Carrying On a Legacy of Engagement
Professor Doug Hartmann is involved in two projects in the Department of Sociology with a heavy emphasis on community engagement: the American Mosaic Project and The Society Pages. As a part of the American Mosaic Project, Professor Hartmann has been conducting research on the ethnic, religious, and racial diversity of Minneapolis and the nation as a whole. Starting in 2003, the project started out as a nationwide telephone survey that gauged the opinions of the general public on diversity.
From the research, Professor Hartmann and his colleagues developed a series of papers on the various topic areas that the surveys covered. Some of the papers started to get national attention, with a paper about public opinion on atheists even being mentioned in Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You!). Another paper on whiteness received widespread media attention. "It was kind of crazy in terms of engagement because some was really serious, like National Public Radio," says Hartmann. "And some of it was your morning zoo talk show, so it was like goofy talk about white culture."
In 2014, the project began to conduct new surveys to see how attitudes have changed over time. As the research phase draws to a close, ideas for more papers are being developed. The American Mosaic Project recruits eight to ten graduate students each year to get involved, along with Professor Hartmann and two other faculty members. Some of them receive funding from the Edelstein Family Foundation, which primarily recognizes students of color or of Jewish faith or origin.
The Society Pages is a nationally-recognized website that runs stories based in the field of sociology in the context of a much wider audience. "The goal of the site is to not just publicize our own work, but sociology research that has public interest and value," says Hartmann, who co-founded the site with colleague Chris Uggen. Typically, there are 15 to 20 students involved with creating content for the website each year, including four to five undergraduate interns.
Professor Hartmann believes it's important for the University to be involved with public engagement through projects like the American Mosaic Project and The Society Pages because they give students the opportunities to be involved with research at a national level that is grounded in the communities that people actually live in. "The kind of work that we're doing has direct implications and applications to the societies and communities we live in" says Hartmann. "It's an example of how the University can be involved with social life at a variety of levels."