Beyond his work as a professor, Stephen Sweet, associate professor of sociology, has been recognized on multiple occasions for his professional work since the beginning of the academic year.
Sweet has been not only teaching courses but was named an editor for the national journal Teaching Sociology, published an article in the journal with two other professors and received the esteemed Hans O. Mauksch Award on Aug. 18 in San Francisco from the American Sociological Association. The award is presented annually to one scholar who has demonstrated prestige in undergraduate sociology education.
Staff Writer Kellie Hodson sat down with Sweet to discuss the Hans O. Mauksch Award, his responsibilities as an editor of a national journal and his collaborative research with Ithaca College professors.
Kellie Hodson: What led you to pursue a career in sociology?
Stephen Sweet: When I really knew I wanted to be a sociologist was when I took a sociology of mental health course, and the sociologist who taught that course showed the class that if you look at depression, it varies remarkably between societies. And I’d always thought I wanted to help people, and I just thought, well, the way you help people is you do therapy to people that are depressed. And he said, “no, it’s the problem with the way society is organized; it’s not about the people, it’s the society.” And that to me was just profound.
KH: What was the process for receiving the Hans. O Mauksch Award?
SS: The procedure is that you have to be nominated for the award, and it would come from a colleague that is well recognized in the teaching field, and then three or four other recognized scholars would write on your behalf.
KH: How does it feel to have won the award?
SS: It’s a huge honor … When I look at the past recipients, these are people that I look up to. And I would have never imagined, if I traced back 10, 15 years ago that I would be selected for the distinction. It’s a huge, huge honor.
KH: What are your primary responsibilities as an editor of Teaching Sociology?
SS: I’m … editing the journal, Teaching Sociology, and that requires viewing probably about a hundred articles submitted per year and making decisions on which of those articles are ultimately going to be published. Of those hundred articles, usually each article requires me reading through it anywhere between four and eight times before it goes out.
KH: The article you published in the journal with professors Bhavani Arabandi and Alicia Swords deals with the global inequality debate. What inspired your research on this topic?
SS: One is being involved with my colleagues, Dr. Swords and Dr. Arabandi, who are both very interested in issues of globalization and social justice and increasing equalities. The big thing we worked on in the article is trying to figure out a way of engaging students … so that students can understand how societies differ from each other and the magnitudes of the differences … also how the trends are working over time and whether other countries are becoming more similar to the U.S. or becoming more different.
KH: What is the most critical topic or issue you are most passionate about and why?
SS: When it comes down to it, I think the biggest thing for me is how do I help other people understand the insights relating to how personal experiences relate to the structure of society and cultural expectations … When I write articles, I’m trying to get people in the business community to understand the reasons why we have to rethink the way we work. When I interact with students, I try and explain that we have ways of understanding the world and … help them see the connections between people and how personal actions create this larger framework. That’s my big thing: I want to help people how to view sociology as a tool to create a better society.