All Alumni

Pennell, James R.

Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Community Research Center, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Indianapolis
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I have wonderful memories of my years at Rutgers, including Ira Cohen keeping us for 45 minutes past the end of class talking about Giddens or Foucault or whomever. Bill Firestone, in the Graduate School of Education, gave me a wonderful opportunity to expand my horizons through collaborative research, publications, and travel opportunities. I got my first e-mail account at Rutgers and wondered what I would ever do with it. After graduating from Rutgers with a Ph.D. in Sociology in 1997, I accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Education at Auburn University, teaching Cultural Foundations of Education and Qualitative Research Methods. Although I loved working at Auburn, my wife Greta, a 1997 Rutgers Ph.D. in Social and Developmental Psychology, had taken a position at the University of Indianapolis, my hometown. So I bought my way into a position there by writing UIndy's first $1 million program grant, funded by Lilly Endowment. I spent four years as an Assistant Professor of Education and Sociology, teaching the Social and Political Contexts of Education, Educational Change, Grant Writing, and a number of courses in Sociology. I was appointed Chair of Social Sciences in 2002 and started teaching full time in Sociology. I stepped down as chair after thirteen years, successfully mentoring three department members through promotion and tenure during that time among many other things. I took over as Co-Director (with Tim Maher) of our department Community Research Center in 2015, which gives me the opportunity to work on a range of research projects with students and colleagues. I was promoted to Professor of Sociology beginning Fall 2016. Courses I teach include Classical Sociological Theory, Contemporary Social Theory, Qualitative Research Methods, Social Organization of Work, Social Psychology, Social Movements and Social Change, Social Problems, and a first year seminar: Food, Society, and You. My research interests center on social change, and I have been doing work ranging from the use of songs in social movements to local food movements to, most recently, the Midwestern wine industry boom. I have a book on the latter, Local Vino, being published by University of Illinois Press in 2017. I consider myself an activist sociologist, and was pleased to serve in 2009 as President of the Association for Humanist Sociology. I continue to compose and perform with my band Acoustic Catfish. I'm pleased that my close friend from my graduate years at Rutgers, Mary Chayko (who plays a mean flute, harmonizes effortlessly, and is Bruce Springsteen's biggest fan) has found her way back to Rutgers, albeit in the School of Communication and Information.