One advantage of a small college: faculty know their students, which can lead to some great contacts, as Bethel student Shayne Runnion discovered this fall.
Runnion, a junior social work major from Phillipsburg, is serving as a research assistant for Robert Wuthnow, professor of sociology at Princeton University and a nationally recognized scholar and author on social and cultural changes in communities.
Wuthnow is also a personal friend of Allison McFarland, professor of business and economics. Both of them grew up - as did Runnion - in rural/small-town Kansas. However, McFarland’s friendship with Wuthnow developed through his wife, Sara Wuthnow.
McFarland and Sara Wuthnow were both raised in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America and attended the denomination’s Geneva College in western Pennsylvania. They were teaching colleagues at Eastern College (now University), where McFarland had one of the Wuthnows’ daughters as a student.
Robert Wuthnow, says McFarland, "is still a Kansas kid, even though he has spent his entire career at Princeton. He loves the Midwest."
A prolific author, Wuthnow has written widely on social change in a variety of contexts. His most recent book, however, focuses squarely on the Midwest. "Remaking the Heartland: Middle America since the 1950s" came out in 2010.
And Wuthnow’s next research project, in which Runnion is involved, is part of "the National Study of Farm Families in the Twenty-First Century," Runnion says, "the purpose of which is to learn from current farm families how farm life is changing, what values are of special importance to farm families, and how farm families are thinking about the challenges and opportunities they are currently facing."
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