Greetings from the Department Head

Manisha Desai

As yet another unprecedented academic year comes to an end, over fourteen months into a global pandemic, our world continues to be in flux. The pandemic itself continues shape shifting and as sociologists we know only too well how privilege and precarity shape our experience of it. Here in the U.S., we see light and hope for many as more and more people get vaccinated and more and more activities resume in person. Elsewhere in the world, Argentina, Colombia, and Mongolia being the current countries experiencing a surge, vaccination and wellbeing lag reflecting our neoliberal, undemocratic and unjust global order. Yet, workers, farmers, students, migrants, and many others galvanized by the large-scale anti-racism protests of last summer continue to work tirelessly for justice and social transformation.  I am in awe of the creativity and compassion of people around the world as they rallied to support each other even as many states failed to do so.
In the department, everyone rose to the challenge of teaching, learning, researching, and working virtually. Colleagues with online teaching experience held workshops to get the rest of us up to speed. We held virtual workshops, colloquia, office hours, and award ceremonies, including yet another virtual commencement for our majors and minors.  Through this difficult year, our ever-helpful staff, Kathy Covey, Mary Malley, and Katie Upson, aided by our work study students, continued to support us even as they learned how to do their work virtually. As evident throughout this newsletter, faculty and students alike continued to conduct research and publish, give presentations to academic and non-academic audiences, win awards, and mentor, not to mention many who took on supervising their children’s home schooling. Here again, gender disparities were evident at work and at home.
Even amidst these trying times, colleagues achieved milestones. Dr. Christin Munsch was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure and Dr. Laura Bunyan was promoted to Associate Professor in Residence. We will also be welcoming a new, albeit small, cohort of graduate students and Dr. Carla Dhillon and Dr. Bhoomi Thakore as new colleagues in the Fall and Spring respectively.
Finally, it is with deep gratitude that we bid a fond farewell to Professors Marysol Ascencio, Davita Glasberg, and David Weakliem as each contemplates their future journeys away from UConn but always of UConn. It has been a true honor and joy to work with each of you. Marysol, you were with us even before you were a member of the department. Tirelessly mentoring students and serving the department, El Instituto, and UConn. Davita, you’ve worn so many hats from Department Head to Associate Dean to Interim Dean and in your last act you even agreed to serve as DGS. David, when you agreed to serve as Associate Head, I’m sure you had no idea of the unending nature of all those pesky scheduling details. Without your patience, memory, and wry sense of humor my job would have been that much harder. We cannot thank you enough for all that you’ve done for the department and the university. We hope that you will stay in touch and come visit, once that becomes possible.
As we look ahead to the next year, not knowing what is in store as we resume in person teaching and working, I know that we are in good hands with Professor Bandana Purkayastha serving as Acting Head while I am away on sabbatical in the Fall and Professor Andrew Deener as the incoming Director of Graduate Studies. We have all learned much patience and resilience over the past year that will enable us to continue not only our academic work but also our commitment to social justice and anti-racism work within and outside the department to ensure a place where we can all flourish. I wish you all a summer of rest, reflection, and rejuvenation after a challenging year.