Since 2004, Associate Professor Bob Kunovich has worked to strengthen the Sociology program at The University of Texas at Arlington, supporting new concentrations and coordinating internship opportunities for graduate students. This fall, he begins a new chapter as chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.
Communications Coordinator James Dunning sat down with the “distinguished teacher” – he earned University-wide recognition in 2013 and an acCOLAdes teaching award in 2012 – to discover Kunovich’s approach to leading a small, but award-winning group of faculty and students.
Q: How would you describe your department?
A: The department is composed of the Sociology Program, which offers a BA and an MA in Sociology as well as the Anthropology Program, which offers a BA and an MA in Anthropology. Although the department is made up of two distinct programs, we share some common research and teaching interests – for example, immigration and reproduction/the body. We have a great group of scholars who are doing interesting and important research and faculty from both programs have won a variety of teaching awards – including the UT System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award.
Q: Every department at UTA is looking to increase student enrollment and expand the services each provides. One way to do that is to broaden the scope of the program or degrees offered. Has your department considered an interdisciplinary approach to better connect with students pursuing majors in other Colleges on campus?
A: Sociology and Anthropology are inherently interdisciplinary. Anthropology, for example, offers courses that cover topics such as biological variation, health, food and culture, and migration. In Sociology, some of our courses fulfill requirements for students from Mexican American Studies, African American Studies, Environmental and Sustainability Studies, Urban and Public Affairs and Women’s and Gender Studies. So the interdisciplinary aspect has been a part of what we offer for a long time.
Q: There’s also been talk of collaborating with schools around North Texas or within The University of Texas System as a way to increase available degrees at undergraduate and graduate levels. How might that affect your department?
A: We have considered participation in joint programs at UTA and beyond. I think that some possibilities may exist. Online courses and video-conferencing will continue to make long-distance courses more common. For now, though, we are looking for ways to improve the experience for our existing students.
Q: What is your approach to your first year as department chair?
A: When I was the Sociology graduate advisor, I spent most of the first year learning the institutional history, figuring out how things worked, and formulating goals. After that, I moved on to implementing changes to improve the program. I’m taking that same approach as chair. In the spring, I sat down with all of the anthropology faculty and talked with them about their concerns and hopes. It was very insightful and I learned a lot about the program. I’m planning to do the same with the sociologists this semester. I am also looking forward to completing the program review this year – I hope that going through a critical review will help to identify other ways to strengthen our department and programs. So, for now, I’m trying to listen and to learn as much as possible.
Q: So, do you have some goals in mind?
A: As I mentioned, we will be going through a program review this year. Over the summer, I assisted with the preparation of our self-study, which will be a part of that review. It gave me a great opportunity to think about where we are and where we want to be. There have been considerable changes in both the Sociology and Anthropology faculty since the previous review. Once we learn the outcome of the most recent hiring requests, I would like for us to revisit our curriculum to look for opportunities to increase the number of undergraduate and graduate students that we teach and to increase the number of majors. Along those lines, I have been encouraged by a new wave of recruiting efforts that are being coordinated by the College of Liberal Arts. The resources that COLA is providing will help us to reach many more potential students than we would be able to reach on our own.