A new professor has joined the faculty at Texas A&M University-San Antonio to focus on sociology topics and a new research study among freshmen on campus.
Assistant sociology Professor Shannon Shen, who obtained a Ph.D from Michigan State University in May 2018, moved from East Lansing to San Antonio to teach at A&M-SA. Fall 2018 is her first semester here.
She teaches Social Problems, which focuses on topics such as crime, inequality and substance abuse, along with Capstone for senior sociology majors to create a portfolio and paper to help them apply for internships and jobs.
Originally teaching during her time in graduate school at Michigan State, Shen applied to several colleges around the country that specialized in her studies. While finding jobs in the academic field with a particular area of focus can be a long process, she found an opening and was hired at A&M-SA.
“It’s a great city to live in,” Shen said of San Antonio. “There’s a lot of things going on, and then I can have a job here, and I’m just glad I’m not in the middle of nowhere.”
Shen specializes in aging, health, family and sexual behavior, with those subjects often intersecting in her studies. For example, she collected research from the University of Chicago’s data set on adults ages 57 and older, looking at their social relationships, marital quality and sexual relationships. She evaluated how the three can relate to or be affected by one’s health, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Sociology majors have a variety of careers they can pursue. However, because sociology is based on social interactions, Shen noted one assumption people make about the sociology field.
“Essentially, you can study anything you want to because we study interactions between social groups,” Shen said. “One of the first things people think of is a social worker, and sometimes people think that I’m a social worker.”
While the career option is somewhat of a misconception, Shen says it is still a possibility, but it requires a master’s degree. Aside from social work, other career fields consist of counseling, teaching and working with nonprofit organizations that involve statistic skills, data analysis and writing papers, something many employers have recently started to seek over psychology students.
“You have all those skills you can present to jobs right when you’re on the market and say, ‘I’m confident I can write this report and analyze data,’ and a lot of employers are looking for that,” Shen said. “Employers are now keen on sociology students.”
Shen is looking forward to a new study between sociology and kinesiology with assistant Professor Vicky Elias, researching how they can connect and relate with one another. The two recently collected data with first-time college students on campus, where they surveyed freshmen about backgrounds, demographics, immigration proximity, food insecurity and more.
Shen also hopes to work with the Mays Center for Experiential Learning and Engagement on campus to study the sociology of healthcare.
“I’d really like to get my students to be able to go into some type of healthcare system and see what happens in an E.R. or a family clinic to see how people have access to healthcare because I think it’s something that the whole country really cares about,” Shen said.
Shen serves as an adviser for Alpha Kappa Delta, the school’s sociology honors society, and is identifying students who meet certain GPA requirements to invite them to the program. She also plans to make it more known and active on campus to increase student involvement.
“I’m really looking forward to getting new inductees and then getting that program going,” Shen said.
Assistant sociology Professor Daniel Delgado was a fan of her teaching style and advocated for her to join the A&M-SA faculty, where she was chosen out of approximately 100 candidates due to her research on aging and the elderly, something the sociology department did not focus on prior to Shen’s hiring.
“She engaged with students and faculty all in the same way, and to me, that was a really good quality,” Delgado said. “She’s gonna be bringing in a lot of research to focus on this population.”
Shen said her first semester seems to be going well, wanting to continue participating in other studies and school activities. Shen also seems satisfied with her fellow faculty members who have been supportive in her journey as a new professor.
“When you’re new somewhere and everything’s exciting and you like it, you can sometimes do too many things,” Shen said. “I can ask other faculty members questions and I don’t feel like ‘I should know this,’ and they’re really helpful.”
Shen spoke highly of students on campus, seeing their dedication and determination toward their studies compared with some students at her previous campus.
“I’m really impressed with the students,” Shen said. “When I taught at Michigan State, some students kind of took it for granted, and I was like, ‘No, you’re not just paying to get an A in my class; you have to work for it,’ so the students here are really hard working and academically impressive.”
For the spring 2019 semester, Shen will continue teaching Social Problems and Capstone, but will also teach Myths and Reality: Marriage and Family.