STS Faculty Profile: Kayla Pritchard

STS Faculty Profile

Kayla Pritchard is Associate Professor of Sociology. You can read more from her in last semester’s post: “‘The Oldest Profession’: Sex Work Through the Lenses of History, Feminism, and Sociology.”

What’s your area of expertise? What do you primarily research and/or teach? And what drew you to this field?

I am a sociologist, which means I focus on the context around individuals to understand why they do what they do. This means examining the historical, cultural, and social context that influences our identities, behaviors, opportunities, interactions, and experiences. Within sociology, my expertise centers around 1) family and 2) sex, gender, and sexuality. Both of these exist at the structural level (macro guiding beliefs, ideologies, and assumptions) and at the individual level through identities, experiences, and behaviors. I find the intersection of the structural and the individual fascinating, and it allows me to study and bring in historical processes to better understand society today.

What’s one of your favorite courses, topics, or specific texts to teach? Why?

I love teaching about issues and experiences related to sex, gender, and sexuality. I find these topics personally fascinating as we tend to think of them as natural and inevitable, which they are in some cases, but they are also largely influenced by culture and history (that sociological lens again). My favorite class is my upper-level on human sexuality, but I bring these topics into every class I teach.

"Boys are Presidents. Girls are First Ladies. Boys fix things. Girls need things fixed."
A cartoon illustrating gender stereotypes.

What’s something you’ve done that you’re really proud of?

When I reflect on my career at this point, I am most proud of the students who have allowed me to help them along their academic path. While I don’t get to mentor sociology majors at the School of Mines, I do get to know students both within and out of the STS major. Sometimes this has included working with students across multiple classes, having excellent conversations, and discussing the value of the sociological perspective to their studies and career goals. Sometimes this has included writing letters of recommendation and watching students get accepted to professional programs. Sometimes this has included encouraging and supporting students to keep working at school and to finish their degree. I can’t imagine a better job than one that I get to come do what I love while also meeting smart, interesting people and encouraging them and helping them do what they love.

What is your favorite book, movie, or other work of art or media? Why?

I don’t watch or read near as much as I’d like, so this question was tough. I’ve settled on discussing my favorite book: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. The book is inherently sociological, because the context around Edmond Dantes creates circumstances for him that he has to wrestle with. Wikipedia describes it as an “adventure novel,” which is such a gross misunderstanding of the text. While there are a few scenes of adventure, there is far too much dialogue to characterize the book as a presentation of a man’s adventures. To me, the book is a study on human feelings –love, hate, despair, hope, regret, anger – where the main character spends years plotting revenge on those that betrayed him only to find that vengeance is not what he imagined. (Perhaps I should have included a spoiler alert, but the book was written in 1844 so you’ve had plenty of time to read it.)

Tell us something about yourself outside of work. What do you enjoy doing? What’s a detail about you that your students might not already know?

Outside of work, I love to go hiking. I love exploring the Black Hills, collecting rocks, and spending time with my family. One thing that students may not know, however, is my Lego hobby. My husband is good at finding batches of Legos for sale. He’ll buy them and then my fun starts. Now, normally people enjoy Legos because they can be creative and build literally anything. I don’t do that, mostly because I am rarely a creative person. Rather, for me, the fun is all in the process: I’ll wash the Legos, sort them into categories (I’ve been accused of drawing arbitrary lines around categories by my family, but they just don’t understand), and then identify sets within the batch. I’ll build the sets then break them down and sell them. On one hand, this looks like a lot of work (which it is), but I love the step-by-step process I have created. I enjoy every part (especially the sorting) and then get to turn a profit at the end. This is actually stress relief for me, a small way of creating order from chaos. So, do you have any Legos for sale? 😊

Lots of Lego blocks of a variety of colors, unorganized.
There were containers of Legos to play with outside the Lego Store in Downtown Disney. Image: Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr.

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