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Sociology prof makes a difference before career move to Chicago

May 1st, 2013 Posted in Arts and Life

By Jessica Sonderegger

LOGAN—Her students recognize her as one of their most influential professors; her colleagues recognize her as a valuable asset to their team and research. Her expertise and passion are said to have exemplified the purpose of academia and encouraged an acceptance of diversity throughout the campus and community. And she’s only been teaching for three years.

Amy Pic 1

Professor Amy Bailey

“This is actually my second career,” said Amy Bailey, an assistant professor of sociology at Utah State University. As she confessed her original pursuits, she explained that it was later in that field where she discovered an interest in becoming a professor. “I always knew I wanted to go back to grad school, but I wasn’t really sure what in.” By the time she had made that decision, her area of interest had evolved from public health to social science. In 2008 she earned a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Washington, and not too long after was hired on at USU for her first faculty position.

“She is a passionate teacher who really knows how to communicate difficult material,” said USU PhD student Beth Kiester.

Undergraduate David Berg said he appreciates how she encourages her students to look at all sides of an issue, and how she orchestrates her classes to engage in deep discussion.

“She’s also just a great person,” said colleague Christy Glass, “and I’ll miss her very much.”

As Bailey concludes her sixth semester, she prepares to relocate to Chicago to accept a position at the University of Illinois. “I’m excited about the department, I’m excited about the new job,” Bailey said. But “I’m definitely sad to be leaving Utah State.”

During her time in Logan, Bailey found multiple ways to immerse herself in campus happenings and community organizations. In addition to her professorship, she is a member of the steering committee of Allies on Campus and former vice president and co-founder of the Logan chapter of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.) Coming from Seattle, she found great value in the size and structure of Cache Valley, advocating the great opportunity residents have to make a difference in such a tight knit community. Since 2010, she has observed that many community members feel outnumbered by “the popular vote”—that people feel like they won’t be able to make a difference. “But you can,” she said. “Especially here!”


AMY BAILEY addresses a vigil in support of same-sex marriage equality in March. JESSICA SONDEREGGER photo

Bailey was most recently involved in organizing a vigil for marriage equality outside the Historic Cache County Courthouse. The vigil was held March 25—the evening before the U.S. Supreme Court would consider two court cases that challenge the constitutionality of marriage equality—and Bailey was one of the speakers for the gathering. She spoke of her nephew Chris, and recognized his homosexuality as a key motivator in her push for gay rights. “I am completely in support of marriage equality,” she said, “and so thankful for all of the benefits that I get—on so many levels—from my own marriage. And I certainly don’t think that I’m entitled to anything that other people aren’t entitled to. Particularly, people that I love.” She said at the vigil that she doesn’t feel that she deserves marriage any more than Chris does.

“She’s been extremely instrumental in getting PFLAG up and running,” said adviser Reid Furniss. She’s “super friendly, and extremely intelligent.”

“She has made a number of contributions to the [sociology] department and campus…and her leaving is a real loss for USU,” Glass said, adding that despite the university’s loss, Bailey can expect great things in the future. She’s “a very talented scholar, which means she’s got a very successful career ahead.”

And though she is finding it difficult to say goodbye, Bailey is as enthused and excited about this newfound career than ever—saying that she feels like she has the coolest job in the world. As she prepares to leave the valley, she reflects on the opportunities this community and location have provided, listing Le Nonne, “gas station Indian food” and “being able to pull out of your driveway, and 45 minutes later be on the ski hill” among the things she will miss the most. She also says she will also miss the view of the valley that she sees every day on campus, recognizing that as something she did not have in Seattle, nor will she will have in Chicago.

She is saddened by her departure, but excited about the future. And her closest friends, colleagues and students agree:

“I will miss her tremendously,” Kiester said, “and hope the University of Illinois welcomes her with arms wide open.”

“It is always sad to see a talented woman scholar leave the university,” Glass said.

“As she takes the next step in her career, I think the students she will have will continue to benefit from the passion she has for the subject,” Berg said.


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