From NFL player to sociologist

Occasionally, I highlight unusual paths people take to become sociologists. Here is another example: an 11 year veteran of the NFL who became a sociologist. Here are the broad details of Ken Ruettgers’ path:

After graduating from USC, Ken was drafted in the first-round of the 1985 NFL Draft (7th pick) by Green Bay where he remained throughout his professional career. Ken was the Green Bay Packers’ 1989 offensive MVP. He began the 1996 season on the Physically Unable to Perform List. He was activated after four games, but injuries had taken their toll and he could not finish the season.

Ruettgers has a B.A. in Business Administration from USC’s Marshall School of Business, and an MBA from California State University, Bakersfield. He recently received a Ph.D in sociology from Oxford Graduate School in Dayton, Tennessee in 2007.More recently he has begun teaching Sociology classes part time at Central Oregon Community College.[3] He has also began coaching football at a local high school in Sisters, Oregon.

Here Ruettgers is briefly quoted talking about the recent scandal at Penn State:

Former NFL player and COCC Sociology Professor Ken Ruettgers says the Penn State case and the one at Syracuse are opening people’s eyes. “I do think it’s been somewhat of a watershed moment. Up until this, those with the title of coach weren’t questioned. This has tarnished that image and brought that into questions and maybe that’s a good thing. Don’t give free pass just because you’re a good thing because. While its sad, I think it’s a good thing it’s been exposed.”

I’m sure this was an interesting transition. Do students sit up and pay a little more attention in intro to sociology classes when they learn their professor is a former NFL player? Are there skills from his football days that easily translate into the academic realm?

By the way, the Oxford Graduate School has an unusual Ph.D. program that is titled ” Sociological Integration of Faith and Society.”

Making the case for reputational rankings

A statistician argues that the National Research Council’s study of doctoral programs released earlier this week should have included reputational rankings:

Mr. Stigler says that it was a mistake for the NRC to so thoroughly abandon the reputational measures it used in its previous doctoral studies, in 1982 and 1995. Reputational surveys are widely criticized, he says, but they do provide a check on certain kinds of qualitative measures. When the new NRC counts faculty publication rates, it does not offer any information about whether scholars in the field believe those publications are any good. (That’s especially true in humanities fields, where the NRC report does not include citation counts.)

“Everybody involved in this was trying hard, and with good intentions and high integrity,” Mr. Stigler says. “But once they decided to rule out reputation, they cut off what I consider to be the most useful measure from all past surveys.”

In an e-mail message to The Chronicle this week, Mr. Ostriker declined to reply to Mr. Stigler’s specific statistical criticisms. But he pointed out that the National Academies explicitly instructed his committee not to use reputational measures.

I was curious about this when I looked at the list of sociology doctoral programs. Perhaps several of the schools that were lower than I expected, such as the University of California – Berkeley, were lower because of this.

Stigler defends reputational measures but I’ve seen others argue that they prohibit “true” rankings within fields because certain schools retain a reputation even without the necessary output (research, good grad students, etc.). This particular discussion is part of a larger one where it will need to be decided whether reputational rankings should be used or not.

NRC ratings of doctoral programs

The National Research Council has released its long-awaited report that measures and compares doctoral programs in a number of disciplines. Check out the interactive tool at the Chronicle of Higher Education that allows users to compare programs on a variety of the 21 criteria.

Some interesting features of the data:

1. The surveys were conducted in 2006-2007 so the information is somewhat dated. This would be particularly true in departments with productive new or departed faculty.

2. The NRC doesn’t assign ordinal ranks to schools but instead now gives ranges for each program. This seems like a sound decision that helps suggests what schools are like/near each other without having to introduce what may be artificial distinctions by saying one school is #4 while another is #6.

Just quickly looking through some of the S-rankings in sociology, some schools seem to be quite a bit off compared to other rankings over the years.