A Bridge Between Scholars Present and Future

Author: Gene Stowe

McAdam talk poster

The Department of Sociology’s Center for the Study of Social Movements has adopted a strategy that brings together young scholars and seasoned professionals to help the flow of ideas flourish across academic generations. It’s an approach that’s also enriching the experience of Notre Dame graduate students while bearing witness to that old adage about imitation and flattery.

In the past, the center’s presentation of its annual John D. McCarthy Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Scholarship of Social Movements and Collective Behavior has followed a familiar format, with the winner recognized at a banquet attended by his or her colleagues.

This spring, however, a scholarly conference held the day before the event also brought 12 outstanding young scholars to campus to interact with Stanford University’s Doug McAdam—this year’s McCarthy Award recipient—and other leaders in the social movement field.

“There was an open call for nominations of young scholars who are either in advanced stages of their graduate work or in the first year or two in a faculty position,” says Rory McVeigh, the center’s director and chair of the department. “The participants presented research papers—as did four Notre Dame graduate students. It was a nice way to connect our own graduate students with other ‘rising stars’ across the nation.”

Those at the outset of their careers weren’t the only ones to take something away from the April meeting, McVeigh adds. “The event was one of those ‘passing the torch’ experiences where scholars who have been blazing trails in the field for the past several decades were connected to those who are just beginning to blaze their own trails.”

McVeigh says the conference was patterned after an initiative in the Center for the Study of Religion and Society, also part of the department, that has been organized by Christian Smith, that center’s director and William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology. This center has hosted two such events, welcoming some 20 top sociology of religion graduate students and junior faculty from around the country for two to three days of research presentations and networking.

Smith’s colleagues in the Center for the Study of Social Movements couldn’t help but be impressed by what they saw—and they applied the idea to their own area of study.

“It is a wonderful way to connect with future leaders in the field,” McVeigh says, “while also providing these future leaders with an opportunity to become familiar with sociology at Notre Dame.”

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