Robert Mayer (1971)

Professor of Family and Consumer Studies, Universitry of Utah

As an undergraduate major in sociology at Columbia, I had feasted at the table of sociological theory, and my diet of graduate courses at Berkeley beginning in 1971 was similarly rich in theory. At the end of my second year, I attempted to balance my diet by enrolling as an intern in a San Francisco-based consumer advocacy organization. This experience inspired me to blend sociology and consumer movement activism, which I managed to do with the help of several supportive professors and my fellow graduate students in the 'Dope Caucus.'

In 1977, I accepted a job in a new department, Family and Consumer Studies, at the University of Utah. I anticipated staying in Salt Lake City for a year while finishing my dissertation and then moving to a 'real' university in a 'real' state. Surprisingly, the person-environment fit was perfect for me and my spouse, and I have now spent 25 years here.

From my sinecure at the University of Utah, I have been allowed to (even rewarded for) bring my sociological research skills to the service of consumer organizations around the world. In particular, I have worked closely with Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports), the National Consumers League (the world's oldest consumer group), and Consumers International (the umbrella organization for the world's consumer organizations). I have presented my research to policy makers at the Federal Trade Commission and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and I like to think I have played a small role in increasing the power of consumers vis-à-vis sellers. I have also enjoyed seeing the field of sociology gravitate toward the serious study of consumption. In my case, science has definitely not spoiled my supper.

Dissertation Title: 
The Social Bases of Enviornmental Opinion