Back in the Classroom
By Laura Butchy
'92 (left) and
'90 are back at Columbia as
members of the faculty.
What's a sociologist to do? For Mignon Moore '92,
Nicole Marwell '90, Mary Pattillo-McCoy '91 and
Sandra Smith '92, the answer was a Ph.D. from the University
of Chicago, one of the top sociology programs in the country. Now
two of them, Moore and Marwell, have returned to their alma mater
on the other side of the classroom.
According to Moore, who was a John Jay Scholar at the College,
teaching several courses while completing her sociology major
stimulated her interest in research and led her to enroll in
graduate school immediately upon graduation. Moore joined
Columbia's sociology department in January 2000 as the second
alumna - and first African-American alumna - to return to the
College as a faculty member. She now holds a tenure-track position
as an assistant professor of sociology and is the undergraduate
director of African-American Studies.
undergraduate experience at Columbia was so rewarding," Moore says.
"I looked forward to my return as an alumna. I also think it is
important for all of our students to see women and people of color
in professorial roles."
Marwell, a religion major, rejoined Columbia in a joint
position in sociology and Latino studies six months after
"Columbia, by virtue of its location in New York City, gave me
outstanding opportunities to learn from the city and its wide
variety of communities," Marwell says. "It fostered a love of city
life and a certain sense of adventure and openness, all of which
have been critical to my work as a sociologist studying urban
Latino communities and organizations."
After a year spent working at the Museum of Contemporary
Hispanic Art in Brooklyn, she, too, began graduate school in
Chicago. There she was reunited with Patillo-McCoy and met Moore
and Smith, who were already friends from their days at
Marwell and Moore have become closer since returning to teach
in the same department. Smith also has returned to New York, as an
assistant professor of sociology at NYU. Patillo-McCoy serves as
assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at
Northwestern and has published her first book, Black Picket
Fences: Privilege and Peril Among the Black Middle
"Frankly, it's still a little freaky in terms of negotiating
the change in status between being a student and being a
professor," Marwell says of teaching at her alma mater, "but the
students have been great, and I think I'm settling in