I entered graduate studies in sociology having never had a sociology course, making the theory-heavy first year a challenge, especially Craig Calhoun’s first semester class. I survived.
I worked closely with my mentor, Ron Rindfuss, from day one. His intellectual influence and friendship are with me daily. I fondly recall exposure to the gracious intellects of John Reed (who I still see regularly), Gerhard Lenski, Amos Hawley, Rachel Rosenfeld, Peter Marsden and Tony Oberschall. And I recall the demands of Krishnan Namboodiri.
Professor Namboodiri, Ron, and Peter Uhlenberg were the committee for my oral defense of the comprehensive exam. I was the second of two being examined that day and waited for almost two hours for my turn, getting more nervous with every minute. At one point in the exam, I confused life table functions. Professor Namboodiri looked at me a said, “Mr. Parnell. If I called you at 2 in the morning, you should be able to tell me the relationships among the life table functions.”
Ron has pulled that exchange out and laughed at me regularly over the years. In many ways that exam prepared me for part of what I do today. For the past decade or so, I have conducted expert witness research and testified in civil rights cases. No deposition is as threatening as the prospect of sitting down again with Professor Namboodiri.
After graduating, I had a visiting appointment at the East-West Center and University of Hawaii, I worked at the Committee on Population at the National Academy of Sciences, was on the Sociology faculty at Duke, and was back at the Carolina Population Center where I had a NIH-funded grant on abortion policy.
For the past decade or so, I have worked with my wife (Ann Moss Joyner) in a not-for-profit we created, the Cedar Grove Institute. Most of our work is in litigation research and testimony in civil rights cases—mainly fair housing cases—across the country. I also work with Jim Johnson at the UNC Kenan Institute conducting demographic policy analysis.
I remain in touch with many of my fellow graduate students from that period including Jo Jones, Mike Kennedy, Lionel Deang, Susan Newcomer, Glenn Deane (who still helps me on some projects), Mohammad Mohieddin and probably others I can’t recall right now. Phil Morgan and Gray Swicegood both were UNC Sociology undergraduate majors who received their Ph.D.s elsewhere. I got to know them when they were post-docs with Ron, and they remain friends. I am also in touch with Rebecca Matteo, who I taught at Duke when she was an undergraduate before getting her Ph.D. in Sociology at UNC.
The Cedar Grove Institute is in rural northern Orange County, 30 minutes from Chapel Hill and Durham. My office number is 919 563 5899. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org .