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Associate Professor of Sociology James Sutton explains his study, assisted by Ara McCorkle ’20, on the “exalt” organization that supports youth who have been involved in the criminal justice system.

James and McCorkle

Ara McCorkle ’20 and Associate Professor of Sociology James Sutton in Sutton’s Stern Hall office.

Explain the background of the project

I was approached by Michael Gantcher ’92 about doing an evaluation study of the “exalt” program, which is a program that his foundation, the Gantcher Family Foundation, supports. My focus in the areas of criminology and criminal justice were a perfect fit for this project given that “exalt” works on addressing the needs of court-involved youth in New York City.  

What is the significance of this project for Sociology? 

We often talk about “pure” and “applied” forms of research.  Pure research contributes to knowledge production to advance the discipline, e.g. such as by testing theories, developing new concepts, or revealing new social processes, while applied research is intended to address a particular need or problem.  This project is an example of applied work in that it sets out to answer the question of how well the organization, “exalt,” is accomplishing its goals.

The Sociology department has a long history of doing applied work and engaging our students beyond the classroom.

How does this project impact the work of the Sociology department?

The Sociology department has a long history of doing applied work and engaging our students beyond the classroom.  This project demonstrates both of these ends in that it assisted a community organization and provided practical research experience for Ara, one of our recent graduates.  Most basically, this project is an example of how we try to take what we learn about in sociology and apply it to addressing real world problems.