Faculty Spotlights

James Meeker

James Meeker, Ph.D., joined the department in the fall of 2019 as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology. He teaches courses in criminology, medical sociology, and the sociology of culture.

You've taught at several institutions in Ohio. How has your time at Miami been so far? What has surprised you the most?

So far, Miami has been the best teaching experience - the students are so welcoming and motivated! Perhaps what has surprised me the most is how dedicated the students are to their education. In contrast to educational trends in recent decades, Miami students are interested in learning for its own sake. Another aspect of Miami that is surprising is the incredible sense of school spirit. Students take great pride in their Miami experience. Working with Miami students has been the most rewarding part of my career thus far.

Can you say a bit about your research? You have a lot of different interests. Is there any common theme to all of them? How did you choose what areas to focus on?

My research examines the relationships between cultural production, such as the arts, media, and entertainment, and social inequality. Currently, my research focus examines how marginalized groups accumulate social and economic resources in order to engage in cultural production. Generally speaking, a majority of the research on cultural production has focused on powerful institutions or highly capitalized individuals. My research, on the other hand, seeks to understand how disenfranchised persons, many of whom lack power or capital, participate in creating popular culture. Understanding how marginalized groups participate, or are excluded from participating, in producing culture is particularly important in the age of democratic media.

Over the last few years I ave focused on the challenges and opportunities for African Americans to culturally produce hip-hop music. My findings suggest that, contrary to common perception, that hip-hop cultural production requires significant investment of social and economic resources similar to other types of artistic careers such as rock music or drama. In many ways, hip-hop is understood as the voice of resistance for the most vulnerable people in the black community. However, my research indicates that only the most capitalized and privileged members of that community have the resources to engage in a cultural production career in hip-hop.

Much of my research stems from my prior occupation as a recording engineer and music producer. Before deciding on an academic career, I had worked with a number of hip-hop artists, ranging from Mya to Ray J., for nearly a decade. This background in music production allows me privileged access and knowledge for studying a social world that is difficult for other researchers to access.

What have been your favorite courses to teach at Miami?

My favorite course so far has been Sociology in a Global Context because it provides students with a number of theoretical accounts for world geopolitical development. Most students' understanding of the world has been through what I would call the "great am of history" narrative, in which the story of society is told through the lens of powerful individuals and decisive military engagements. this course, however, examines global development from pre-civilization to the modern day by examining social forces, environmental resources, and economic factors that contributed to the rise or decline of different societies. Based on the positive feedback form the students it has proven to be popular, engaging course of study. 

Saruna Ghimire

Saruna Ghimire, Ph.D., joined the department in the fall of 2019 as an assistant professor of gerontology and public health.

You were hired to teach in Gerontology and Public Health. Can you say a bit about your responsibilities in these programs, and how the two relate to each other?

I teach Epidemiology in the Public Health program and Global Aging in Gerontology, and I work with students from both fields. In my opinion, they are closely related disciplines because promoting health and well-being is the ultimate goal for both. Promoting the health and wellness of the aging population is the primary focus of Gerontology. Likewise, public health seeks to ensure health in all populations, and given the demographic transition resulting in longer lifespans across the globe, healthy aging will feature prominently in public health for the foreseeable future.

Can you say a bit about your research? What projects are you currently working on, and what do you hope to start here at Miami?

My research focuses on global health and global aging, primarily in Nepal. My colleagues and I just submitted a manuscript detailing a project that examined equity in health care utilization among older adults in Nepal. We are also finalizing a manuscript on the quality of life among Nepali older adults. Other projects include assessing socioeconomic inequalities in cardiometabolic risk factors, such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. Additionally, we just submitted a small grant proposal for a pilot study to evaluate the feasibility of conducting a longitudinal aging study in Nepal; the fieldwork is scheduled for new year. If successful I eventually hope to conduct a full-scale longitudinal aging study in Nepal, similar to the Health and Retirement Survey in the US.

You came from Las Vegas to Oxford. What has surprised you most? What do you miss about living in the desert?

I am most surprised that all my needs can be met within a five-minute drive! I am also impressed with how green and quiet it is in Oxford, not to mention that traffic is never an issue. My colleagues here have been very helpful, right from Day 1, actually event before arrival, which has made my transition very smooth. Although I don't miss the desert heat, which hit triple digits in the summers, I am still adjusting to the very cold winters here! I also miss the friends I made in my four years in Las Vegas. Since the University of Las Vegas (UNLV) is the most diverse university in the US, I was blessed to make friends from many different cultures and backgrounds, with whom I shared food, laughter, love, and happiness, as well as tears, failures, and disappointments. I consider them family, so I still consider Las Vegas my home, other than Nepal, of course! I look forward to making new friends here as well and making Oxford my new home.