John D. Kasarda, 1980-1990.
John D. Kasarda, 1980-1990.
It was a special pleasure to return to Chapel Hill’s Sociology Department in 1976 as a faculty member after having been a PhD student during 1968-71. When I became chair in 1980, succeeding Krishnan Namboodiri, the faculty remained one of the most distinguished in the nation but had declined in size since the late 1960s. My priority was to grow the faculty by convincing South Building leadership that the department was an underappreciated gem, and that with additional junior and senior faculty appointments it could rise to be ranked among the top three.
Sam Williamson, who was Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, gave me a sympathetic ear. A strategy for expansion was put in place broadly emphasizing the empirical tradition established by Howard Odum and others in the department’s formative decades and later in the 1960s and early 1970s by renowned social statistician Hubert Blalock. While empirically-based social organization was given some priority, faculty recruitment also targeted demographics, cultural sociology, workplace , life-course, and social psychology, among others.
Working with Krishnan, one of the first recruits was Peter Marsden who I had known as an outstanding first year graduate student at the University of Chicago when I was assistant professor there. Peter flourished in the department becoming associate profess and associate chair in 1984 -85 and a valuable sounding board for me. Unfortunately for us, Harvard attracted him as a full professor in 1987 where he later chaired its sociology department for many years.
Between 1980 and 1989, 18 new faculty members joined the department. According to
department records, which I have been informed may be off a year or even two in some cases, they were as follows:
1980-81: Sheryl Kleinman and Peter Marsden
1981-82: Anthony Oberschall
1982-83: Rachel Rosenfeld and Barbara Stenross
1983-84: Howard Aldrich, Francois Nielsen, and Michael Powell
1984-85: Eric Leifer
1985-86: Glen Elder
1986-87: Arnei Kalleberg, Ken Bollen and Barbara Entwisle
1987-88: Peter Bearman
1988-89 : Peter Blau and Judith Blau
1989-90: Melanie Archer and Phil O’Connell
During this period, the department also went after a number of big names who visited, but we came up short in consummating the appointments. These included, among others, Chicago’s Morris Janowitz, Harvard’s Harrison White, Stanford’s Michael Hannon, and Yale’s Albert Reiss. Some years, offers were made to distinguished senior faculty beyond that initially authorized by the Dean. In so doing, we made the argument that all were unlikely to accept but if they did, it would be a coup for the department and the university. Dean Williamson reluctantly agreed.
Total numbers of undergraduates taught was still an important consideration in the size of department faculty that South Building supported. Yet the number of our majors and undergraduate sociology course total enrollments were stagnating in the first part of the 1980s. We decided that the total could be substantially boosted by bringing the popular ( but independent) Curriculum in Industrial Relations under the administration of our department. The recruitment of Howard Aldrich from Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations plus nearly a half dozen of our faculty already teaching and researching in areas linked to industrial relations provided a foundation for this. Howard went on to chair the Curriculum for a substantial period and we also leveraged the large numbers enrolled in this Curriculum to further justify senior appointments that allowed us to recruit Glen Elder from Cornell (as Odum Distinguished Professor) and Arne Kalleberg from Indiana University.
During the 1980s, the department markedly expanded its university-wide influence with Dick Udry heading the Carolina Population Center (followed by Ron
Ron Rindfuss and then Barbara Entwisle over the ensuing two decades) while John Reed (followed by Ken Bollen) assumed leadership of the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences (now the Odum Institute). Rising star Craig Calhoun became director of the Center for International Studies. Dick Cramer and Peter Marsden took on visible administrative positions in South Building . Likewise, in 1984, while serving as the Chair of the assembly of Arts and Science Department Chairman, I was asked to head up the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) five-year accreditation study of UNC-Chapel Hill. SACS provided us with license to select a theme for in-depth study. The theme we selected was “The Research University”. Quite a few sociology department faculty played significant roles in the self-study, but none more critical than that of Everett Wilson (then editor of Social Forces) who provided immense assistance in the writing and production of the two voluminous reports and a substantial executive summary, all published in 1985. If one goes back and reviews these volumes, the long-established scholarly values of Chapel Hill’s Department of Sociology can be observed throughout them.
My orientation as department chair was to give the preponderance of weight in annual salary increases to faculty publication of books and articles in the discipline’s top journals. In retrospect, I now regret that I did not provide more weight for good undergraduate teaching and excellent department and university service. One other personal orientation was to keep department faculty bureaucratic needs to a minimum. For example, I typically tried to limit our faulty meetings to no more than 60 minutes. This was not just to provide more time for academic work but also to save a number of our colleagues who tended to get impatient after more than 60 minutes of discussions from saying things that they later regretted.
In 1990, I accepted the position as director of UNC’s Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, which involved shifting my primary faculty appointment to the business school. Arne Kalleberg succeeded me as chair (serving a ten-year term) to be followed by another ten-year term as department chair by Howard Aldrich, both becoming distinguished chaired professors and leaders in the discipline. Having three successive ten -year chairs, I feel, provided greater stability in stewardship that enabled UNC’s Sociology Department to continue to progress and remain one of the nation’s top ranked.
I served as director of the Kenan Institute for 22 years. Combining my training in sociology ( primarily influenced by Amos Hawley but also by Gerhard Lenski, Dick Simpson, and Hubert Blalock) , with later research on business strategy and city competitiveness, I have focused on developing the concept of aerotropolis (airport –driven urban economic development). This concept is the centerpiece of my 2011 book with Greg Lindsay) Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next. A key chapter explicates the role UNC’s sociology faculty played in the evolution of the aerotropolis concept which is now being implemented around the world (see www.aerotropolis.com) .
I remain married to Mary Ann, who received her BA in sociology at UNC in 1971. We have two grown children (Jason in the San Francisco Bay Area and Kimberly in New York City.) Kimberly has provided us with a lovely grandson, William. I’m currently doing a lot of work in Asia where I am advising a number of airports on commercial facilities and serving as the Chief Adviser to the Zhengzhou (China) Aerotropolis under development. I hope to complete another book on airport cities and the aerotropolis by the fall ( 2016) that is to be published in Chinese and English.
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Submitted March 2016