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APSU sociology department sending students to top graduate programs

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In August, Sarah Huff, a former high school dropout, will board a plane for the United Kingdom to begin graduate school at The London School of Economics and Political Science—a university recently labeled “the world’s leading dedicated social science institution.”             

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In August, Sarah Huff, a former high school dropout, will board a plane for the United Kingdom to begin graduate school at The London School of Economics and Political Science—a university recently labeled “the world’s leading dedicated social science institution.”             

“I’ll admit I was a bit hesitant to apply because I don’t have a lot of the background that people have when they go to these bigger schools,” Huff said recently. When she was only 16, Huff dropped out of high school, and she didn’t get her GED until a few years later. No one in her family had attended college, but after earning her GED, Huff decided to enroll at Austin Peay State University. She was unsure of what she should study.

“I took sociology 1010 and within two weeks, I was sold,” she said. Huff will graduates this May with her Bachelor of Science degree in sociology from APSU. “I feel a lot more comfortable about leaving for London because we have the most amazing professors here.”

The APSU Department of Sociology is one of the smaller programs on campus, with only six full-time faculty members, but this year the department is sending several students to some of the top graduate programs in the world. In addition to Huff, sociology student Ian Chambers was recently accepted to Bowling Green State University, and students Randi Ingram and Charles Hayes will be attending Florida State University next fall.

“The Department of Sociology faculty is incredibly proud of the achievements of our undergraduates,” Dr. Tucker Brown, department chair, said. “Seeing our students gain the knowledge and skills to compete nationally for graduate assistantships is among the most rewarding aspects of teaching and mentorship. As one of the smaller departments on campus, many of our students develop close connections to our faculty, and we become personally vested in their success.”

The department is small, taking up only a small suite of offices in the McCord Building, but the size is part of what makes it appealing for students like Chambers.

“It’s small, but the staff is really dedicated, the faculty is really well versed in a lot of diverse sociological concepts,” he said.

Last year, Dr. William Brooks, assistant professor of sociology, encouraged Chambers to conduct his own research into why members of the LGBT community settle into certain areas of the mid-south. Chambers received an APSU Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and he spent the next several months working on the project. Chambers believes the experience he gained during this research project helped him get into one of the top sociology graduate programs in the nation.

“I feel prepared,” he said. “The department here has really made me capable of what I need to do. It (APSU’s Department of Sociology) is a research-heavy program. I actually had research that I’ve done here at Austin Peay that other students coming up didn’t have. I was able to come to (Bowling Green State) and say I know how to start and finish a research project.”

Chambers will also graduate in May, and then he’ll move north to pursue a Ph.D.

“It’s really encouraging to know that our students are well-prepared and able to compete with students from larger, research-intensive universities,” Brown said.

For information on the APSU Department of Sociology, visit the program’s website at http://www.apsu.edu/sociology