The first “real” research I did was on multiculturalism in higher education. In the summer before my senior year of college, I received a Minority Opportunity Summer Training (MOST) Program fellowship from the American Sociological Association. That took me to the University of Wisconsin at Madison for 6 weeks. During that time, I was required to write a research paper. I was very interested in the sociology of education at the time and was fortunate to be mentored by Michael Olneck, who introduced me to critical work on the study of educational institutions. We quickly settled on a recently passed “ethnic studies requirement” at Wisconsin as an empirical focus and I set about interviewing individuals on campus who were involved.
I took that paper with me back to UC-Berkeley for my senior year and it became the foundation for my senior thesis (directed by Jerome Karabel) comparing the ethnic studies requirement at Wisconsin with the American cultures requirement passed at Berkeley around the same time.
Years later, with the encouragement of a member of my dissertation committee, Booth Fowler, I turned my senior thesis into my first book, Student Movements for Multiculturalism, published in 2001 by Johns Hopkins University Press.
“The Battle of the Books at Berkeley: In Search of the Culture Wars in Debates Over Multiculturalism” in James L. Nolan, Jr., ed., The American Culture Wars: Current Contests and Future Prospects. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia.