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Sociology student, professor benefit from research collaboration

Associate Professor of Sociology Peter Kaufman
Peter Kaufman

A student-faculty research partnership between Associate Professor of Sociology Peter Kaufman and Richard Bente ’14 (Sociology) is garnering attention from experts in the field, and stands as a testament to the power of student-faculty collaboration.

Red Card! The Exclusion of Sports in Sociology” was published on W.W. Norton & Company’s Everyday Sociology blog, for which Kaufman is a contributing writer, on July 3. The project that inspired the blog post was born from another blog post Kaufman wrote in 2012 about the curious absence of sports in sociological research – a point which he says became obvious to him once again during the 2014 World Cup.

“Working with Peter was very beneficial because he gave me the proper guidance that a student working on a project such as this one deserves,” said Bente of Hyde Park, N.Y. “It gave me a sense of responsibility and independence to freely exert my own will on the project, while at the same time checking in with him to make sure I’m doing the right things.”

“Collaborating with a faculty member for research also increases the bond between teacher and student in a way that feels more organic than visiting during office hours just to go over material that I didn’t understand in class,” he added.

Richard Bente ’14 (Sociology)

As part of an independent study, Bente teamed with Kaufman to conduct a content analysis of the top 24 introductory sociology textbooks currently on the market in the United States. The results of their research indicated that nearly half of the textbooks surveyed mentioned sports on two pages or less; four textbooks did not mention sports at all; none of the textbooks had chapters exclusively devoted to sports; and that the most common topics that included discussions of sports were deviance, race/ethnicity, socialization, social class, and sex/gender. Bente and Kaufman did find, however, that four of the textbooks gave moderate or strong attention to sports, with 16-22 pages devoted to a sports-related topic. Read more about Bente and Kaufman’s collaboration here.

“Richard was quite happy to be involved in the research in the spring and equally happy to see his name and face in print,” said Kaufman. “His excitement grew even further when I told him that I’ve been getting some responses to the post from some of the textbook authors and publishers to whom I sent a copy of the post. The whole experience has been a nice reminder of the value of student-faculty collaborations.”

While Bente says the project “gave me invaluable tools that I can potentially now use in the workplace” as he embarks on a job search in the field of research, Kaufman says the act of student-faculty collaboration is “undoubtedly a symbiotic process,” and a rewarding experience for both teacher and student.

“I always learn something new about the research topic because each student – indeed, each person – has their own lens through which they understand and interpret social phenomena. Students inevitably raise questions or provide insights that I failed to see,” says Kaufman. He also welcomes the level of pressure and accountability involved in working with students, specifically when it comes to staying focused and productive so that projects don’t fall by the wayside and students can ultimately see some end results of their work.

Kaufman also gets “tremendous satisfaction out of seeing the students grow intellectually and be excited by the scholarly process. Much like the satisfaction I get from helping students understand new concepts in the classroom, seeing the production of knowledge unfold in a research setting is equally gratifying.”