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Dr. Skvoretz is a former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. His primary areas of specialization include theoretical methods, group processes and social psychology, and network analysis and modeling. He has published in prestigious sociology journals including Social Networks, Sociological Methodology, Sociological Theory, Sociological Perspectives, and the American Sociological Review. Dr. Skvoretz has secured numerous grants from the National Science Foundation to support his research.
I began my college career at Lehigh University, known for its engineering programs, double majoring in electrical engineering and mathematics, taking course overloads so I could complete an MBA in a fifth year. My social science electives the first year included introduction to sociology and social problems. I found the material fascinating, but had my eyes on a different career path. I commuted my first year and without much else to do at home did quite well missing a 4.0 by a C in a one credit chemistry lab. The second year I moved to an off campus apartment, rooming with philosophy and English majors and, well, one thing led to another and I decided I did not really want to be a member of the military-industrial complex. Oh yeah, and my grades deteriorated somewhat.
So I changed majors from electrical engineering to sociology, but kept the major in mathematics for two reasons: one, to appease my father who was practical man and could not see much of a future in sociology and, two, the National Science Foundation was supporting me to study for the BA in mathematics. Throughout the rest of my undergraduate career, the sociology and the math tracks were quite separate. I enjoyed mathematics because there were answers in the back of the book and I enjoyed sociology because there were no answers in the back of the book. I knew, of course, from my sociology courses that statistical analyses were not uncommon in the social sciences but that type of mathematics was very different from the pure mathematics that constituted the mathematics major.
Then in my senior year I went to a sociology department talk given by Linton Freeman, one of the founding figures of social network analysis, who showed how mathematics could be useful in concept formation in sociology. I remember that segregation was the concept and the idea was to construct a measure to decide if an area exhibited more segregation than expected by chance. The construction involved comparing the observed perimeter surrounding a minority group to the perimeter expected by chance if the minority households were randomly placed on an idealized grid. Here was a use of mathematics in sociology that was not just mere statistical summaries! I asked Professor Freeman where I could go to study such a thing, called mathematical sociology, and he directed me to one of his students in his first position at University of Pittsburgh, Tom Fararo, and thereby hangs the tale.
I have contributed to several areas in sociology: stratification and mobility, social network theory, group processes, power in exchange networks and the structure of social action systems. My work is characterized by the innovative use of mathematics to formulate theory and analyze data. In 1994 I won the University of South Carolina’s Educational Foundation Award for Research in Humanities and Social Sciences. In 1995 I was appointed a Carolina Distinguished Professor, the highest honor the University of South Carolina accords any faculty member and awarded in a university-wide competition only after rigorous review of a nominee’s record of continuing scholarship and general achievement. In 1995, I was also elected by my disciplinary colleagues to join them as a member of the prestigious Sociological Research Association.
I accepted appointment as USF’s Dean of Arts & Sciences in 2004 and spent several years overseeing the growth of the College before returning to the faculty in 2008. Despite the duties of central administration, I have maintained a productive research career. In 2012 I received the James S. Coleman Distinguished Career Award from the Mathematical Sociology section of the American Sociological Association. Also in 2012 I was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. I am fortunate that my current research focus on social networks, their modeling and analysis, brings me into contact and collaborations with colleagues across the University – there are always new problems to be solved and new methods of analysis to learn or invent.
Jasmon Bailey, Alissa Klein, Kellie Petersen, Jonathan Ware