I came to Berkeley Sociology after completing my law degree at the University of Wisconsin. Wisconsin has a rich sociological tradition which permeated law school teaching, but it was still law school. Several times at Wisconsin when I answered a question in class, a couple of professors said with a mildly degrading chuckle "Well, Mr. Rountree, that's a very interesting 'policy' consideration, but how does the 'law' resolve that issue." I realized then that I was more interested in the policies behind the law, and I wanted to be in an environment where I didn't have ignore what I thought was really going on. At Wisconsin, I was lucky enough to find professors who prided themselves for being sociological in their approach to the law, which then led me on the path to Berkeley.
Since graduating from Berkeley I've been working as a trial consultant, assisting trial attorneys in preparing their cases to present to a jury. Much of this work involves pre-trial research such as surveys, designing trial simulations and analyzing results to help uncover attitudes and experiences that may influence how jurors will understand, and reach a verdict, on a particular case. I help attorneys navigate issues like pre-trial bias in high-profile cases, juror comprehension in complex business/patent litigation, as well as assisting them in jury selection. All of the methodological tools of the sociological trade come in handy. It's fascinating work and I love it.
Troy Duster and Arlie Hochschild provided me so much intellectual support and kept up my morale. The Institute for the Study of Social Change provided a great opportunity to engage in applied research, which kept me tuned in. A few other graduate students in the department and in my cohort gave me sanity checks at key moments.
San Francisco helped provide an even thicker blanket of comfort than I ever thought a city could provide. When it came time to think about leaving to go on the job market, I couldn't do it. So I'm not teaching full time as I expected when I started the program, and I'm so much happier because of it.
My advice to incoming students: Try to keep a positive attitude. Stay open everything and everyone for as long as you can. Remember that methodological and theoretical debates are important, but it's all sociology. If you're put on the spot of having to choose a method or a theoretical orientation, navigate that minefield with rigor and humor. Find questions you're interested in and work with people who will give you the time and the tools to help answer those questions. Don't fall into the trap of confusing mean-spiritedness with intellectual rigor. Nor should you confuse kindness with a lack of seriousness or intelligence. And don't sweat the small stuff - it won't matter in the long run.