My sociological curiosity developed early on, somewhat out of necessity. I grew up on the fringes of society, in intentional communities founded on ideals that were sometimes at odds with the American mainstream, such as social interdependence. My unconventional background fits well with sociology, leading me to be particularly interested in cultural norms and social values. Firsthand knowledge of communities based on social integration and cooperation is also a reason to remain hopeful in a discipline focused on the study of social ills.
My research specialty is social inequality in higher education, specifically the effects of class-cultural background on students’ college academic experiences. As a first-generation college student, I was attuned to the subtle ways inequality is maintained after access--traditionally the most significant source of inequality--has been achieved. I study how class-cultural background shapes students’ approach to academics, and how some approaches reap greater rewards than others. I am especially interested in the experiences of students at ‘regular’ colleges and universities: despite research attention focusing on elite institutions, the large majority of 4-year college students matriculate at moderately selective or broad-access public institutions. I analyze how the impact of class background varies by institutional context, for instance between large research-focused universities and smaller student-focused universities. My research directly informs my teaching, in which I take every opportunity to demystify the hidden curriculum and empower students for whom higher education is uncharted territory.
Classes Taught: Introduction to Ethnic Studies, Social Inequality
Research Interests: Social Mobility and Reproduction; Higher Education; Qualitative Methods; and the Intersections of Race, Gender, and Class Inequalities
- Scherer, Mary L. 2020. Unequally Adrift: How Social Class and College Context Shape Students’ Mentorship Experiences. Sociological Forum 35 (3).