OOW Newly Minted PhDs

Congratulations to all recent PhD graduates! As part of our June newsletter, we profile several newly minted PhDs with OOW-focused research. Learn more about recent graduates, Pete Aceves, Alaz Kilicaslan, Jennifer Nelson and Letian Zhang below.

Pedro (Pete) Acevesaceves-pete_1

Contact information

Ph.D., University of Chicago, Department of Sociology (2018)

Future affiliation
Assistant Professor, Department of Management and Technology, Bocconi University (starting September 2018)

Selected publications and/or awards

  • Evans, James A., and Pedro Aceves. 2016. “Machine Translation: Mining Text for Social Theory.” Annual Review of Sociology.
  • 2017 INFORMS/Organization Science Dissertation Proposal Competition Winner
  • NSF DDRI Grant

Research description
My research investigates how social, linguistic, and technological factors influence processes of collective cognition, and how these processes then affect organizational and market outcomes. In my dissertation, I bring the principle of linguistic relativity into sociological territory by arguing that differences in the structure of language don’t just affect patterns of individual-level cognition, but also affect patterns of social interaction and group behavior. I first created a novel language structure measure that I call information density, which is the average degree to which a language packs conceptual information into its words. I then theorize the effect that information density should have on group performance, arguing that high information density languages facilitate movement through the conceptual space as groups converse. This ease of movement through conceptual space should then lead groups speaking more informationally dense languages to traverse a larger area of the conceptual space, have more and better ideas during creativity tasks, generate better justifications for their decisions during judgement tasks, and ultimately to exhibit superior performance during long-lived group projects. I trace the effects of language information density on the performance of 240 groups in a lab study in India and on the performance of mountaineering expeditions to the Himalayas. My ongoing work seeks to continue this exploration of the deep interstices of social interaction and collective cognition, bridging multiple disciplinary domains, including organization theory, economic sociology, cognitive science, linguistics, and information theory.

Alaz KilicaslanAlaz

Contact information

Ph.D., Boston University, Department of Sociology (2018)

Future affiliation 
Assistant Professor of Global Health in the Department of Sociology, Criminology & Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (starting August, 2018)

Selected publications and/or awards

  • Early Career Workshop Award (Awarded by the Society for the Advancement of Socio-economics)

Research description 
My research bridges medical sociology, economic sociology, and organizational studies to understand how healthcare is delivered, and who has access to it, in a global context. More specifically, I study the moral economy of healthcare by examining how government agencies, medical professionals, and clients negotiate and ultimately shape the healthcare delivery through interactions in organizational settings. I have two ongoing research projects. My dissertation research is an ethnography of healthcare reform in Turkey and explores the organizational dynamics of the reform by focusing on the shifting work patterns of medical professionals and doctor-patient relationships. I found that the reform process, which combines neoliberal logics with an expansion of access to services culminated into a model I term “fast health”, involving a decline in the quality of healthcare encounters, overworked doctors, and a gradual marketization of services. My second project continues to examine the moral economy of health services by turning to migration of African-origin immigrants to Turkey, part of the current Mediterranean migrant crisis. I focus on how a visible racial minority group navigates the complexities of healthcare and how immigrants’ racial, ethnic, and religious identities impact their access.

Teaching interests/experience
My teaching specializations are sociology of health and medicine, economic sociology, organizational studies, and social inequalities, with an additional expertise in the society and politics of the Middle East. At Boston University, I have taught undergraduate seminars “Sociology of Health and Medicine” and “Economic Sociology” and served as a teaching assistant for six semesters in several classes, including “Introduction to Sociology” and “Leading Organizations and People”.

Jennifer NelsonEmory-Nelson_8213

Contact information

Ph.D., Emory University, Department of Sociology (2018)

Future affiliation 
Postdoctoral Fellowship in Research on School Leadership
Vanderbilt University
Peabody College of Education
Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations

Selected publications

  • Nelson, Jennifer L., and Amanda E. Lewis. 2016. “‘I’m a Teacher, Not a Babysitter:’ Workers’ Strategies for Managing Identity-Related Denials of Dignity in the Early Childhood Workplace.” Research in the Sociology of Work 29: 37-71.
  • Nelson, Jennifer L. 2017. “Pathways to Green(er) Pastures: Reward Bundles and Turnover Decisions in a Semi-Profession.” Qualitative Sociology 40(1):23–57. doi:10.1007/s11133-016-9348-1

Research description
I study how aspects of the organizational environment – including demographic composition, spatial arrangements, and managerial practices – impact workers’ outcomes of coworker support, job satisfaction, and turnover. I study people within organizations using methods such as QCA, employee surveys, and comparative ethnographic studies. To date, my empirical context has been education across a wide range of organizational workplace settings. In previous work, I have studied how work rewards bundle to predict staying and leaving decisions, as well as how client populations impact work identity. These studies appear in Qualitative Sociology and Research in the Sociology of Work (with Amanda Lewis), respectively.

Building on these prior projects, in my dissertation, I examine how management practices in schools shape teachers’ coworker ties. This work is based on a year of ethnographic observation, teacher interviews, and panel surveys across several high schools. In other papers, with coauthors I examine the justice antecedents of coworker trust; how racial distance from colleagues shapes experiences of culture shock at work; and how front- and back-stage spaces in the workplace shape workers’ presentation of self.

Teaching experience/interests
Undergraduate courses: Sociology of Work, Introduction to Sociology, Sociology of Education
Dean’s Teaching Fellow, Emory University (accepted)
Andrew Mellon Foundation Graduate Teaching Fellowship (declined)
3 years as a public high school teacher through the Mississippi Teacher Corps (2008-2011)

Letian (LT) ZhangLT

Contact information

Ph.D., Harvard University, Department of Sociology (2018)

Future affiliation
Assistant Professor, Harvard Business School (starting July, 2018)

Selected publications

  • Zhang, Letian. “A Fair Game? Racial bias and repeated interaction between NBA coaches and players.” Administrative Science Quarterly 62.4 (2017): 603-625.

Dissertation description  
My dissertation, titled Race and Status Dynamics in the NBA, explores racial bias and status formation in NBA basketball. In one chapter, I show that a NBA player receives more playing time under a same-race coach than a different-race coach, even though there is no difference in his performance. However, this racial bias is greatly reduced as the player and the coach spend more time on the same team, suggesting that repeated interaction minimizes coaches’ biases toward their players. But it does not reduce coaches’ racial biases in general. Even after years of coaching other-race players, coaches still exhibit the same levels of racial bias as they did upon first entering the league. These results suggest that repeated workplace interaction is effective in reducing racial bias toward individuals but not toward groups.