2013 – Academic Research
DISSERTATION - Global Opportunities for Athletes Living in De-industrialized Michigan Cities
Opportunities for youth to find careers in professional basketball overseas are increasing (Miller, 2009) while automotive factories continue to close in Michigan (Schuch, 2013). This shifting job market will impact families that are traditionally less mobile. I will analyze how several factors influence an individual athlete to migrate internationally in pursuit of a professional basketball career. Individual athletes often migrate internationally due to participation in sports through the life course. I will show how awareness of opportunities and level of aspiration influence where and how often a player moves internationally. Other factors including family structure, age, and income will be examined. This is important to study because the United States is transitioning to a post-industrial society and new opportunities for American youth exist in sports that can increase life chances for upward mobility.
Athletic achievement is often connected with programs in American educational institutions, but the U.S. Department of Labor defines “skilled labor” as dependent on academic achievement rather that sports excellence (Schmidt, 2013). I will discover how certain guidance provided by schools and families influence athletes to pursue (or discourage) aspirations to choose sports as an occupation overseas. How are individual athletes influenced throughout the life course to pursue careers overseas playing basketball rather than historically embedded local factory options? This research will provide educators and families a perspective on how the expanding global job market can be realized by a traditionally “stuck” class.
2012 – Film Making
OUR DREAMS – a film made by John Girdwood that offers a perspective on youth and sports in deindustrialized cities like Flint, Lansing, and Detroit. All participants were contacted through Twitter. As a researcher, Girdwood went in blind with some hypotheses but this film is not anything close to “investigative journalism” – it is an honest first step to research that will analyze the future of Flint/Lansing/Detroit in the post-industrial era (after the factories have left).
What’s the film about?
The project has grown organically and started with a single research question:
To what extent are sports a viable career option for youth living in a post-industrial city?
I’ve interviewed players like Antonio Smith, Marquise Gray, William Hatcher, etc. and also younger players in Lansing to get a perspective on the viability of pro sports as an occupational aspiration. With more leagues overseas and a growing group from Flint who are finding success there, is it something youth can aspire to? At the same time, there are less factory jobs available. So, I’m looking at sports careers for youth in post-industrialized cities.
How does the film align with research?
To a certain extent, the film itself is a standalone project separate from my research. However, getting to know these athletes has really helped me focus my direction and overall goals. The film also provided me with some individuals to establish my convenience sample and ultimately my comprehensive snowball sample.
My sample journey will follow this course:
I will analyze how several factors influence an individual athlete to migrate internationally. Individual athletes often migrate internationally due to participation in sports through the life course. I will show how race and level of aspiration influence where and how often a player moves internationally. Other factors including family structure, age, and income will be examined. This is important to study because the United States is transitioning to a post-industrial society and new opportunities for American youth exist in sports that can increase life chances for upward mobility.
How does the research influence my passion for teaching?
I am a teacher and lifelong student. My everyday objective is to change social problems into better alternative solutions. I believe the thirst for positive change is contagious and I want to spread optimism and an addiction for good work to those I encounter. Whether I’m planting a seed or fertilizing new ideas, I’m going to grow something and leave the world a better place when I’m done here. My current mottos are: “you’re not too good for anybody” (my mom), “money doesn’t talk, it swears” (Bob Dylan), and “we have to work harder” (Tom Brady). I think deeply about what is right and wrong, giving equal consideration to all philosophies, and stick to the script… “improve everything – for all the right reasons.”
2013 – 2011 Teaching Experience
Texts for Courses
- Edin, K. & Kefalas, M. (2005). Promises I can keep: Why poor women put motherhood before marriage. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Henslin, J. M. (2005). Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach, Core Concepts (Edition Unstated.). Allyn & Bacon.
- McAdoo, H. P. (2007). Black families
- Payne, R. (2011) Global Issues 3rdEdition. Allyn and Bacon Publishing Company. ISBN-10: 0205779085
Other Books and People John Thinks are Cool
- Barbara Schneider @ Michigan State University
- Her book – The Ambitious Generation: America’s Teenagers, Motivated but Directionless
- Richard A. Settersten, Jr.@ Oregon State University
- His book – Not Quite Adults
- Jane Isay @ Huff Post
- Her book – Walking on Eggshells: Navigating the Delicate Relationship Between Adult Children and Parents
I believe that the sociological study of the human life course is vital to developing solid practical application methods that lend alternative disciplinary insight to research projects in a wide variety of fields. I conduct research ranging from thoughts on increasing diversity in K-12 classrooms (early childhood education) to an analysis of public benefits enrollment among the elderly in America. I also study principles of non-profit management that allow me provide consultant services to the non-profit sector including maintaining active involvement as President of the OMIA Foundation, an organization that “enhances the lives of students by expanding the scope of education” through outside movement inside academics. It is my pleasure to provide you with access to a solid foundation of research. I encourage you to continue your chosen disciplinary studies and consider further opportunities for progress especially those areas relating to Sociology. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of further service to you.
“Thank you for your intelligent and respectful teaching style this semester.” – 2011 Fall
“Thanks for responding to all of my emails, I know I have sent a lot through out the summer session. This was my first time taking summer classes and I honestly enjoyed this class, and I also liked your approach to the work, the school books, and so on! Some profs around MSU should take notes! I learned a lot from this course, things that for sure will help me in the future!Thanks!!” – 2012 Summer at Michigan State University
“I have really enjoyed your class and especially your teaching style. I have never had a professor be more efficient with communication than you were. You also kept things exciting and fun.” – 2012 Summer at Michigan State University
“As I entered into my first online class I was a little bit skeptical, but I can honestly say that I got a lot more out of this class than I expected. I learned many different things about this topic which is something I find extremely interesting to begin with. I also can say that I can take away many new skills that will help me with any class I take and any paper I set out to write in the future. It was an excellent class to be a part of and for that I thank you very much!” - 2012 Summer at Michigan State University
“Enjoyed your class this semester, and hope I can eventually take another one of your classes if the possibility comes up.” – Student in SOC 111, Fall 2011
“Thanks for all the lectures you gave us. I found sociology as an interesting subject with lots of things related to a real life. I also recommended my friends to take this class with you next semester because I think the class is helpful.” – International Student
“Thank you very much Prof. Girdwood for your help. Yes, you’ve answered all my questions and I quite enjoyed your example.” – Student in SOC 111, Fall 2011
“I have never had a professor that was so active and caring in my learning experience.” – Student in SOC 315, Summer 2011
“Your (constructive) criticism keeps me grounded and looking for ways to sound better on paper.” – Student in SOC 111, Fall 2011
“Thank you so much Mr. Girdwood. I have enjoyed your class and feel like I’m learning so much!” – Student in SOC 315, Summer 2011
“I know my initial outlook on the class was negative, but since then my idea of sociology has changed and I am enjoying the class more than I expected I could.” – Student in SOC 315, Summer 2011
“Thank you for the quick response. I am dealing with all the [research] results now and actually enjoying it and would not have guessed that would be the case on any final… ever. Pretty sweet.” – Student in SOC 315, Summer 2011
“Thanks again for all your help! Great class!” – Student in SOC 315, Summer 2011
“I have thoroughly enjoyed the class this summer. It is definitely a new experience in using the writing format that we are required to use. But, I have surprisingly enjoyed the process of using the format because it lays out what I need to write before I start. I appreciate your enthusiasm as an instructor and your communication to the class (via email) has been very helpful. I have been very busy traveling and working this summer and it has been extremely helpful with your reminders and insight to useful links! Anyways, I thought I would share that with you, as I have never had an instructor so willing to help students and so concerned on how we are performing.” – Student in SOC 315, Summer 2011
“Thanks again. This class was really of great benefit to me in terms of improving my writing skills and learning to do an online class.” – Student in SOC 315, Summer 2011
“I enjoyed the class; for it being online it was surprisingly interactive. I thought you taught it well.” – Student in SOC 315, Summer 2011
* These are actual unsolicited quotes from students that I received, occurring during a semester that I taught.
Areas of Expertise:
- organizational development
- cultural change – norms, values, and goals
- pure and applied research – data collection and analysis
- race relations
- conflict resolution
- social problems
- medical sociology
- marriage and the family
- childhood development in the community
- sports sociology