Public sociology is about taking academic research and making it applicable to the everyday lives of men and women at a local, national and global level.
I’ve really been trained as a public sociologist from the start: I worked at The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post during my summers in graduate school, learning the art of storytelling alongside the rigors of research. I’ve discussed my research on Good Morning America, I’ve given public lectures on Generation WTF and Love in the Time of Hookups, and I’m outspoken about why Success is Sexy.
Currently I am the Director of MORE: Money, Relationships and Equality, a relationships, finance and life fulfillment initiative at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As an interdisciplinary scholar and public sociologist, my job is to shape national dialogue to establish equality for women and men in relationships, family life and financial decision making, while embracing central questions of self-worth, purpose and meaning for both individuals and couples throughout the life course. Y’know, just small stuff.
Recent Publications & Major Media Citations:
Consume Happiness: Six Research-backed Tips for Buying Well-being this Holiday Season
Money, Relationships, and Equality (MORE), November, 2016
America Needs a Time Out
Acculturated, November 9th, 2016
Calendaring on Purpose
Acculturated, July 14th, 2016
Seek Your Purpose Before Your Paycheck
Acculturated, May 23, 2016
Top 5 Things to Say (and NOT Say) to a New College Graduate
Acculturated, May 20, 2016
How to Build Good Habits – And Actually Make Them Stick
The Washington Post, March 2, 2015
Self-Help & Self-Improvement
BBC 4 Thinking Allowed interview on the history and popularity of the industry, December 2014
Resolutions in Focus
Life Reimagined 3-day online program , November 2014
Complete Your Goal With Self-Control
Life Reimagined 7-day online program, November 2014
“The New Life Phase: An Overview”
The Life Reimagined Institute, October 2014
“All the Conventional Cohabitation, but No Nuptials”
The New York Times, July 6, 2014
“A Roundabout Path to Self-Help”
The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 2, 2013
“Marriage is Not a Dirty Word for College Women”
The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 2, 2013
“Measuring Mate Preferences: A Replication and Extension”
Journal of Family Issues, with Christie F. Boxer and Mary C. Noonan, Spring 2013
“Making Marriage Work: A History of Marriage and Divorce in the Twentieth-Century United States”
Journal of Social History, Spring 2011
A Feminist Friendly Recession?
The State of Our Unions, 2009
It’s the perennial question: What do men and women want in a mate? Since the 1930s, researchers have been asking college men and women to rank 18 characteristics on a scale of unimportant to extremely important–and my, how times have changed! The headline over seven decades is the rise in importance of love and mutual attraction — and the decline of chastity: Ranked #5 for women and #4 for men in 1939, in 2008, love and mutual attraction is topping the charts for both sexes, while chastity, ranked #10 for both men and women in the 1930s, has plummeted to dead last in 2008. For men, a woman’s education and her ability to earn a good income has become a top-tier priority, while her housekeeping skills have fallen low down on the list of a man’s desired traits, a trend that began in the 1970s survey, and continues today. For women, a man’s desire for a family is on the rise and whether he’s got a “pleasing disposition” seems less important than it was even a decade ago.
With my terrific co-authors, Christie Boxer and Mary Noonan, we published this research in the Journal of Family Issues in 2013: “Measuring Mate Preferences: A Replication and Extension”
If you want to nerd out, this is a really cool chart. History in action—watch the changing mate preferences over time.
I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the self-help industry – who buys self-help books and why. If you are a glutton for punishment, I’d be happy to send you the entire 100,000-word tome. But to get the general idea, here are some tidbits.
I argue that the increasing popularity of self-help books is an indicator of the modern American quest to maximize personal happiness through a process of self-discovery. Self-help books – non-fiction books that offer advice for behavior modification and make explicit promises for positive change – have doubled as a percentage of all book titles since the 1970s. My dissertation explores the demographic profile of self-help readers, the marketing and advertising strategies of the self- help industry and the formula of a self-help bestseller.
Changing Dating and Marriage Patterns:
I wrote my master’s thesis on changing dating and marriage patterns in the U.S. since the 1960s. Or, put in academic terms, it was a study of changing commitment patterns among American young men and women during the second half of the 20th century using gendered magazines like Playboy and Cosmopolitan as guidebooks for evolving courtship rituals. Yes, I read Playboy and Cosmo for my master’s degree. And yes, I have plenty of stories to share about the hilarity of such primary-source research. In my thesis I argued that these magazines offer insights into the choices, fantasies and ambitions of young men and women since 1965. How has advice to men and women changed – and did magazines reflect, set or simply provide an escape from the actual trends for dating and marriage in 20th-century America?