Elizabeth Klainot-Hess, PhD

I received my PhD from the Ohio State University in May 2020 and I am currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Denison University. My research and teaching interests include work, social inequality, labor movements, economic sociology, education, and qualitative methods. My research explores how the emergence and growth of contingent and precarious work creates and reproduces inequality as well as the collective responses to these new forms of work and the inequality they create. I have extensive teaching experience and have taught and designed courses for seven years.  

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My dissertation research was a qualitive study of contingent faculty at large public research universities based on in-depth interviews with one hundred contingent faculty. I am also writing a book based on this research. Most of the research on contingent faculty has focused on variation and inequality between contingent and tenure-track faculty, but this obscures important sources of variation and inequality among contingent faculty.  The argument of my book is that inequality among contingent faculty themselves is a key obstacle to collective responses to the rise of the two-tier system in the academy. In Part 1 of my book I argue that variation in job pathway and role of income in the household intersect to create fault lines that divide contingent faculty, leading to differences in job satisfaction and quality of life.  In Part 2 I argue that successfully organizing a union requires efforts to successfully address the fault lines in Part 1, but when these can be overcome, unions can bring about important improvements in job security, status, and job satisfaction. This research has important implications for understanding other types of contingent or nonstandard professional workers, and sheds light on the consequences of the transformation of higher education. An article based on this dissertation has been published in Research in the Sociology of Work and I am writing a book based on this research which has garnered interest from several academic presses. I have also conducted research on the labor movement response to anti-collective bargaining legislation, which has been published in Sociological Focus, and I have conducted research with colleagues on the overrepresentation of women in involuntary part-time work, which has been published in Sociological Perspectives.