Several of Dr. Laura Hartman's sociology students have been in prison, and she drove them there. Literally drove them, for a field trip.
"The staff members do a great job with our tours," she says enthusiastically. "It's not a
She explains, "Our sociology students learn about the daily operations and activities of the prison, and they also have the opportunity to discuss with a select group of inmates factors that the convicts feel contributed to their incarceration. Among other topics, we talk about what things we might be able to do to prevent the inmates from going down the wrong path."
She adds that the inmates tell them that it's unusual to have an opportunity to be listened to so seriously, and they appreciate the visits.
In fact, it was a field trip that hooked Dr. Hartman originally, getting her interested in sociology: "I had taken an 'Intro to Sociology' class at a community college, and we did a field project at the juvenile court. We studied a case, took a tour, learned about the court
It was in graduate school, at UT-Austin, that Hartman realized that she did not want to work at, as she puts it, "an institution that emphasizes research. I much prefer to teach."
She likes the Averett students — their minds and their personalities. "Our students are gentle, kind, likable young people. Most of them are willing to keep an open mind, which is very helpful. For instance, even if they didn't necessarily want to take the class, they're still willing to give it a try."
That's usually all it takes.
Doctor of Philosophy, sociology, University of Texas at Austin