Helene Lawson

Helene Lawson with Cow
Dr. Helene Lawson
Director of Sociology Program and Professor of Sociology
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Ph. D. Sociology Loyola University of Chicago 1991
M. A. Gerontology Roosevelt University 1981
M. A. Early Childhood Education Roosevelt University 1967
B. A. Education Roosevelt University 1959

        Dr. Helene Lawson came to Pitt-Bradford in 1991 because she appreciated the "rural beauty-there are no hills and few trees in Chicago." She also liked the fact that the college is affiliated with the larger University of Pittsburgh, which gives her and her students access to the university's many resources.
       Dr. Lawson teaches Introduction to Sociology; Gender, Race, & Ethnicity; Images of Men and Women in Media; Sociology of Work and Society; Global Society; and Inequality.

In the photo to the left and below, Dr. Lawson makes new friends on the family farm owned by Jennifer Sanders, a sociology major from Edinboro, while Sanders conducted sociological research into the culture of farming families.

Why or how did you come to teach at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford? 

I am originally from Chicago, IL and I was applying for jobs nationwide.  When I arrived for an interview, I fell in love with the abundance of nature and how beautiful it is.  There are few wild areas left in Chicago. 

What do you think the purpose or benefit of a higher education is? 

To expand one’s world, to encourage curiosity and creativity, to help people make rational choices in life, to question and to seek answers, and if possible, to find a career that makes one happy. 

In your opinion, what are the benefits of working on a small campus? 

We are like a family.  We get to interact rather closely with professors from other disciplines and fields of knowledge.  This is broadening in so many ways. 

What are the benefits, in your opinion, for students studying in a small campus setting rather than on a large/urban campus setting? 

Students get personal one-on-one attention.  They are not just a number or name.  They are guided and mentored by professors as if they were in graduate school. 

How would you describe your approach to teaching? 

I am down to earth and interactive. I learn much from my students. I believe motivation is the key to doing well in higher education, so I put a great deal of energy into taking students where they are and getting them excited about learning new things and moving forward. 

Within your field of teaching and research; what specific directions do you tend to channel your energy and why? 

I wish to continue to research why groups of people in society behave the way they do.  Specific areas I have worked in and continue to research are various fields of work – from cosmetology, to car sales, to law.  I also study gendered behavior in the arts, such as music and dance as well as how people interact with animals.
My energy goes into interviewing; observing and writing (research); and helping students do the same according to their interests.  I then focus on taking students to conferences and presenting their research as well as getting both my own and the students’ work published in juried journals.

How would you say your field of teaching is incorporated into your life outside of the university and vice-versa? 

Helene Lawson with PigMy work is my life.  I am interested in everything people do and why they do it.  I am always “doing research.” 

What is the most rewarding aspect of teaching at Pitt-Bradford? 

Working closely with the students and seeing them succeed.  Seeing them get published, reach their goals and/or go on to graduate school. 

Are you currently working on any research, publication, or project?  What does it consist of? 

I am working on an article “The Verve of Dance,” I am researching societal attitudes toward “feral cats,” and I am considering a book with a colleague in psychology on the arts, combining dance and music. 

What are you a "natural" at doing? 

Teaching.  I have been doing it all my life.  I taught pre-school, kdg., elementary school, middle school and now, university. 

What kind of music do you most enjoy?  Why? 

Jazz.  It makes me happy.  The old traditional stuff mostly. 

What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book? 

All the Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes stuff, over and over.  I love good mysteries.  I also love graphic novels.  I love the artwork and the funky characters. 

What did you want to be when you grew up? 

A college teacher or a professional artist.  I used to paint a lot.  I don’t anymore.  ): 

What’s one thing you want to do before you die? 

More of what I am doing right now.  I guess I am lucky that I love what I do. 

As a former undergraduate student, was there a certain professor that stands out in mind as a favorite, someone who you really respected, or someone who really inspired you?  Why? 

Two of the professors on my dissertation committee.  One because she was a true mentor, always ready to help.  She introduced me to qualitative research and taught me how to interview and how to write.  The other because although she was internationally famous and widely published, she always treated students as equals and we knew she was sincerely interested in our welfare and advancement.


Lawson dance