Teaching & Service

2017's Sociology Graduation Celebration (Photo Credit: Shannon Crane).


Sociology has been one of my deepest passions since I discovered it as a freshman in college. I teach with an eye to igniting that same passion in my students.  I do so knowing that for some, learning about sociology can be a life-altering experience, but that even when it is not, sociology can help everyone to better understand our society and their place in it.

I am a dedicated and energetic teacher, and enjoy teaching a diverse selection of courses.  At the undergraduate level, my classes have ranged from a 25-student writing intensive course in Religion and Society to a 400 student Introduction to Sociology.  My all-time favorite undergraduate course is my 80 student S100: Introduction to Research Methods in Sociology.  I am often rewarded by students telling me that I have forever changed the way that they understand how “to do” sociology after taking S100.

I am excited to have the opportunity to bring my dedication to teaching and my knowledge of the sociology of religion together in a unique venture called The Sociology Experiment.

I benefitted from incredible mentoring at Berkeley from Ann Swidler, Mike Hout and Kim Voss. I try to take lessons from their support of me and pay them forward with my own students, both undergraduate and graduate. This is a picture from Ann’s recent retirement party at the American Sociological Association meeting in Montreal.

Working with graduate students – whether teaching the required research methods course for my department, advising them on their research or collaborating with them on mine – is truly one of my greatest privileges and pleasures.  My students have been successful at studying a wide variety of religions in a wide variety of settings, including:

Of course, teaching occurs in many forms, and much teaching happens outside of formal classes.  It is not uncommon for undergraduates to take one of my courses and to then take an independent study with me during which I train them to conduct research. I then hire many of these students to continue working for me for the rest of their undergraduate careers, and often end up advising them on their honors theses and post-graduate plans as well. Since receiving my Ph.D. in 2002 I estimate that I have employed more than 100 undergraduates as my research assistants on various projects. I recently reconstructed my employment and independent study records for the acknowledgements for Birth Control Battles and found that at least 60 undergraduates had worked for me on that project alone (please see the acknowledgments for a complete list).


Sociology 604Graduate Research Methods: S604 is a general research methods course designed to introduce graduate students to the variety of methods sociologists use to pursue research, the relative advantages and disadvantages of those methods, the logics of good research design, and the relationship between argument and evidence.

Sociology 100– Introduction to Sociological Research: S100 is a general research methods designed to introduce undergraduates to the variety of methods social scientists use to pursue research.  S100 fulfills the school’s quantitative requirement and is required or accepted for a host of interdisciplinary majors, including HSOC and Communications, as well as sociology.

Sociology 239Religion and Society: S239 is an undergraduate elective course that begins with the prominent theories in the sociology of religion and then requires students to apply those theories to empirical cases.


“In Class, the Audience Weighs In,” by Katie Hafner

CTL Teaching with Technology Discussion with Paul Heiney and Melissa Wilde



2017's Sociology Graduation Celebration (Photo Credit: Shannon Crane).2017's Sociology Graduation Celebration (Photo Credit: Shannon Crane).


I was Chair of the American Sociological Association’s Section on the Sociology of Religion in 2015, and served the other main association in my subfield in various capacities as well. I was President of the Association for the Sociology of Religion in 2015, a council member for the interdisciplinary Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Religious Research Association.


As Undergraduate Chair of Penn’s Sociology Department from 2014-2017 I worked on rebuilding the sociology major and attracting more students to our vital discipline.

As a Distinguished Senior Fellow for Penn’s Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society (PRRUCS), I have been an active participant in PRRUCS “Common Ground for the Common Good” program and organized and led a new speaker series on “Religion and the 2016 Election.” As Associate Faculty Director of Empirical Studies and Survey Research, I will be working with Penn’s Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies (PORES).

I enjoyed working with the Andrea Mitchell Center’s interdisciplinary program on democracy, citizenship, and constitutionalism to develop the theme for 2017-2018 of “States of Religious Freedom.”