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Culture, Society & Justice

Physical Address:
101 Phinney Hall

Mailing Address:
Culture, Society & Justice Department
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 1110
Moscow, ID 83844-1110


May 2018 Newsletter

Message from the Chair

Since becoming chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, I have been sharing with people the story of my parents, who met in a “sociology of marriage and family” class they took to fulfill a general education requirement at the University of Idaho in the fall of 1969. Neither of them was a sociology major, but I think it serves as a useful anecdote to demonstrate how our biographies are intertwined with seemingly unconnected “random” social events. In other words, life encounters that seem serendipitous are actually more meaningful when observed through the lens of the sociological imagination. Our department and the work our faculty do clearly have an impact on people in ways beyond those observed in typical metrics utilized to gauge departmental effectiveness (which are also strong in our department).

I was pleased to become the chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology this past academic year. To my knowledge, my turn as chair represents the first time in at least three decades that a sociologist was chair of this department. So, this is undoubtedly a relief to our anthropologists who have shouldered the administrative burdens of this department for so long. While this change in leadership marks a transition for our programs, I intend to build on the successes and dynamism that has characterized this department so far.

This past academic year has been a busy one for our department with a lot of important changes. Overall, our department did see a notable uptick in enrollment as we now have over 250 undergraduate majors and approximately 20 graduate students. Beginning this year, we welcomed two new faculty, Omi Hodwitz and Matthew Grindal, to shore up our sociology degree and criminology emphasis area. With the addition of these faculty, we rolled out our fully online degree program in sociology-criminology. Access to the high-quality education our sociology faculty provide is now available to anyone anywhere in the world. In fact, our online classes this year and being taught by faculty based in Austria and France, as well as Moscow, Idaho. I am also thrilled to welcome our new administrative assistant, Christi Stone, who besides being instrumental in putting this newsletter together, has done so much to facilitate the day-to-day operations of our department.

The Bowers Anthropology Lab continues to fulfill its important mission as a repository of cultural artifacts from this beautiful state. In August, Lee Sappington assumed the role of director of the lab and has done an excellent job in shepherding the evolving mission of the lab. In February, Lee secured a $150,000 grant from the Idaho Department of Transportation to permanently curate and house the Sandpoint collection.

Our faculty continue to innovate in the classroom and experiment with new and updated programs and curricula. Several of our faculty are involved in interdisciplinary initiatives related to Africana Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, American Indian Studies, and a new graduate degree in Data Science. At the same time, we continue to offer high quality instruction in our core sociology and anthropology majors.

We have ongoing changes to our faculty. Rodney Frey retired this past winter after twenty years with the university. His distinguished career was capped with the publication of a book, Carry Forth the Stories. We are pleased that Rodney will continue to teach, on occasion, in support of our anthropology program. While no one can replace Rodney, we are looking to the future in adding additional talent to our bench in anthropology. In the past month, the department has initiated a search for both a cultural anthropologist and an archaeologist. We anticipate having a couple of new people in place during the next academic year.

The quality of our programs and faculty efforts is reflected in the high achievements of our graduates. This spring we are graduating 22 sociology-criminology majors, nine anthropology majors, four general sociology majors, two sociology/inequality majors and two master’s students. In addition, 12 students are earning the diversity certificate. Please join me in congratulating these students on their achievements.

I would like to conclude by acknowledging our alumni and mentioning the important work that you all have gone on to do after you have graduated. The reach and dynamism of our department is reflected in the kind of work our graduates have gone on to, which ranges from museum curation, to business consulting, to work with at-risk youth. I would urge you to continue to stay in touch and consider supporting our programs with a donation. Donations you give to our program stays with us and has assisted students and facilitated our program’s reach.

-Brian Wolf, Chair

Brian Wolf
Brian Wolf

New Faculty: Assistant Professor Matthew Grindal

By Kelsey Stevenson, Sociology-Criminology undergraduate

Assistant Professor Matthew Grindal is one of our newer faculty members at the University of Idaho Department of Sociology and Anthropology, joining U of I in August. Dr. Grindal graduated with a bachelor's and master’s degree in sociology from California State University and a Ph.D. in sociology from University of California, Riverside. Dr. Grindal specializes in social psychology, race and crime, juvenile delinquency, sociological theory and ethnic identity development.

Grindal generally teaches classes on research methods, statistics, race and crime, social psychology, juvenile delinquency, data analysis, and inequalities in the justice system. Although students frequently complain about having to take a statistics class, Grindal says that’s one of his favorite subjects to teach. He enjoys the challenge of making a generally disliked subject more fun and engaging for students, especially since statistics is such an important skill in sociology as students’ progress in their academic and professional careers.

Grindal has enjoyed U of I because of its more traditional college campus atmosphere. He has enjoyed how engaged and involved students are, and how many different types of events are offered, including sporting events and cultural events. He is also excited to get working on some research projects and start involving students in his research. He is looking forward to the opportunity to involve undergraduate students to help aid them in their professional development.

As for his current projects, Grindal is currently working with two large sets of survey data and examining the gender, ethnic and immigrant status information through the lens of different criminological theories, including social learning theory, social bond theory, self-control theory and general strain theory. He is also examining the interaction of substance use in these data sets.

In his spare time, Grindal is a big cinema buff, and enjoys watching old films. He also enjoys hiking and reading, and is especially fond of Star Wars.

If Grindal could impart some wisdom on current undergraduate students, he wants students to know that Ph.D. programs are more attainable than students may think. Financial burdens may sometimes stop students from applying for these programs, but Grindal wants students to know that most programs are self-funding and the student doesn’t actually have to pay tuition. He wants to note that this is not the case with master’s programs, just Ph.D. programs.

Grindal also wants to encourage students to work with their professors. There are many opportunities for students to get involved, including publishing with them and attending a conference, and it’s helpful if even one faculty member knows you well enough to write a really strong letter of recommendation. Grindal has office hours on Mondays and Fridays from 12:30-3 p.m. in Phinney 319, so stop by and say hi!

See Matthew Grindal's faculty profile.

New Faculty: Assistant Professor Omi Hodwitz

By Kelsey Stevenson, Sociology undergraduate 

Omi Hodwitz is one of our new faculty members in sociology. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, and more recently from University of Maryland, professor Hodwitz has been at the University of Idaho since August. Professor Hodwitz earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in criminology from Simon Fraser University, and a Ph.D. in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Maryland.

Professor Hodwitz specializes in terrorism, research methods and criminological theory. Although many students may groan about theory, Professor Hodwitz enjoys teaching it because she says students don’t realize how much fun it can really be and how they can use it in their lives. She enjoys the challenge of teaching a subject that students may otherwise not enjoy and showing them how fun theory can be. She generally teaches classes on terrorism, research methods, theory, mental health and crime and psychopathy.

Professor Hodwitz is excited to be teaching at the University of Idaho because of the unique level of collaboration between students and faculty members. The U of I Sociology Department allows for undergraduate students to be involved in research projects with professors, which isn’t as common at other universities, and professor Hodwitz believes undergraduates should be involved in research as well, so she is looking forward to working with students on research. Looking forward at her future with U of I, Professor Hodwitz is excited to implement an inside-out program that allows prisoners and students to have classes together, and helps prisoners obtain an education.

Professor Hodwitz is currently working on a project involving terrorism and recidivism rates, and how people have been adjudicated since Sept. 11, 2001. She primarily conducts quantitative research and really focuses on clean data collection. In her spare time, she is an avid rock climber, and says she enjoys it because of the physics behind making elaborate climbing systems that allow her to ascend and descend in different ways. She also works on social justice issues, and has worked with Green Peace for several years as well as advocating for the rights of indigenous people.

If she could give one piece of advice to undergraduate students, she would want students to know how important it is to be building relationships with professors and faculty members. She says that even if you’re a shyer student, getting involved with a faculty member can open so many doors, so don’t be afraid to engage with professors and express some interest in their research. Professor Hodwitz has office hours on Tuesdays from 2-4 p.m. and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon in Phinney Hall 313, so stop by and introduce yourself!

See Omni Hodwitz's faculty profile.

Omi Hodwitz
Omi Hodwitz

Syringa Speaks – Promoting Public Sociology at U of I

By Leontina (LT) Hormel

Since December 2013, Syringa Mobile Home Park has gained local and national notoriety as a community suffering from poor water quality at the hands of a negligent owner. Adding salt to the wounds, in November 2017 residents (about 98 individuals) received official notice that their park is closing and they must vacate by June 5, 2018.

I have entered into the scene as a public sociologist, a social scientist advocating for residents who represent a vulnerable segment of the population. In this situation, many professionals – lawyers, Latah County commissioners, Idaho Dept. of Environmental Quality consultants – are limited to the roles they must perform within the institutions they serve. Public sociologists can move outside of these roles, enabling them to detect gaps in communications, to unearth people’s perceptions of the problem, and to help translate these experiences to the public. As I worked with students (see credits below for a list of all who have participated so far), we found that perceptions of residents’ social class shapes how people respond to this case. On the one hand, people feel sorry for the residents as they struggle to have safe drinking water. On the other hand, another sentiment seemed to exist beneath the surface; people are inclined to believe that the park residents somehow must have done something wrong to be in such a bad place. In other words, being a Syringa resident marks a person as having problems. This became clear interviewing current and past Syringa MHP residents, as well as during public meetings with local professionals.

Enter the Syringa Speaks event. I teamed up with Syringa residents Dawn Tachell, James Ware and Bob Bonsall and student research assistants Cynthia Ballesteros and Denessy Rodriguez (majors in Sociology – Inequalities & Globalization) to organize an event at the 1912 Center so residents could have direct contact and communication with the public. Though locals are aware of their struggles, Syringa residents’ experiences have been mediated through court records and media coverage. Residents have felt misunderstood and stigmatized in the process. With the help of JAMM major, Isabel Robles, the research team put together a short documentary about Syringa, then residents shared their stories. We estimate that 80 people attended, including U of I President Chuck Staben and Provost John Wiencek.

Since the event, I have been working with U of I colleagues Lysa Salsbury (Director, U of I Women’s Center) and Anne Zabala (Annual Giving Coordinator, U of I Office of Development) to develop one last fundraising effort to financially soften the blows of moving out of Syringa MHP. Long term efforts to develop affordable housing communities in Latah County are also in the works, though this requires patience and will not help Syringa residents directly. Overall, the case of Syringa Mobile Home Park is providing a lesson to me, students and community members about the value of “going public” with sociology in helping positively transform society.

See Leontina Hormel's faculty profile.

Leotina Hormel
Leontina Hormel
LT Hormel facilitating panel
Leontina Hormel (right) facilitating the Syringa Speaks event.

U of I at the 71st Annual Northwest Anthropology Conference

By Mark Warner 

Once again, the University of Idaho was well represented at the Northwest Anthropology Conference. Fifteen students attended the conference with 14 students presenting research papers or posters. Of the conference presenters, six were undergraduate students. Over the past 17 years of this conference, Idaho has had approximately 225 student present their work (with 84 of the presentations being by undergraduates!). In other news from the conference, U of I Alum Mary Anne Davis was recognized for her many years of service as Deputy State Archaeologist for Idaho. Anthropology faculty member Lee Sappington serves as president of the organization and Laura Putsche serves as treasurer.

Mark Warner
Mark Warner

Retirement Message

By Rodney Frey

With an upcoming retirement comes a moment for self-reflection. It is with a great gratitude that I give thanks to all my students—former and current—to my colleagues—faculty, staff and administration past and present—and to those in the native communities I’ve sought to serve, for the opportunity to have shared our lives, and to have learned and grown together over these many past years. The great experiences shared, the “ah ha” moments, the joys and a few sorrows, have made for an enriching journey, one that could never have been anticipated. There have been so many great stories shared. And as a certain elder, with such great wisdom, once told me, “if all these great stories were told, great stories will come!” So carry forth the stories! And thank you from all my heart.

Rodney Frey
Rodney Frey

Announcing a New Academic Program in Africana Studies 

By Kristin Haltinner 

In the fall of 2017 the department, in partnership with CLASS and related disciplines, launched a new academic minor in Africana Studies. This program, which partners well with our American Indian Studies minor, is the first of its kind in the state of Idaho and one of few such degree options in the intermountain west. The interdisciplinary minor empowers students to better understand the historical, political and social contexts behind contemporary global politics and racial relations. The Africana Studies program features a number of faculty from our department including Professor Kristin Haltinner, Professor Leontina Hormel, Professor Laura Putsche and Professor Mark Warner. If you have any questions or comments about the program, please contact its director, Kristin Haltinner (

Kristin Haltinner
Kristin Haltinner

Department Rolls out New Online Sociology-Criminology Bachelor’s Degree

By Joseph DeAngelis 

Beginning in the fall 2017, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology began offering a fully online bachelor’s degree in sociology with an emphasis in criminology (“soc-crim”). While the University of Idaho has offered a B.A./B.S. degree in soc-crim to residential students for almost ten years, the department decided to offer an online criminology degree so place-bound students who are unable to travel to Moscow can receive a high-quality undergraduate education in sociology and criminology. The new online program was specifically designed to fit the needs of three educational groups:

  1. Adult learners and criminal justice professionals looking to advance their careers by earning a bachelor’s degree;
  2. Students with an A.A. in criminal justice who would like to finish a bachelor’s degree; and,
  3. Place-bound students in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest with affective ties to the University of Idaho but whose life circumstances prevent them from attending school in Moscow.

As part of the new program, online students are now able to take all of the same criminology classes as traditional residential students, and the program has been designed so students can graduate in four years or less (or two years if they already have a associates degree). And unlike other universities that offer online programs, the U of I’s online criminology classes are taught by same regular faculty members who teach the traditional, in-person classes. In order to expand the online course offerings, the department hired two new outstanding criminologists in 2017, Professor Omi Hodwitz (University of Maryland), and Professor Matt Grindal (University of California at Riverside). Both have had extensive experience teaching innovative online courses. And they each have brought impressive teaching and research expertise that has enriched both the seated and online soc-crim programs. Hodwitz, for example, has used her expertise on the causes of crime to begin offering online classes on psychopathy, terrorism and criminological theory. Grindal, who is an expert in racial-ethnic identity formation, has begun offering online classes in race & crime, juvenile delinquency and research methods. The new online program also features an exciting slate of additional courses, including justice policy issues, police & social control, violence & society, deviance, crime & the media and gender & crime.

If you know of someone who is interested in criminology and would like to complete their bachelor’s degree at a distance, please see more information on the sociology-criminology program. Prospective students can also contact the coordinator for the online criminology program, professor Joseph De Angelis, at 208-885-6705 or

Joseph De Angelis
Joseph De Angelis

Heritage Heroes: Carolynne Merrill

by Cynthia E Hernandez

The Washington Office was pleased to announce the six winners of BLM's Heritage Heroes Award in an earlier BLM Daily. Individuals and groups comprised of BLM employees, BLM volunteers, or project partners were nominated for their significant support to or within the cultural heritage, history, paleontological resources, tribal consultation or museum collections program.

We are excited to name Carolynne Merrill as a "Heritage Hero!"

For the past 15 years, Carolynne has been volunteering with BLM Idaho's archaeology program and throughout the western states. She has dedicated her time and knowledge to enhancing rock art recording and educating others.

Carolynne has a master's degree in anthropology, which she earned after her career as a high school teacher, and is a professionally-trained photographer. She has photographed thousands of Native American petroglyphs and pictographs on public land across southern Idaho. She has a team of dedicated volunteers that she leads in mapping, sketching and photographing rock art on these archaeological sites.

In 2000, Carolynne took the lead in developing a new technique for recording prehistoric rock art. Using digital photography and Photoshop, she enhances selected pigments in the rock art. The software is used to reveal elements that are too light for the naked eye to see. The result is a clearer picture of amazing rock art images that help tell a story of the past.

Carolynne and her team of volunteers have donated hundreds of hours of volunteer labor. Lisa Cresswell, Twin Falls District Planning and Environmental Coordinator, writes, "Carolynne has been such an inspiration over the many years she's volunteered for BLM. Her love of rock art and her historic preservation ethic, as well as her pioneering spirit always shines through. Our gratitude hardly seems enough, but I hope she knows how highly esteemed she is. Thank you, Carolynne!"

Join us all in thanking Carolynne as a "Heritage Heroes!"

Carolynne, in blue, photographing rock art at Indian Writing Water Hole, while a volunteer holds a sunshade over the glyph.

Carry Forth the Stories: An Ethnographer’s Journey into Native Oral Tradition

By Rodney Frey, Foreword by Leonard Bends, Published by Washington State University, 2017

In this “ethnographic memoir,” Professor Rodney Frey offers his personal and professional insights into the power and value of indigenous storytelling, and describes what he has learned over forty years of working successfully with Native peoples.

He frames his story as “the quest of an ethnographer to learn from his hosts and engage in collaborative, applied, ethical -- based research, writing, and classroom pedagogy.” He addresses issues of permissions and cultural property rights, tribal review, collaboration, applications of research, and “giving back” to the host community. He considers Indigenous learning styles and perspectives, and their research, writing and teaching. His own experiences with collaborative research projects offer a model for others seeking to work with tribal communities.

Intertwined throughout are stories: gathered from interviews, oral histories, and conveyed by elders, as well as Frey’s personal story about his experience with cancer drawing from both Native and Western healing traditions.

Frey relates: "During the mid – 1970s, I had the privilege of working with such elders as Tom and Susie Yellowtail and Allen Old Horn of the Crow of Montana, and they shared with me four quintessential stories that has laid the foundations for my interwoven professional and personal lives, culminating with his own journey with cancer. Among the central topics I explore in this ‘ethnographic memoir’ are the power and importance of story and storytelling, and of empathy, the glue that makes it all work, also considered are the insights and value of ‘heart knowing,’ of experiencing the world through the eyes of the Indigenous, and finally considered is how we can successively address the seemingly ‘mutually exclusive’ in our interpersonal lives, of overcoming the ‘my way or the highway’ mentality. There are lessons from the indigenous for us all."

Frey taught anthropology in the department since 1998. He retired at the end of the fall 2017 semester.

Book cover: Cary Forth the Stories: An ethnographer's journey into native oral tradition, by Rodney Frey
Rodney Frey's new book.

Student Achievement 

Center for Digital Inquiry and Learning (CDIL) is a collaboration between the Library and the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) to help foster digital scholarship on campus. This summer, with support from the College of Graduate Studies (COGS) and the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR), we are hosting graduate and undergraduate fellows who will help develop existing CDIL research projects, as well as envision and create new ones.

This year's CDIL Undergraduate Summer Fellowship was awarded to Denessy Rodriguez, a student majoring in sociology. Inspired by work on the Syringa Mobile Home Park project with Leontina Hormel, Denessy hopes to develop a geospatial visualization of regional trailer parks highlighting some of the common issues residents face. Learning ArcGIS and other online geospatial platforms will complement her experience in social science research and digital storytelling, providing new methods of scholarship and communication. We were impressed by Denessy's enthusiasm and curiosity to learn new digital tools--we are truly excited to work with her this summer!

Achievements and Awards 



Haltinner, Kristin and Leontina Hormel (editors). 2018. Teaching Economic Inequality and Capitalism in Contemporary America. New York: Springer. 

With chapters by department faculty:

Irreversible Punishment: Teaching about Inequalities in Capital Punishment by Kristin Levan        

Making Room for Postcolonial Issues in the Introductory STS Classroom by Dilshani Sarathchandra

Financial Stumbles, Consumer Bankruptcy, and the Sociological Imagination by Deborah Thorne  


Sarathchandra, Dilshani; Haltinner, Kristin; Lichtenberg, Nicole; and Tracy, Hailee. 2018. “’It’s Broader than Just My Work Here’: Gender Variations in Accounts of Success Among U.S. Academic Scientists and Engineers.” Social Sciences. 7(3) doi: 10.3390/socsci7030032  

Haltinner, Kristin and Sarathchandra, Dilshani. 2017. “Tea Party Health Narratives and Belief Polarization: The Journey to Killing Grandma” AIMS Public Health. 4(6): 526-548.

Haltinner, Kristin. 2017. “Trump’s Tea Party.” International Affairs Forum. 8(2).

Dilshani Sarathchandra. 2018. “Risky Science? Perception & Negotiation of Risk in University Bioscience.” Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society. doi: 10.1177/0270467617751826

Dilshani Sarathchandra, Mark C. Navin, Mark A. Largent, and Aaron M. McCright. 2018. “A Survey Instrument for Measuring Vaccine Acceptance” Preventive Medicine 109 (2018): 1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2018.01.006

Dilshani Sarathchandra, Kristin Haltinner, Nicole Lichtenberg, and Hailee Tracy. 2018. “It’s Broader than Just My Work Here: Gender Variations in Accounts of Success among Engineers in U.S. Academia.” Social Sciences 7(3): 32. doi:10.3390/socsci7030032 (Special Issue: “Women in Male-Dominated Domains”)

Sage Research Methods

Haltinner, Kristin. 2018. “Patrolling the U.S.-Mexico Border with the Minuteman Militia.” Sage Research Methods.

Dilshani Sarathchandra. 2018. “Using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk for Experimental Research in Sociology.” SAGE Research Methods Cases. doi: 10.4135/9781526439567

Grants and Fellowships

Key Grant, University of Idaho. $1,285. Awarded December 2017. (Studying Traumatic Birth Experiences with undergraduate student Leanna Keleher)

SEED Grant, University of Idaho. $10,998. Awarded April 2017. (Studying Climate Change Skepticism)


Dilshani Sarathchandra, Hoffman Award for Teaching Excellence 2017/18

Culture, Society & Justice

Physical Address:
101 Phinney Hall

Mailing Address:
Culture, Society & Justice Department
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 1110
Moscow, ID 83844-1110