I had a great time as an undergraduate in English at San Francisco State taking courses in comparative literature, poetry, language arts, modern drama, and psychological and social approaches to literature. Some of my English professors assigned sociological texts by C. Wright Mills, David Riesman and others. To my surprise, my major advisor recommended that I go across the Bay and study sociology at Berkeley as a graduate student.
I went to Berkeley and had some great classes, seminars and small reading discussion groups with Reinhard Bendix, Leo Lowenthal, David Matza, Erving Goffman, Aaron Cicourel, Robert Blauner, Philip Selznick and Neil Smelser. Selznick as the departmental chair admitted me to the graduate program and Smelser eventually served as my dissertation supervisor. I was at Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement in the fall of 1964 and in 1965 and later years during the protests against the Vietnam War.
My first jobs were temporary ones (in Political Studies at Queenâ€™s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and in Sociology at Colorado College in Colorado Springs). After my new spouse could not get a job in Berkeley and thus support the continuation of my graduate study there, I was able to obtain an appointment as an Assistant Professor at California State University, Long Beach. Just after I received tenure, I managed to get a five-year leave of absence to work in epidemiology programs at the National Institutes of Health. During that time I was the Principal Investigator for a study of 1,367 employed men and women in Detroit. It was at NIH that I learned how to do quantitative data analysis. After I returned to Long Beach, I was promoted to Full Professor.
My experiences in and out of classes at Berkeley gave me a lot of self-confidence to move into other areas. Besides social epidemiology, I have gotten involved in critical and post-colonial theory, popular culture, and human rights. Although I found my political voice during the Vietnam War, it got stronger after I met Judith Blau at a Southern Sociological Society meeting and I joined Sociologists without Borders.