New Faculty Focus: Eunsil Oh

September 12, 2019

Eunsil Oh, Assistant Professor of sociology (First name pronounced as in “Unseal” an envelope)

Hometown: Seoul, Korea and Boston, Massachusetts

Educational/professional background: PhD at Harvard University

Previous position (title, institution): Postdoctoral Researcher at Harvard University

Photo: Eunsil Oh

Eunsil Oh

How did you get into your field of research? Even when I was quite young, I was always passionate about learning why and how social inequalities persist. In particular, I could not stand inequality based on gender and race. Looking for language to explain my anger and to find some answers – if possible – I learned that sociology studies social inequality. After finding a subject that I was not only passionate about but also where I had talent, I decided to take the path of becoming a researcher and teacher in the field of sociology.

What attracted you to UW–Madison? Lots of things are beautifully aged in Madison. Cheese. Beer. Sociology! I am a scholar who studies social stratification. UW–Madison is the mecca of stratification research, so the lineage of the sociology department attracted me the most. In addition, scholars at UW–Madison are extremely humble and nice – living in Boston for almost ten years, I was becoming a bit exhausted from the hyper-competitive environment where many of us just did not have space in our minds to take care of each other. I have not met students yet, but I hope to have genuine and warm relationships with my students as well.

What was your first visit to campus like? First, delicious. My soul was sold when I tried the cheese custard at Heritage Tavern. Second, I was very impressed by the enthusiasm and passion toward new research and a new colleague and teacher. Looking forward to meeting new types of cheese — and people — in Madison.

What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with? Imagination. To be specific, a sociological imagination. Students’ lives are busy and filled with lots of activities as well as personal matters. Rather than thinking as you live, I would like my students to live their lives as they think. One way to do that is actively questioning the society in which you live. How is it structured? How do we interact with others? What influences our relationships and thoughts? From small to big issues on a daily basis, I hope my students think and rethink about how personal choices are socially constructed rather than taking everything for granted. Imagination will help my students link their personal lives with more macro, social structures.

Do you share your expertise and experiences with the public through social media? If so, which channels do you use? For me, different platforms are matched with different themes. I use Twitter and Facebook to share interesting articles, news, and books related to my expertise.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how. Of course, there is a lot to learn about how to realize the Wisconsin Idea. As of now, there are two ways that I relate to the Wisconsin Idea. A stream of my work aims to understand how men and women arrive at their attitudes and decisions about career and family formation. Using an on-ground approach where I talk to people and conduct in-depth interviews, I hope to better explain how individuals make sense of their world. Besides studying the everyday lives of people, I believe my role is to provide education and mentorship to students who can influence society through their social and political participation.

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties? One fact that is interesting to share is that in contrast to common knowledge about what an American family looks like, it was only for a short period of time that American family was composed of a breadwinner, a non-employed mother, and two children. If you are interested to learn more about what families looked like for most of our history, read, The Way We Never Were by Stephanie Coontz.

Hobbies/other interests: Last year, I started learning how to surf. In Madison, I plan to learn how to golf and to begin one of the martial arts, TaeKwonDo.