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Professor Julie Kmec to chair sociology

Julie Kmec

An expert in work organizations and workplace diversity, Professor Julie Kmec will serve as chair of the Department of Sociology at Washington State University, effective Aug. 15, 2021.

“Bringing a wealth of skills and experience in teaching, research and leadership to her new post, Dr. Kmec is well equipped to build upon the sociology department’s long history of examining and engaging the challenges of our increasingly diverse and international society,” said Todd Butler, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Since the pandemic allowed us to reflect on our academic values, work habits and workloads, my vision for the department centers on utilizing these collective reflections to support and advance student engagement, graduate mentoring and faculty life,” Kmec said. She further envisions strengthening and expanding intra-departmental research collaborations and enabling more graduate and undergraduate students to be exposed to a wider range of career options.

Kmec succeeds Monica Johnson, who will return to the sociology faculty after four years as department chair.

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WSU Insider

Plastic waste has some economic benefit for developing countries

For decades, wealthy nations have transported plastic trash, and the environmental problems that go with it, to poorer countries, but researchers have found a potential bright side to this seemingly unequal trade: plastic waste may provide an economic boon for the lower-income countries.

Jennifer Givens.
Yikang Bai.

In a study published in the Journal of World Systems Research, Washington State University sociology PhD alumni Yikang Bai and Jennifer Givens analyzed 11 years of data on the global plastics trade against economic measures for 85 countries. They found that the import of plastic waste was associated with growth in gross domestic product per capita in the lower-income countries.

“Our study offers a nuanced understanding of the global trade in plastic waste,” said Bai, lead author on the study. “Media coverage often has a narrative that developed countries shift environmental harms to less developed countries. There’s another layer of the story: plastic waste could be used as a resource first, even though ultimately it could still add to the environmental burdens of less-developed countries.”

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WSU Insider
Scrap Monster


Looking at the data: Portland crime during the pandemic

Portland, Oregon, saw a 60 percent increase in the number of homicides in 2020 compared to 2019.

The 56 homicides the police bureau reported in 2020 is a massive jump from the 35 reported in 2019 and more than double the numbers reported in 2018 and 2017. However, the sudden spike in homicides isn’t a problem exclusive to Portland.

Clayton Mosher.

Clay Mosher, a sociology professor at Washington State University Vancouver who studies crime trends, said to be cautious when comparing cities directly.

“You’ve heard the term comparing apples to oranges and comparing across cities… might be equivalent to comparing apples to broccoli, or perhaps even comparing apples to steak,” he said.

Mosher said there are a lot of factors to consider including demographic differences across cities, levels of poverty, median income, the number of police officers per capita, and segregation.

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A pandemic’s new norms

Sociologists at Washington State University found both liberal and conservatives in the United States disapprove of individuals putting the health of their community at risk, but conservatives cared more about why those individuals were taking the risks in the first place.

Christine Horne.
Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson.
Kirkpatrick Johnson

Sociology professors Christine Horne and Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson asked Americans across the country whether they approved of actions like wearing a mask or stockpiling necessities.

“The more harm there was, the more disapproval there was,” Johnson says. “People were more disapproving of social gatherings than they were about doing a job.”

Johnson and Horne randomly assigned half of their respondents to read a scenario where an individual was putting their own health at risk, and the other half read about someone who was putting the health of the community at risk. They then asked the respondents whether people would disapprove of the behavior in the story and how much they thought liberals and conservatives would disagree.

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Washington State Magazine

March 12-13: Annual Interdisciplinary Conference on Social JusticeAnnual Interdisciplinary Conference on Social Justice

The Washington State University Annual Interdisciplinary Conference on Social Justice (WSU SJCON) is an annual event sponsored by the College of Education, the Program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and the departments of English and Sociology.

Social justice is perhaps most often associated with fostering fairness and equity in society. The term, however, is wide-reaching and applicable to a significant number of fields. Doing social justice work within the academic context can help instructors, students, and community members develop a proclivity for social change and an awareness of the ways injustices manifest in our daily lives. However, we acknowledge the importance of moving beyond noticing or theorizing social problems; social justice requires action.

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WSU Insider