sociology major. In 2006 he co-authored the association’s document on “Models and Best Practices for Joint Sociology-Anthropology Departments.” Many of his more than 50 chapters and articles focus upon the sociology curriculum, including analyses of the structure of the sociology major at institutions across the country and research on three decades of change in job advertisements in sociology and how that reflects differential melding of teaching and research in academic careers.

His second major area of contribution in teaching is in his mentoring of students, with a focus upon blending teaching and research in the academic enterprise. While on the faculty at Cornell University in the 1980s, he developed the institution’s first graduate course on teaching. At Southwestern University, he wrote successful grants for participation in the Ford Foundation/ASA Minority Opportunities through School Transformation (MOST) program, which focused upon research training for undergraduate sociology students of color. He followed this effort with grants for several summer research programs for undergraduates.

Along with his colleagues, he encourages all of his undergraduates to be actively involved in research. Most majors in the department present their research at regional and national professional meetings before graduation. The fruits of this research can be seen in the fact that an undergraduate from Southwestern has received the Odum Award for undergraduate research at the Southern Sociological Society meetings for three of the last four years. Those who decide to pursue advanced degrees are accepted into the top Ph.D. programs in the country.

Kain also offers his students opportunities to publish as undergraduates. Two recent examples, both published in Teaching Sociology, are articles on “Institutional Research as a Context for Teaching Methodological Skills” (2001), which was coauthored with two students, and “Sociology in Two-Year Institutions” (2007), which was co-authored with three students.

The third area in which Kain has been involved in strengthening teaching of sociology is through his work with the American Sociological Association’s Department Resources Group. He has been a member of this national set of trained consultants since 1985. In his work with the group, Kain has led nearly 40 teaching workshops at regional and national professional meetings as well as on campuses across the country. Topics for the workshops have included integrating computing across the sociology curriculum, training students in research skills, teaching the mass class, and enlivening the classroom with active learning. In the past three years he has worked with two national committees of the American Library Association − one on information literacy and one on evaluating the library collection in sociology. A central part of his work with the group has been in his role as an external reviewer of sociology programs nationwide. In the past five years alone, he has served as a reviewer for departments in nine states.

Kain has been an active member of the American Sociological Association’s Section on Teaching and Learning. He has served as chair of the Section, edited the newsletter, been on the Section Council, and served on every committee of the section. He served two terms on the editorial board of Teaching Sociology.

Kain also has edited/co-edited and authored/co-authored eight publications for the American Sociological Association’s Teaching Resources Center, including two editions of Innovative Techniques for Teaching Sociological Concepts (in 1993 with Robin Neas and in 2006 with Sandi Nenga), two editions of Applying for a Faculty Position in a Teaching-Oriented Institution (2001 and 2006 with Kathleen Piker-King, Keith A. Roberts, and Gregory L. Weiss), and materials on Preparing Graduate Students to Teach (1990) and Training TA’s (1989).

His two books on family sociology, The Myth of Family Decline (1990), and Diversity and Change in Families: Patterns, Prospects, and Policy (1995, with Mark Rank) have been widely adopted in sociology courses across the country.

Kain’s contributions to teaching have already been recognized with a number of awards.

In 1997 he received the Hans O. Mauksch Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Sociology given by the American Sociological Association’s Section on Undergraduate Education. A decade later he was honored with the American Sociological Association’s 2007 Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award. Most recently, he was given a 2008-2009 Exemplary Teaching Award from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church.

Kain has been a member of the Southwestern faculty since 1986 and was named University Scholar in 2000.

Portions of this article were taken from The Southern Sociologist, Fall 2009