Joel Best (1967)

Professor of Sociology, University of Delaware

I arrived in Berkeley in 1967. I felt I had little in common with theother graduate students: I had just turned 21, while they seemed much older; I had spent my life in the Midwest, but they all seemed to comefrom one coast or the other; and they dismissed my liberal politics as wrongheaded. I had a fellowship in John Clausen's NIMH training program, which became my home within the department. Changes in the draft law had made my situation precarious; I rushed to complete my course work and my oral exams. In 1969, I resigned my fellowship and started teaching full-time.

The Berkeley department had been admitting dozens of graduate students each year, but graduating only a handful of Ph.D.s. It allowed great freedom--if you loved sociology and had a sense of direction, there were tremendous opportunities. The disadvantage, of course, was that you were on your own; most of us did not get much mentoring.

I have followed a fairly standard academic career. While at Berkeley, I became interested in deviance, and most of my research has centered around deviance and social problems. Currently, I am working on what I expect will be my 14th book. In working with my graduate students, I try to give them the sort of freedom I was granted, yet provide considerably more coaching than I received.

Dissertation Title: 
Moral Change: A Study of the Invention and Vindication of Deviance