Written by Belle Vang, COSS Communications Student Assistant
Dr. Jennifer Randles, Sociology associate professor, is excited to lead the department beginning this fall semester.
Randles came to Fresno State in August 2013. Starting her seventh year teaching here, her courses include the sociology of family, childhood, and race and ethnicity; qualitative research methods for social sciences; social classes and inequality; and critical thinking about society.
She says her passion for sociology comes from analyzing the underlying causes of social problems and developing effective solutions. She enjoys understanding how social factors, such as gender, race, age, and economic standards, shape individuals’ lives and connect us to one another.
Randles earned a Ph.D and Master’s degree in Sociology at UC Berkeley and a baccalaureate in sociology and political science from Austin College in Sherman, Texas.
We asked her a few questions to introduce her as the new chair.
Question: What is your favorite aspect of being a faculty member at Fresno State?
Answer: This is a particularly hard question to answer, as there are so many aspects to love. If I have to pick one, I especially appreciate the shared commitment to student success and having a Fresno State degree be a path to upward mobility. I have yet to meet an administrator, faculty member, or staff person who does not share this as a primary goal. As a scholar of inequality, I study the reasons that some people end up with a college degree while many others don’t, and those reasons often have very little to do with individual aptitude, dedication, or work ethic. They usually have much more to do with the unequal circumstances into which we are born. Most sociologists study and write about ways to change this, but everyone at Fresno State is on the front lines of the real work needed to change it.
Question: What makes Sociology a popular major?
Answer: We have amazing faculty who are accomplished, engaged, and caring teachers. They are truly the best recruiters for the major, and I sincerely wish I had a clone who could spend all her time taking their classes. Two, it’s increasingly obvious to more people that our society has a lot of problems that need solving through evidence-based, well-informed solutions. The education one receives through earning a Fresno State sociology degree provides the theoretical and empirical tools students need to forge careers that will allow them to do just that.
Question: What are you looking forward to the most as the Sociology Department chair?
Answer: I am most looking forward to working with students, faculty, and staff in a new capacity. Being department chair gives one an opportunity to take a broader view of the department’s needs, goals, and growth areas. We have many talented, committed faculty doing amazing things both in and outside the classroom. I look forward to learning more about and highlighting this crucial work, especially in the interest of our students.
Question: In which ways do you aspire to make a change on campus as the new chair?
Answer: In many ways, I aspire to continue the great work of our previous chair, Dr. Matthew Jendian, who is an exemplary leader and faculty and student advocate. I would like to continue this work by promoting sociology as a welcoming and rigorous major that prepares students for almost any career path they envision—and in a timeline toward graduation that aligns with their life plans and circumstances. As my former students have often heard me say, one should not ask what they can do with a sociology degree, but rather if there’s anything they can’t do with one.
Question: What’s a fun fact that people may not know about you?
Answer: I find myself rather boring, so this one is tough. However, others might be interested to know that I’m writing a book on the social history and inequalities of diapering in the United States. I helped create our campus diaper pantry, Diapers for Degrees, through the Fresno State Student Cupboard, and my current research explores how some parents do not have access to enough diapers for their children. I’m also studying diaper-related policies in the U.S. and the growing national diaper bank movement. This will all be part of the first book ever just about diapers. If that’s not quite “fun” enough (and that I consider diaper research fun should tell you a lot about me), another fact is that my great-grandparents helped found the smallest city with a charter in the state of Texas.
In April 2018, Dr. Randles received an award from President Joseph Castro for her “bold idea” to create a university-based diaper bank for student parents and caregivers. To read more click here.