Feminist pioneers in Sociology have described their experiences in graduate school as a time of intense isolation, as the lone woman scholar who faced intellectual uncertainty and professional exclusion. By the time I entered graduate school in early 1980s, the numbers of women graduate students had increased dramatically one-half of my entering cohort of 20 students were women. Although there were only two women on the faculty when I entered the program, by the time I left in 1991, there were six women among the 24 faculty members, including a number of prominent feminist scholars. Far from feeling isolated, I was an active participant in many feminist study groups, on the editorial board for the Berkeley Journal of Sociology, and in the graduate student union that organized teaching assistants in the 1980s.
Berkeley Sociology's critical mass of feminist (and feminist-friendly) faculty and graduate students helped support my early research interests in gender, work, and ethnography which are, in turn, reflected in my first book Gender Trials: Emotional Lives in Contemporay Law Firms (U of California 1995). After landing a tenure track professor position in a Sociology Department that did not value feminism or ethnography, I moved to my current academic home in the Department of American Studies at the University of Minnesota, an interdisciplinary, intellectually intense, and feminist-friendly space. Most recently, I have become the director of the Center for Advanced Feminist Studies at the University of Minnesota where I am working to develop funding for faculty, graduate student and community partnership research projects on gender, work, and immigration in the Twin Cities.