DAWN MICHELLE BAUNACH, PH.D.
When I started college I had every intention of being a math and physics major, and I spent the first half of my college years steeped in these disciplines. But then I took a sociology course. It was a complete fluke -- "Introduction to Sociology" was the only course that fit into a time slot I was trying to fill. I found sociology to be so relevant to my life. I think I became an amateur sociologist when, as a teenager, my family moved from New Jersey to North Carolina. As an outsider I started seeing things in whole new ways. To this day I believe this move from the north to the south is what made me a sociologist. With this spark ignited I took more and more sociology classes. And then I found that I could use math (and statistics) to uncover and test sociological ideas. Math AND sociology? I was hooked.
After graduating from Duke I went to the University of Virginia to pursue my graduate studies in sociology. (Another fluke -- I hadn't even applied to graduate school at UVa. I was visiting a friend who lived in Charlottesville and called the department to get some information. I was accepted into the program and offered funding in less than a week.) When I started at Virginia I thought I would study culture. Some of my favorite undergraduate courses were on the sociology of culture. But then again, my original intentions took a turn. Taking Dr. Murray Milner's course on inequality and stratification influenced my thinking and interests profoundly. Murray ended up being both my thesis and dissertation chair. My thesis, "The Liability of Marriage: The Effects of Family Status on the Wages of Working Men and Women" (1993), examined gender-based workplace inequalities. My dissertation, "The Social Distribution of Life and Death: A Study of Gender Inequality in Preindustrial and Developing Societies" (1996), examined life and death as arenas for inequality and discrimination. In it I argued for a new and more profound type of inequality, corporeal inequality, which has greater presence and impact in world-historical terms.
After receiving my Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, I joined the sociology faculty at Georgia State University in 1996. For the first few years I continued my studies of workplace and corporeal (including life, health, and death) inequalities, but I was becoming increasingly interested in a new field, sexual inequalities. I had taken a "Sexuality and Society" course while an undergrad at Duke, and I had taught an undergraduate course on the subject during several summer terms at Virginia. Sexuality had been more of a teaching interest of mine. Along with several colleagues (Drs. Mindy Stombler, Elisabeth O. Burgess, Denise Donnelly, and Wendy Simonds) we had edited a reader in the field, "Sex Matters: The Sexuality and Society Reader." The first edition was published in 2004. (Subsequent editions, incorporating major revisions each time, have been published in 2007, 2010, and 2014.) Thereafter I wanted to focus my research on the subject as well.
So in 2003 Dr. Elisabeth O. Burgess and I conducted a survey of undergraduate students on their sexual attitudes and behavior. Previous studies of college students lacked the diversity (sexual, racial/ethnic, age, class, etc.) that we saw in our classrooms at Georgia State everyday. We have used these data to write papers on heterosexual students' connections to LGB students; the associations among sexual activity, relationships, and identities; HIV/AIDS prejudice in the south; the sexual prejudices of students and the influence of LGB contact on those prejudices; the influence of social networks on sexual and gender attitudes; and the sexual disclosure patterns of LGB students in the south. My research continues to focus on sexuality, especially with respect to prejudices, inequalities, and discrimination. Current projects examine same-sex marriage, homophobic bullying, and the history of gay Atlanta.
As much as I enjoy research (posing questions, seeking answers, solving puzzles), I absolutely love teaching. Perhaps this is because I'm a third-generation educator. Both of my maternal-grandparents and both of my parents were teachers. I often say that I was raised by teachers to be a teacher. The give-and-take of the classroom, the challenge of new and different ideas, the accomplishment of mastery -- these reasons and more drive my passion for teaching. I particularly enjoy teaching classes on social statistics and research methods, because these topics are what drew me most strongly to sociology when I was a student. I hope that students get a sense of that joy of social discovery that I found back then. I also enjoy teaching "sexuality and society" courses because they tie so closely to my own research. Another class that I developed and thoroughly enjoy is on the "sociology of food." The biological requirement for food tricks many of us into overlooking its sociological relevance, but food is intimately connected to vital sociological issues of power and identity.
At the same time, I have become increasingly involved in educational administration. I spent eight years as the Director of Graduate Studies for the Georgia State Sociology department, and I am very proud of the growth in the program during my tenure. For the 2014-2015 academic year I was the Interim Chair of the Sociology department, and starting July 2016 I joined the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Kennesaw State University as Professor and Chair. While some may scoff, I find that I enjoy administration. Departmental administration is a way that I can contribute to the discipline and to the advancement of public education, something that I hold very dear. As I look into my future I hope that I can contribute to university administration in bigger ways.