Meet a Social Scientist: Dr. Karin Brewster from the Department of Sociology

What is your name?

Dr. Karin Brewster.

What kind of work do you do in the college?

I am a Professor in the Department of Sociology at Florida State University. I am also a Research Associate in the Center for Demography and Population Health at Florida State University. I teach, do research and engage in service in the department, profession and community.

Why did you decide to become an academic?

I was different from most of my graduate school peers: I was certain that an academic career was not for me; instead, I was determined to work for the federal government in an applied research position. Even so, I promised one of my mentors that I would give academe a try for one year. I accepted an offer from Florida State, feeling a little guilty because I was sure I’d be leaving after a year. That was more than 25 years ago. What changed my mind? Working with students! I had no classroom experience before coming to FSU. During my first year, I taught two graduate seminars and an undergraduate course, all in Demography, my subfield within Sociology. This experience allowed me to see the complementary relationship between teaching and research: research demands a narrow focus; teaching requires attention to the field writ large.

What do you find most fulfilling about your job?

I think most faculty members are familiar with the trope of the “ivory tower,” but more than two decades of teaching have taught me that teaching requires active engagement with the world. As the American population changes, so too does our student population. A more diverse student population challenges us to understand the world as it is experienced now by the people who will shape it moving forward. Meeting this challenge—or, at least, striving to meet it—is absolutely the best aspect of my job.

What are you working on or teaching right now that has your excited professionally?

I have several research projects competing for my attention right now and I find them all exciting; each feeds different aspects of my research persona. One is a quantitative approach to cohort change in the lives of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals, which I’m working on with colleagues Kathi Tillman and Pina Holway (an FSU alum). We learned yesterday that our second paper in this project has been provisionally accepted for publication and we’re starting to tease out the next one. I’m also finalizing the details of an applied project that will start with Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare this summer: the quantitative sections of their 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment, a project intended to identify changes in community needs and resources. Last, but not least, I’m working with colleague Paromita Sanyal and 2020 doctoral grad Tayelor Valerio, on a paper looking at Indian women’s perceived reproductive autonomy.

Is there anything else that you would like to share, such as a recent publication, your website, or your favorite book?

I’m eagerly awaiting the second book in N.K. Jemisin’s planned The Great Cities Trilogy. Jemisin’s books explore how social status creates and is challenged by difference. The first book in the series, The City We Became, is stunning. Reading it last spring, during our COVID lockdown and George Floyd’s murder, gave me hope that we will find the way forward.

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