Meet the Professor: Dr. Stephanie Wilson, Sociologist, Educator, and Co-founder of Applied Worldwide

Dr. Stephanie Wilson
  1.  If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

 Stephanie: Sociologist, Creator, Researcher

2. As a co-founder of Applied Worldwide, could you briefly explain the organization’s mission?

Stephanie: Our mission is to build a bridge between the discipline of sociology and everyday life to improve the well-being of society. As a sociologist, I see endless ways that sociological knowledge could benefit society, but our discipline is very disconnected from every life, at least here in the US. Applied Worldwide exists to bridge that gap and encourage communities around the world to develop more informed understandings of social problems and solutions to those problems.. 

3. How do you explain sociology to someone who’s never heard of it before?

Stephanie: I typically explain sociology as, simply, the scientific study of society—from the level of social interactions between individuals, to the level of practices and processes of social institutions such as medicine, education, and government.

4. Can someone learn sociology without taking formal courses? What resources or approaches would you recommend for someone interested in self-learning sociology?

Stephanie: Absolutely! There are so many videos online discussing sociology and so many wonderful written resources as well. I, of course, would recommend our website,, as well as our social media pages. We have a presence on Instagram, Twitter/X, Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube, and more! I would also recommend Crash Course Sociology on YouTube. Their videos provide a wonderful overview of sociology concepts, theories, methods, and more!

5. What innovative teaching methods have you developed, and how do they help students understand complex sociological concepts?

Stephanie: I think one of our most innovative teaching methods is our public sociology assignment, which often takes the form of “theory blogs” when I use it in my social theory courses. This assignment helps students understand complex sociological concepts by challenging them to apply a specific theory or concept to a current event or topic they are interested in. It also simultaneously introduces them to the art and science of blog writing, including how to optimize digital content for search engines. I love this assignment because it both teaches complex sociological concepts while equipping students with marketable skills for life after their studies.

6. You love dancing and believe it helps understand society. Can you share a story of how dancing or traveling has taught you something interesting about how people and societies work?

Stephanie: Sure! For me, dance can be both a lens into culture as well as a metaphor for life and society more broadly. For example, learning about dance can bring us a deeper understanding of culture. I recently got to see a group of Native American dancers perform and through that experience I learned more about the history of that particular native culture. Dance is also often intentionally symbolic and can be a reflection of broader patterns in society, which is something I am always paying attention to as a sociologist!

7. How can sociology and your expertise specifically contribute to solving real-world challenges for businesses or communities?

Stephanie: Sociologists can contribute to solving real-world challenges for businesses and communities through their keen ability to decipher patterns using both theory and research methods. Sociologists are theorists, but they are also researchers who are highly skilled in collecting data and using insights from that data to answer complex questions. One example from some sociology consulting work Luke and I have done is helping a small hospitality business overcome digital marketing challenges while avoiding relying on online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia. With our deep theoretical understanding of social institutions and capitalism, along with our unique skills in digital media and marketing, we were able to help that business owner increase revenue through traffic to her own website without her having to compromise her distaste for OTAs. That is just one of many examples!

8. Where do you see the future of Sociology heading in the next 5-10 years? Are there emerging trends that you believe will significantly impact the field?

Stephanie: The value of sociology in academia is slowly declining. I say that based mainly on my own experiences in the US. Here, sociology departments are losing funding, and we are graduating far more PhDs in sociology than there are tenure-track positions in sociology. While that may seem grim, I see it as an exciting opportunity for sociologists to embrace our discipline’s future as an applied science! We are seeing more and more PhD students in sociology interested in working in industry jobs rather than academia. All that said, I see sociology heading in a direction of having a more concrete impact on the world as more and more sociologists take positions as user experience researchers for startups or as leaders for non-profit organizations, rather than as professors of sociology. 

9. For science students who might not see an immediate connection to their field, how can they incorporate sociological perspectives into their studies or research to gain a more holistic understanding?

Stephanie: Great question! The example that comes to mind immediately is the fact that here in the US, there is a sociology section on the MCAT, which is the exam that hopeful medical students are required to take. So, that tells us that sociology is definitely relevant to the physical sciences. To more specifically answer your question, they can incorporate sociology perspectives into their studies by using sociology to better understand the history and evolution of their own discipline. They can ask questions like, “whose important discoveries are left out of our textbooks and why?” and “what historical events shaped the trajectory of my discipline and how?” Sociological theories and studies can help answer such questions and in turn provide students with a more holistic understanding of their studies. 

10. What books or resources would you recommend to students interested in applied Sociology?

Stephanie: First, I would, of course, recommend our website! We exist to create resources all about applied sociology! After that, I would recommend Lester F. Ward’s 1906 book, Applied Sociology: A Treatise for the Conscious Improvement of Society by Society. Lastly, the article authored by Jay Weinstein titled “The Marginalization of Application in U.S. Sociology” is a must read for any modern day aspiring applied sociologist!

11. Are there any lessons or insights from your own career that you wish you had known when you were starting out in the field?

Stephanie: This is a hard question because I am a lifelong learner and am constantly learning new lessons as I journey through my career. With that said, I have definitely learned that persistence is key. No one publishes the first article they submit. Not every potential client turns into a paying client. But, if you keep submitting the articles and keep meeting new potential clients, eventually the positive results will transpire. To see the positive results, you have to adapt to and overcome the challenges that come your way—you have to persist!

12. Can you share any upcoming initiatives or collaborations you’re excited about?

Stephanie: Yes! We are actually getting ready to announce our 4th annual “Why is Sociology Important?” Global Student Essay Competition! Professors and students can find all the information at the link:!

13. What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a career in sociology or research, based on your own experiences?

Stephanie: Both sociology and research can be applied to nearly every industry—education, consulting, technology, policy, non-profit work etc. My advice would be to take on as many diverse opportunities in the beginning as you can. Experience everything you can that you think you might want to pursue. For me, learning where I wanted to focus my energy was only something I could pinpoint once I had experienced examples of where I did not want to focus my energy. Also, it’s okay to change paths! We can use sociology and research skills in so many ways, and it’s not uncommon to change our approach to applying sociology over the span of our careers.

Dear Readers,

We extend our sincere gratitude to Stephanie Wilson, for participating in our “Meet the Professor” initiative by Sociology Group. If you would like to suggest any professors for interviewing, please write to us. To learn more about how to participate in our “Meet the Professor” Insight Interview Series.

Thank you for your continued support!

Read: Interview with Dr. Christina Jackson: Insights into Sociology, Activism, and the Journey Ahead

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