Mark O. Rousseau
Mark O. Rousseau
I’m impressed with the department history project Dick Cramer has organized, and urged by him and several colleagues I decided I must submit a brief bio myself.
I earned my BA and MA in sociology at Indiana University. I had long known I wanted no part of the corporate world and so I decided a PhD in sociology and an academic career would suit me perfectly. Compared to today, funding to support graduate work seems to have been more readily available then. I was accepted at four good schools, all with financial support. I had an interest in the etiology of mental health and illness and decided the medical sociology program at UNC under Harvey Smith would be a good fit. As a child I had travelled in the South with my parents and understood it was rather different from life in the North. A major reason for choosing Carolina over three other major universities was my interest in exploring Southern life and culture a little further. Fortunately, my wife agreed to move to North Carolina from our home in Indiana.
In the fall of 1963 I came to Chapel Hill. We lived in married apartment housing on Mason Farm Road, which I believe has been torn down for medical school expansion. At that time the Social Research Section (medical sociology and mental health) was housed in Miller Hall, across campus from sociology in Alumni Hall. Shortly after moving to Chapel Hill my son Mark Jr. was born in University Hospital. As a result of being married and with an infant son and being located in Miller Hall I was somewhat cut off from the culture of the department in Alumni Hall. I will never forget that shortly into my first semester the senior graduate students in the department put on a little colloquium on the history of the department. It was at that time that I discovered that Carolina sociology had been a top 10 department since the 1920s. I gulped and wondered what I was doing here but said to myself I’m going to have to really buckle down and succeed. Had I known the prestige of the department I might have been too intimidated to enroll. (Remember this was before the computer era and easy access to information.)
My years in sociology proceeded apace. As Glen Elder points out in his department history these were the years of concentrated training in quantitative sociology. I had a minor in social psychology and so had several courses in the psychology department. I am indebted to John Schopler of psychology for helping me get my very first publication, a group project growing out of a seminar he taught. These were also very politically active years in Chapel Hill. As a Northerner I was largely ignorant of the extent of racial segregation in the South; I participated in the integration of various public facilities in Chapel Hill. This was also the era of the Viet Nam War to which I was firmly opposed, seeing it as another US imperialistic venture. I gladly participated in a weekly peace vigil on Franklin Street.
Finally in the fall of 1966 I moved into Alumni Hall with a teaching assistantship. I needed dissertation data and Dick Cramer was looking for a grad student to help analyze a massive set of survey data on the social correlates of academic achievement. I’ll be forever grateful to Dick for taking me in and serving as chair of my dissertation committee. I had quite a formidable dissertation committee. In addition to Dick, my committee members were Gerry Lenski, Tad Blalock, and Dick Simpson, with John Schopler as an outside member. Fortunately by this time I had successfully passed my two required foreign language exams and my oral and written exams in sociology and was ready to look for an academic job. I left Chapel Hill ABD in 1968, a common practice at the time and something I do not recommend today.
The University of Nebraska– Omaha had four positions open in sociology, and desiring to return to the mid-west I interviewed and was hired. I had talked to Hugh Whitt, a fellow grad student who had taken a position at University of Nebraska—Lincoln the year before. Hugh advised, “…yes, come on out. It is a good place to get started, get some publications out and move on.” However shortly after getting comfortably settled at UNO the job marked totally dried up. I received tenure at UNO and remained there for my career, as did Hugh in Lincoln. While I never expected to live in Omaha, I must say it has been a very good fit. I have been able to pursue a nice blend of teaching and research, receiving considerable funding to support my overseas research interests.
As an undergraduate I had a minor in French and have loved the language ever since. After working in the sociology of education for some years I got interested in French politics and society. Thanks to a National Endowment for the Humanities summer fellowship I was able to work with Larry Wiley at Harvard. He helped me determine how I could integrate my sociological and French interests. As a result I spent time in France in the 1980s studying political decentralization. While presenting a meeting paper I met a political scientist from Lincoln with similar interests in Italy. We collaborated and produced a book Regionalism and Regional Devolution in Comparative Perspective, Praeger 1987. After working on the book for some five years, I determined I must either return to France and collect more data, or take on another project.
At that time I learned of the Quebec Summer Seminar, run out of SUNY Plattsburgh. I knew little about Canada or Quebec, except that it was that unique province where French was spoken. I applied to the seminar and spent several summers in Quebec. I quickly became interested in separatism and the national question and its relation to class and ethnicity. I received research support to carry out my work in Quebec, resulting in a number of publications. I must say that is some of the most enjoyable research work I’ve ever done. Currently, with a colleague in political science, I have a chapter coming out in a new Oxford University Press book on Francophonie in Quebec.
During this time I maintained my regular load of classes. I also served as department chair for 12 ½ years, stepping down in 2010. Since then I have taught several classes for the department. During the 2013-14 academic year I was persuaded to teach a full load as an adjunct professor in sociology at Creighton University (a Jesuit university in Omaha). I always enjoy a new experience and also needed the health insurance for my wife. Since that time I have done no further teaching nor expect to. Enough is enough!
I am enjoying a healthy and successful retirement and manage to keep busy. Among other things for the past several years I’ve been taking Advanced Conversational French through the Alliance Française of Omaha and find it very enjoyable. This winter term we just finished reading Voltaire’s Candide. With thanks to Andrew Carnegie, I manage to keep on top of expenses with TIAA-CREF.
I am very grateful for my PhD from UNC and the sociology faculty who taught and aided me. I will always be in their debt. The academic life has been very good for me. I often wonder what I would do today were I just beginning graduate work. In spite of the poor job market I must assume I’d do exactly what I did. To me, that is good testimony that I’ve been very fortunate.
Submitted March 2016