Importance of Intercultural Education for International Students

Importance of Intercultural Education for International Students in Australia. (Repost)

International students represent a large economic and international relations investment for Australia. Australian universities are increasingly relying upon overseas students for their revenue, but these institutions are not adequately addressing the special learning, linguistic, cultural and religious needs of these students. Despite their Australian education, international students experience various difficulties in finding work in their field of study after they graduate. Poor English-language, communication and problem-solving skills are the biggest obstacles to securing ongoing and satisfying jobs. Employer biases regarding international students are equally a problem. Below, I provide a demographic overview of the international student population in Australia. I argue that a stronger focus on the socialisation of international students is likely to increase their educational and career satisfaction.  Continue reading Importance of Intercultural Education for International Students

Black Women Mentors in Science

The overall motivation for my desire to see more Black women as mentors in science is not self-centered. I believe that science needs the perspectives, ideas, and creativity that can only result from diversification. As more underrepresented women and men of color are offered positions, more of them will take up roles as PIs, research advisors and administrators, and I am certain that more of my needs and those of others like me will be met. In order to navigate a career that I love, but that requires years of exhaustive training and that comes with no guarantee of financial reward, I have to be thoughtful of what will ensure my success. This applies to everyone.

American biology student Stephani Page is undertaking her PhD research. She argues that there is a dire need to introduce diversity within the upper ranks of scientific leadership. As Page notes in her guest post in Nature’s Soap Box Science blog, it is rare for Black research students to encounter other Black women scientists while they undertake science degree. As she recounts, Page has had wonderful mentors who are White – but where are the diverse role models for Other students to aspire towards? The lack of diversity in science vexing and important topic for all disciplines. Sociology is not immune. While sociology is attracting more diverse students, these students are less likely to get jobs within academia.

Sociology Careers Panel

Earlier today I spoke on a careers panel at the postgraduate day for The Australian Sociological Association. I wanted to share a couple of the questions we were asked. These ranged from specifics like how to set up a business to broader questions about how to manage ethics and how to maintain a professional identity. One of the key themes from the panellists was learning to translate theory into practice and networking. I spoke about writing for your future clients via a specialist blog and using social media.

Is Online Learning Creating Two Classes of Educated People?

Is online learning creating two classes of educated people? Only as long as society continues to place higher value on elite universities, argues This post further argues that the “average” student doesn’t want specialised training; instead, they join higher education to get basic vocational instruction, which they can get online. The problem with online learning is connected to off-line socio-economic relations, as is the case with face-to-face learning. As one commenter points out, teaching people how to learn is difficult, despite the proliferation of information on the internet.

People who use online tools to further their education and employment outcomes tend to come relatively privileged backgrounds. Can online learning teach critical thinking skills and force people to overcome prejudices? As an ex-educator I believe so, but as with real life, it’s about having quality teaching staff working within a supportive network and with good resources at their disposal.

Staff also need a good allocation of time to properly engage students, rather than being overwhelmed with large classes and additional responsibilities.

What do you think?

Sociology of Managing the Self in Public Spaces

The Atlantic has featured the work of an American sociology postgrad, Esther Kim, who rode Greyhound buses for two years. Kim’s ethnographic research focuses on how passengers adhere to unspoken rules of public behaviour: remain quiet, don’t make eye contact, and don’t sit next to undesirable people who are “crazy”, “smelly”, overweight or loud. The article discusses Kim’s application of Erving Goffman’s theory of symbolic interactionism. This is a framework to understand the way in which people convey social meaning through verbal or unspoken visual cues or rituals. In this case, by positioning one’s body so as to exude a message of “don’t talk to me”, Greyhound passengers actively try to create a measure of privacy for themselves within a confined public space. People who break these unspoken social norms of behaviour are confronted by other passengers.

Kim’s work studies this form of long-distance public transportation as a place for social isolation. The management of public space is interesting to understand, because it is a facet of everyday life that often goes on unexamined.  Our behaviour in public spaces rests on unspoken assumptions and interpersonal policing of social norms that are not enshrined formally by law. Most of us learn the rules for public behaviour at a young age and we don’t necessarily question why these rules exist or their social consequences. In the case of Kim’s work, social isolation leads to disengagement with others.

Via: The Atlantic.

Deconstructing Academe: The birth of critical university studies

The Bourdieu tradition lives on…

Over the past two decades in the United States, there has been a new wave of criticism of higher education. Much of it has condemned the rise of “academic capitalism” and the corporatization of the university; a substantial wing has focused on the deteriorating conditions of academic labor; and some of it has pointed out the problems of students and their escalating debt. A good deal of this new work comes from literary and cultural critics, although it also includes those from education, history, sociology, and labor studies. This wave constitutes what Heather Steffen, a graduate student in literary and cultural studies with whom I have worked at Carnegie Mellon University, and I think is an emerging field of “critical university studies.”

Often criticism of the university seems a scattershot enterprise. A scholar from almost any discipline might have something to say about higher education, but it’s usually an occasional piece that’s a sideline from normal work. There is, of course, a sizable body of scholarship coming from the field of education, but it largely deals with elementary and secondary schooling. Or it follows established scholarly channels; for instance, it might gather and present data about the student body, or it could deal with administration, or fill in a segment of the history, sociology, or financing of education.

In contrast, this new wave in higher education looks beyond the confines of particular specializations and takes a resolutely critical perspective. Part of its task is scholarly, reporting on and analyzing changes besetting higher education, but it goes a step further and takes a stand against some of those changes, notably those contributing to the “unmaking of the public university,” in the words of the literary critic Christopher Newfield.

To give it a name recognizes that it has attained significant mass and signals a gathering place for those considering similar work. “Critical” indicates the new work’s oppositional stance, similar to approaches like critical legal studies, critical race studies, critical development studies, critical food studies, and so on, that focuses on the ways in which current practices serve power or wealth and contribute to injustice or inequality rather than social hope. “Studies” picks up its cross-disciplinary character, focused on a particular issue and drawing on research from any relevant area to approach the problem. “University” outlines its field of reference, which includes the discourse of “the idea of the university” as well as the actual practices and diverse institutions of contemporary higher education…

While those of us affiliated with critical university studies tack to a progressive ideal of free and open public education, teaching the university does not presuppose any political position. Instead, it puts the issue in front of students for them to question, investigate, and judge. After all, they are not only the subject of higher education but will soon be our citizenry, so they might more knowledgeably decide what system they want, how it might promote an enhanced public life, and how it might contribute to the flourishing of those who pass through its classrooms, quads, and online portals.

By Jeffrey J. Williams.

Homo Academicus Redux


Shit Scientists Say

I’m a little tired of the “Shit ____ Say/Don’t Say” meme already, but I’ll make an exception for this one. It’s mildly hilarious.


(by RoseEveleth)


Pretty good parody video. “In conclusion more research is required” (ha!).

Part of the joke in this video is the little regard some scientists have for treating living beings empathically and ethically, instead referring to animals and people as disposable tools: “Do you have an extra monkey?” “Hey, you got an extra undergrad?”. And feeling superior to everything and everyone: “She keeps talking about her Nature paper, but she was only the third author”. “I mean there’s science and then there’s social science”.

Funnily enough apart from this remark, the only science portrayed in this video are the natural sciences. Yes, this is a reflection of the producers of the video (who may be natural scientists doing a parody), but this is also indicative of how science is constructed in the public imagination. Plus on Tumblr I might add: the science and social science tags are separate, though I’ve yet to see social science show up in the science stream. (Also our thread has no editors, which I know some other sociologists have pointed out.)

Before we sociologists get up on our moral high horse about scientific superiority, I have heard some amazing derision amongst our peers, particularly from senior academics putting down applied sociologists.

Where does all this science holier-than-thou-shit come from? Read Bourdieu Homo Academicus, where he talks about how scientific disciplines structure knowledge, status and symbolic power. Here’s a clue, where Bourdieu quotes Hobbes: “Reputation of power is power”.

Ahh science, science, where for art thou science…

Career Q&A: Experiences as a Sociologist

Question from one of my Tumblr followers:

What have your experiences in the field of sociology been like? Where did you go to school, and what are you doing now? I appreciate any feedback you might give me; I’ve already found your blog to be super inspiring. Thank you 🙂

In answer to your questions:

What have your experiences in the field of sociology been like?

Sociology is my passion and my work experiences have been varied and wonderful! I worked as a research assistant and teacher at an Australian university while I was completing my PhD. I worked on lots of different projects and I would recommend you do the same (either as a volunteer or in a paid position) so you can work out what you are interested in. Continue reading Career Q&A: Experiences as a Sociologist