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LSU Today Flagship Faculty
What was your previous position and where?I joined the LSU Department of Sociology in 2004 after completing my Ph.D. at Penn State.
What brought you to LSU?I chose to come to LSU for a number of reasons. The Department of Sociology has a long tradition in rural sociology and ecological approaches to social questions and I wanted to be part of that. I also wanted to be a member of a Ph.D.-granting department at a public university, so the fact that our graduate program offers the only Ph.D. in sociology available from a state school in Louisiana was very attractive. Furthermore, I study issues related to poverty and labor market hardship, and there is no state in the nation where those issues are more pressing than Louisiana. Lastly, my wife, Tracey Rizzuto, who is an organizational psychologist, and I were both offered tenure-track positions at LSU, which really sealed the deal.
What are your research interests?My scholarly interests are in the areas of social stratification and social demography, with emphasis on forms of economic and spatial inequality. Recent and ongoing research projects include studies of working poverty and other forms of underemployment; household livelihood strategies, including participation in the informal economy, i.e., unrecorded work for cash, barter and self-provisioning; and various aspects of regional inequality, e.g., place-based poverty dynamics, food stamp program participation, disaster vulnerability and resilience, etc.
What do you hope to accomplish at LSU?My personal goals are to be regarded as a scholar who has made unique and impactful contributions in my areas of scholarship, to help mentor the next generation of scholars who will extend this work and to generally play a role in turning on people’s sociological imaginations. I would also like to help LSU sociology become the premier graduate program in sociology in the deep South, which is very doable. And I’d like to work to improve LSU’s institutional capacity to achieve greater competitiveness and prominence in the social sciences more generally.
What do you enjoy most about LSU?I am a third-generation land-grant faculty member, so my socialization experience has been fundamentally shaped by idea that strong public research universities have a vital role to play in improving the well-being of the citizens of the state to which they belong. As Louisiana’s land, sea and space grant university and its public flagship, LSU has a truly special and unique role to fill. In fact, given the magnitude of the social and environmental challenges our state faces, the promise of the land-grant mission is perhaps nowhere greater than at LSU.
What are your major accomplishments?I’ve published some good papers and had some luck in terms of grant writing. I have also had the opportunity to collaborate with some great colleagues and mentor some really sharp students. And last year I was awarded the LSU Rainmaker Award for Research and Creative Activity in the emerging scholar category — the leading university award for outstanding early career research productivity — which was a tremendous honor. But I would have to say that marrying a great woman and having two beautiful kids is my most significant accomplishment.