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  • Written by Lisa Wade, Ph.D.

What I Wish You Knew: Tenured Professor of Sociology

What I Wish You Knew is a blog series about jobs and careers that explores our thoughts and feelings about the work we do each day. Today, I am extremely pleased to welcome Lisa Wade, a woman whose work and passion I've admired for years.

I am a tenured professor of sociology at Occidental College in Los Angeles. The job involves teaching, mentoring, writing and publishing original research, and helping the college function.

It's hard for me to say that I chose it. I always loved to learn and I thrived in college. As graduation approached, I only knew that I didn't want to stop. Being a college professor, however, seemed overly aspirational, so I decided to get a master's degree in Human Sexuality with the hopes of working in the health-related non-profit sector.

I did that and was hired by The Names Project, the organization that cares for the AIDS Quilt and uses it for HIV prevention education. I also started teaching part-time in community colleges. That experience gave me the idea of becoming a full-time professor, so I went back to school to become a sociologist.

A personal passion

I am lucky to be able to spend a lot of my time learning new things. I enjoy the small classroom environment and building relationships with students. Most of what I work on is related to making the world a better place, so I feel good about what I teach, write, and learn. It's a busy life and professors are drawn in many different directions at once, but it's easy for it to become a personal passion as well as a job.

Work-life balance is a problem for many professionals and certainly for professors. We can always write more, teach better, or do more for our institutions and academic communities. There is never an end in sight and, when occupations become identities, as they often do for professors, it can be hard to even know where work begins and we end.

What I wish you knew

Most people think being a tenured college professor sounds easy. We teach a few classes every semester and enjoy time off during summers and sabbaticals. Most of us, though, contrary to the stereotypes, work incredibly hard year-round. We care very much about our students, pouring our hearts and souls into our teaching commitments and dedicating ourselves to the development of the human capital of semi-strangers.

We are principled and passionate researchers, pursuing important research projects with a rigor and detail that only those in the profession can understand. We do lots of work that isn't in our job description because we believe it's the right thing to do, from sponsoring student clubs on campus to reviewing our peers' work for publication. And we have our fair share of meetings and paperwork and email correspondence, just like everybody. Trust me, we stay busy. The flexibility and autonomy is an undeniable privilege, but we pay for it with our nights, weekends, and "working vacations."

I would love sociologists to have increasingly greater impact on public discourse and public policy. It's our job to know how societies work and how they can work better. We are the discipline with the data-driven answers to our social problems. So, I'm dedicated to making sure people know to turn to sociology when they want answers of a certain kind. And I'm optimistic that the field will have an increasingly high profile in the future.


Dr. Wade’s new book, American Hookup, is out January 10 and available for immediate pre-order. The #1 New Release in College Life at, Kirkus Reviews called American Hookup “An eye-opening, conversation-starting examination of sex on the American college campus.”

Rising above misinformation and moralizing, Lisa Wade offers the definitive account of the new sexual culture on campus.

American Hookup situates hookup culture within the history of sexuality, the evolution of higher education, and the unfinished feminist revolution. With new research, Wade maps out a punishing emotional landscape marked by unequal pleasures, competition for status, and sexual violence. She discovers that privileged students tend to enjoy it the most, and considers its effects on racial and sexual minorities, students who “opt out,” and those who participate ambivalently.

Accessible and open-minded, compassionate and brutally honest, American Hookup explains where we are and how we got here, asking not “How do we go back?” but “Where do we go from here?”

For more information, click here.

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