Christopher Dennison

photo of Christopher Dennison

  • BA in Sociology (2011); minor in Criminology
  • assistant professor of sociology at the University of Buffalo
  • gave the Sherry Corbett Memorial Lecture and met with sociology students

My Profession

"After I graduated from Miami in 2011, I went into a master's program at the University of Toledo and then Bowling Green State University for my PhD in sociology with a focus on criminology.

"I'm now an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Buffalo, where I've been teaching since the fall of 2017. My primary focus is on criminology inequalities, socio-economic inequalities, and how that leads to involvement in antisocial behavior. I teach courses in that area as well those focusing on the criminal justice system.

"In my research I take the life course approach and examine the role of education and what it does to promote pro-social bonds, like in employment and marriage, and how that reduces one's anti-social behavior or improves their self-esteem."

My Miami Experiences

"At Miami I started taking criminology courses with sociology professors like Glenn Muschert, Steve Lippmann, and Ron Bulanda. These experiences really exposed me to the broad questions that challenge your conventional beliefs. I can remember distinct examples of answering some sociological inquiries, which really sparked my interest in socio-economic inequalities and other kinds of injustices that you see in the world.

"My acquisition of critical thinking skills became more enjoyable as I learned to use data and methodology to answer important questions. One of the things that you learn is that attaining a college degree is not equally accessible across the country. Some people have greater access to higher education than do others, and this affects their overall wellbeing and achievements across the course of their lives.

"I found my career interests here at Miami, and although it's all hindsight I feel Miami propelled me to want to keep going. Having the faculty members to talk with about grad school has been extremely helpful, not only while I was here but ever since I've been away. It has been fantastic to see all my career goals play out.

"There's just something unique about this beautiful campus. As an undergrad I had a great time being a member of the cross-country team and developing a small group of friends. I also had great classes. I remember one was a really great capstone course with Dr. Ron Bulanda that was probably my first exposure to what grad school might be like.  And during one of Dr. Lippmann's classes, he brought in a Big Mac to discuss the 'McDonaldization' process — the idea in which McDonald's has basically crafted their design so that it is replicated identically around the world. Then another classmate began singing the 'two all-beef patties' jingle, and the whole class joined in!"

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"The liberal arts challenges what you thought you knew. We all have these preconceived ideas of what we think is going on, but by and large you generate those ideas largely from your own surroundings. When you go through a liberal arts education, you're exposed to problems and issues in society that you would never have been introduced to otherwise. Learning particular sides of things is crucial to develop a more critical perspective.

"The sociology field in general focuses on patterns of human behavior, which can be applicable to a lot of different issues in our society. One obvious career path is pursuing postgraduate degrees to go into teaching, but you also gain great analytical skills and research methodologies, all of which are applicable in so many different venues of the labor market. It comes down to realizing what you can do with those skill sets.

"The field of sociology is also very interdisciplinary. For example, there's the growing field of economic sociology, which paired with a traditional business degree and key elements of sociology can be a fruitful path for graduates."

Advice to Students

"The biggest advice I would give is to talk with your sociology faculty members, who may have taken different paths before getting into academics. Some of the most invaluable advice I received before going to grad school was to get a sense of the questions you might want to ask yourself as you look at your career goals.

"I'm biased, but because I focus a lot on education, I can see that the sociology degree is always pushing the bar further. Employers are increasingly requiring a bachelor's degree, potentially a master's, in sociology for various positions in the labor market, and with an undergraduate education you'll always have that resource moving forward."

[April 2018]