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Susan Newcomer

Ph.D. ‘83


I arrived in 1978 and left in 1983. This was the Krishnan Naboodiri era which is completely missing from this chronology. I remember having an interview with him while deciding to accept the appointment on the T32 at the Pop Center, and asking him if he thought I could get by without knowing calculus. After much consideration he said “probably.” I came, anyhow, and was in awe of him my whole time there.


I spent almost no time in the sociology department except in the first two years to take the courses required to get the degree. I took one course each with Lenski, Kasarda, Wilson, and Craig Calhoun, and one on qualitative research with a woman who didn’t stay long. However, my memories of graduate school are centered on the Population Center faculty, staff and students and JR Udry, who was my main man and mentor, and on the challenges of being a single mother of two school-age daughters. So I can’t contribute much to the history of the sociology department.


In terms of my post-graduate life, it has been the demographic training that has been most useful, that, and the sociological understanding that social structure has powerful influences on human behavior and human health, equal to or greater than biology or psychological dynamics. Working at the NIH, it’s an uphill struggle to convince the biomedical types about social structural issues…

Submitted July 2015