The Five* Year Plan: Ben’s going back to school!

Posted in Announcements at 11:00 am by Benjamin Ross

Back in October I mentioned that I was in the process of applying to Ph. D programs. Well, the yearlong process of researching departments, studying for the GRE, hunting down professors, sorting transcripts, writing essays, submitting applications, and waiting for responses is finally complete.

This fall I am going to begin a masters/Ph. D program in Sociology at the University of Chicago.  The focus of my studies is going to be Urban Sociology, and I plan to tailor my research towards the urbanization of China.

Over the past thirty years China has been the site of the largest rural to urban migration in human history. Similar to how European rural peasantry poured into North American urban areas in the decades around the turn of the 20th Century, Chinese peasants are now flooding Chinese cities at unprecedented rates. The migrants come to work in factories, on construction sites, in restaurants, barbershops, or any of the multitude of new jobs necessary to support China’s export market and nascent consumer classes.

In the wake of the United States’ own urbanization, the 1920’s and 1930’s saw a explosion of new sociological theory and research. Much of this body of research was conducted in Chicago, which was the de facto Shenzhen of the early 20th Century. Using models from American urbanization as well as current work done in China, I am hoping to examine the Chinese urbanization process and its corollaries as they are unfolding today.

For the first two years of my program, I will essentially be a fulltime classroom student. Years three and four will be spent teaching classes and starting independent dissertation research. From that point on, the focus becomes finishing (and hopefully someday publishing) the dissertation. This is where it’s difficult to predict a timeframe. Officially, funding for the program lasts 5 years, but the general consensus from current students and faculty is that 6 or 7 years is more realistic, and also preferred… hence the asterisk in the title.

While the American Midwest will now be my home for most of the remainder of the decade, I will likely be spending several summers, or possibly a semester or three, conducting fieldwork in the Middle Kingdom.

School starts in the end of September and at that time I plan to move to Hyde Park where I will probably remain for the first year or two in order to be close to campus. In the meantime I will still be interpreting, watching Chinese television shows, and hopefully blogging as well.

And yes, in case anybody was wondering, my writing sample for grad school applications was about Chinese barbershops. I’ll try to post it in the days to come.


  1. Brad United States said,

    April 17, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Don’t forget about quantitative methods. My personal favorite.

  2. 維特利 Canada said,

    April 17, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    I understand that it’s important to do what you like but what kind of jobs are available for graduates of sociology program?

  3. xdh United States said,

    April 21, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    As a UChicago graduate it is my duty to pedantically point out:

    While in america: Ph.D. (no space)

    Elsewhere: PhD (also no space)

  4. Fili Hong Kong said,

    April 23, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Sounds terrific, and with a very good school.

    Best of luck.

  5. nico China said,

    April 28, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    and please post the barber shop report ASAP !
    I consider it one of the best etnographies I have ever read on contemporary China.

  6. Benjamin Ross United States said,

    May 2, 2010 at 10:01 am

    There are 2 main career paths for Ph.D’s in sociology. The first is a job in academia, which usually allows you to continue your research which you began for your dissertation. The second path is applied social sciences, which usually would entail using sociological research methods for marketing, product development, branding, and the like…similar to the freelance work I do for Pac Eth from time to time. There are also various opportunities in policy and think tanks.

  7. Todd Korea Republic of said,

    May 14, 2010 at 2:55 am

    Can you send me the paper that you sent in. I would love to read it. Thanks.

  8. Xiaoping China said,

    June 4, 2010 at 7:03 am

    Nice job!

    Coincidentlly, I also decide to pursue a PH.d program in the U.S next year after finishing my master study in China. Currently, my major is related to urban sociology, I’m more interested about informal labor or informal economy (I guess you have seen plenty of scenes including street vendors or peddlers wandering on the streets in the middle kingdom), thus by choosing them as study object I may obtain a relatively new perspective toward the growth or development of cities in China. The university of Chicago is the origin to cultivate the development of sociology in the U.S., I really admire you have such an opportunity to study there. Anyhow, I’m cramming for the GRE and searching for schools, also thanks for uploading your writing sample, I would fully study it from a more academic perspective.

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