Amy Leisenring

Amy Leisenring

Associate Dean of Inclusive Student Success, College of Graduate Studies

What research questions currently preoccupy you?

The research questions that currently preoccupy me are centered upon gender, race, and class-based inequalities in education. What are the micro-level impacts of these inequalities? How do they impact people's experiences?

What personal factors contributed to your research?

One of the personal factors that contributed to my interest in this topic is having my own children enter the public school system. Through my interactions with this system and parents, teachers, and students, I have witnessed things that I find both encouraging and discouraging. As an interpretive sociologist, I am very interested in learning more about how various stakeholders make sense of the complexities of our educational system.

What has been most challenging in your research?

The most challenging aspect of engaging in research in education is that it is a completely new area for me. My past work and expertise has been in the area of violence against women so moving to the sociology of education is a pretty big jump. While I'm still using the same methodological and theoretical approach in my new projects (qualitative methods with a constructivist lens), it has proven difficult and time-consuming to familiarize myself with a whole new literature.

How has your position in SJSU changed/contributed to your research?

My experiences as a professor at SJSU have profoundly impacted my new research interests. My first research project in the area of education involved an examination of the experiences of undergraduate students at SJSU who work for pay 25 hours or more a week. I became interested in this project after becoming aware of how much my students were working and watching them struggle to balance employment, school, and family responsibilities. A lot of our students at SJSU are not economically advantaged and have had to work very hard to get to where they are. They often have to worry about things that more privileged college students do not. My research is a means of collecting data that will hopefully allow me to become a stronger advocate for our students.

A hidden talent:

Hmm... I'm a good cook, and I am reasonably skilled at a number of different sports.

One book that changed your life and why:

I don't have one specific book that has changed my life. I do like to read wilderness adventure narratives. I love to hike but between work and family responsibilities I don't get out into the woods anywhere near as much as I'd like to; reading a woman's account of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail allows me to live vicariously through someone else's experiences!

A website/journal/newspaper you follow without fail:

I check the San Jose Mercury News website everyday, because I like to keep informed about happenings in my community.

Advice you’d give to newer faculty or students:

One piece of advice that I'd give to newer faculty or students is to ensure that you make some time in your life for things beyond work and school that are important to you and/or that help you to recharge. It can be very challenging and time-consuming to balance all of your competing responsibilities but it's important to find some time every day to "put yourself first." Whether you like to exercise, read, spend time with family or friends, or take a nap, do it and don't feel guilty about it.

RSCA Accomplishments

I received a summer 2015 COSS RSCA grant for $5000.00 to complete a project that began in my SOCI 105b (Advanced Qualitative Research Methods) course in the spring semester of 2015. In collaboration with CommUniverCity, the students and I conducted interviews with 54 parents from 5 in the San Jose Unified School District in order to examine the factors that shape parental engagement in low-income elementary schools. One of the students and I co-presented our findings at the Fall 2015 Dean's Symposium. Two students and I will also present our findings at the March 2016 meeting of the Pacific Sociological Association.