I am Associate Professor of Sociology in the Sociology Program, Department of Criminology and Sociology, in the School of Economic, Political, and Policy Sciences (EPPS) at The University of Texas at Dallas. I received my Ph.D. from Columbia University in Religious Studies in 1985; I was awarded a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology by Union Theological Seminary in New York in the same year.
I have published two book monographs on religion and social change; both books were published by the American Academy of Religion and are in the catalogue of Oxford University Press. The first book received grant support from Southern Methodist University. The second book was supported by a grant from the American Academy of Religion (Southwest Commission on Religious Studies) as well as Southern Methodist University. I was one of two primary authors and one of two co-editors of a third book, which was published by The Edwin Mellen Press. The last book was based on a U.S. Department of Education FIPSE grant. I was the PI for the grant project. The book grew out of a refereed, co-authored paper presented at a symposium on college educational opportunities for Hispanic students organized by The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University with support from the Pew Hispanic Center.
My single-author articles have appeared in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, Journal of Ritual Studies, Semeia: Journal for Biblical Interpretation, and Listening: Journal of Religion and Culture. A co-authored article, for which I was the lead author, appeared in the Journal for Hispanic Higher Education. I have published book chapters—all as the single author—in edited books by Sage Publications, Inc., Greenwood Press, Parthian Books, and Brill. I have published entries in two editions of The Encyclopedia of Religion, and entries in Encyclopedia of Protestantism and Encyclopaedia Britannica.
I am currently working on a book monograph and related journal articles using critical ethnography in a study of Mexican immigrant church women’s reconstruction of their gendered identities and social relationships, particularly their interactions with authorities in their church organizations, families, employment, and community organizations in ways that are institutionally self-empowering as well as empowering of like women. These include leadership of these institutions and/or greater engagement of them, along with assimilation into U.S. society through leading and engaging these and other institutions. I show how these women’s constructions are putting in place a different model of women’s equality and rights. Their model draws from the essence of concepts of women’s rights found in classical feminist theory and yet challenges the exclusion of women from traditional religions and cultures, who include many women of color. These church women are enlarging concepts of women’s power and rights inside traditional gender roles. My research has been funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and CrossCurrents: The Association for Religion in Intellectual Life.
I also am working on co-authored articles on residential settlement of Hispanic Americans and Hispanic immigrants in Dallas. In addition I am working on an article on how performance of credibility affects being awarded political asylum. The research on asylum is based upon a project between EPPS faculty and the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas. The research has received grant support from the Overbrook Foundation. Another article in progress, co-authored with a Ph.D. candidate in Public Affairs at UTD, reports technical and pedagogical challenges and solutions put in place to address the challenges in teaching and learning NVivo Qualitative Data Analysis software in the Qualitative Research Methods course I teach at UTD.
I teach courses on religion in U.S. society, religions in global societies, religion in international development, immigrants and immigration in U.S. society, immigration policy, field research methods, and qualitative research methods (a graduate course for all EPPS students). I am developing a new course on religion and public policy. I am a two-time recipient of the Student Choice Teaching Award presented by students in the formerly named School of Social Sciences at UTD, and have received the Outstanding EPPS Faculty Comet Teaching Award in Sociology (2015) and a Distinguished Teacher in Diversity and Multicultural Education Award (2014), which is presented by UTD’s Office of Diversity and Community Engagement.
I currently serve on the UTD University Institutional Review Board (IRB) and the new UTD Interfaith Advisory Council. I have served on many other university-wide committees: Committee on Education Policy (CEP), which I served as Chair; the Committee on Core Curriculum (CCC); Committee on Student Scholarships, of which I was Vice Chair; and the Advisory Committee of the Office of International Education. I have been a member of the Sociology Program Committee in EPPS and the School’s Committee on Teaching Effectiveness. As former Assistant Dean and College Master in the School of Social Sciences, I served on the UTD Council of Masters, an administrative body. I have served as Faculty Advisor in UTD’s Office of Undergraduate Education under the Dean of Undergraduate Education. I have been long-time Faculty Advisor to the UTD Baha’i Club, and was Faculty Advisor to the UTD Intercultural Women’s Society. I am currently Advisor to the UTD Sociology Club and co-advisor to the UTD Chapter of Oxfam International.
I am a member of Friends of Yale Institute of Sacred Music (Yale ISM) at Yale University, an advisory body appointed by the Director of the Institute. I am a member of the American Academy of Religion and a past member of the AAR’s Ritual Studies Steering Committee.