Providing Opportunities: Talking with Dr. Kate Thurman


By Krystal Vera-Tudela -

It was a crisp fall day on October 4th as I sat with Dr. Kate Thurman, a 38-year-old instructor of sociology here at Passaic County Community College. Clad in her signature black attire, which consists of her classic blazer, we walked into her office with bookshelves filled with journals. Growing up in Michigan, Dr. Thurman lived in a small town called Petoskey. When applying to colleges, she decided to attend a local community college. She loved her experience there and appreciated the sense of community around her. After community college, she earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Michigan State University. Before deciding what to major in and what to continue a career path with, Dr. Thurman was first interested in psychology. She then decided that she was not very interested in the cognitive portion of psychology. She wanted to focus on the macro perspective of human behavior. Her sociology of family professor at Michigan State University became her mentor and showed her all of the endless possibilities for a degree in sociology. When she received her bachelor’s, she applied and attended graduate school under a PhD program at Rutgers University. Dr. Thurman earned her master’s degree in sociology, and later returned to earn her PhD in 2016. When attending Rutgers University, Dr. Thurman participated in different types of sociological research.The most notable one being the research of sexual abuse in prisons in New Jersey when she was 26. After taking part in this kind of research, she became fascinated in the study of inequality in societies. Inequality, to her, was the most important perspective to research and understanding sociology. Dr. Thurman briefly taught sociology at Rutgers University, but decided that she did not enjoy the fact that students were not interactive with each other. Dr. Thurman found Passaic County Community College when there was a job position open for a sociology professor. Recalling her fond memories when she attended community college in Michigan, she was excited about finding the open position because of the school’s strong sense of association. She began teaching here in 2018. She believed that PCCC’s smaller population provided more interaction between students and staff. She explained that when students are from the same area, they were able to relate on a societal level. This is what she wanted all of her students to understand.

As a professor, her goal when teaching was for her students to understand their circumstances sociologically. At PCCC, she loved the fact that students here were directly linked to sociology and wanted her students to realize that when taking her class. Enhancing the sociological imagination, which is a point of view that highlights how society affects the human experience, is a main objective when it came to her teachings. When her students learned how to think critically, she was happy to see that they were able to step back and analyze their societal circumstances. She explained that if her students use this in their futures and potential careers, it will set them apart from everyone else and will create a better life. As well as being a sociology instructor here at PCCC, Dr. Thurman is an advisor for the LGBTQ+A club and a co-advisor for the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

Using her experience as a sociologist, she wished to help these clubs find more opportunities and provide more options. When it came to the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, Dr. Thurman has recently agreed to aid members in participating in different kinds of research. She loved that research opportunities are coming to PCCC, as it is great for involvement. She appreciated PCCC’s efforts to help students who want a future and believed that participating in sociology and research is a great way to do so. Outside of teaching, Dr. Thurman likes to read sociology journals about different kinds of research. By doing this, she managed to keep updating her understanding about different topics in society. This helped her to create new ways to teach by bringing these topics to class. She believed that sociology is about helping people. By learning and teaching sociology, her ultimate goal here at PCCC is to help students with the use of her learned resources and research to apply these sociological ideas to the real world.

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