Dr. Mike Stout, assistant professor of sociology, passionately believes that sociologists can make valuable contributions to the public’s understanding of pressing issues and social problems by being engaged in their community. Stout arrived at MSU just as the program had decided to promote its new emphasis in “public sociology.”
“I was very excited to have the opportunity to help shape the direction of the program as it began moving in a new direction,” said Stout.
This new direction focuses on community issues and engagement and has more closely aligned the program to Missouri State’s public affairs mission. The program gives students a unique opportunity to do research and develop their civic skills.
“We are one of only a handful of sociology programs with an emphasis on public sociology, and our students get to experience working with organizations and civic leaders out in the community in order to get a better understanding of issues, and to develop the civic skills necessary to tackle those issues,” said Stout.
In addition to his teaching duties, Stout spends a good amount of time volunteering in the community through service on committees like the City of Springfield’s Strategic Planning Coordinating Committee, the Springfield Healthy Living Alliance and the Springfield Civility Project Committee.
Stout also works as the coordinator of the Ozarks Regional Social Capital Study, which is an ongoing project examining levels of social capital and civic engagement in southwest Missouri.
“The data that has been obtained through this study has been used by community leaders and policymakers in Springfield to address issues related to inequality in civic participation, and to develop programs that provide opportunities for citizens from underrepresented groups to have a voice in the decision-making process,” he said.
The ability to straddle the line between professional sociology and public sociology is unique for Stout, who manages to be engaged in the community and contribute to the sociological literature through his research.
Stout continues his work as the coordinator of the Ozarks Regional Social Capital Study investigating the link between civic engagement and community and economic development.