Big City Scholar: Mary Pattillo. (Sociology/African American Studies)

By Roach, Ronald | Black Issues in Higher Education, January 2, 2003 | Go to article overview

Big City Scholar: Mary Pattillo. (Sociology/African American Studies)


Roach, Ronald, Black Issues in Higher Education


Title: Associate Professor, Departments of Sociology and African American Studies, Northwestern University; Visiting Fellow, Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, University of Chicago

Education: Ph.D., Sociology, University of Chicago; M.A., Sociology, University of Chicago; B.A., Urban Studies-Sociology, Columbia University

Age: 32

At 32, Dr. Mary Pattillo is a tenured professor in the departments of sociology and African American studies at Northwestern University in Chicago. She is also the author of the award-winning 1999 book, Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril Among the Black Middle Class. And her research has won the support of several foundations and organizations. It's safe to say Pattillo is a rising star in American academia.

A native of Milwaukee, Pattillo's middle-class upbringing helped inform the portions of her work that examine contemporary Black middle-class life in America. Growing up in a large family headed by her physician father and educator mother, she recalls taking for granted the urban segregation that defined life and experiences in Milwaukee, such as being bused from her all-Black neighborhood to a majority White high school in the suburbs. Nevertheless, a love of big cities and a deep curiosity about the social development of Black urban dwellers would lead her on a career path to investigate questions of American urban life.

At Columbia University, where she completed undergraduate studies, a professor in one of her urban studies courses urged Pattillo to consider getting a doctorate in sociology and becoming a professor. "I went to college wanting to be a teacher." Pattillo says. "The idea of becoming a professor made sense and appealed to me."

While doing graduate work at the University of Chicago, Pattillo had the good fortune to have the renowned sociologist Dr. William Julius Wilson assigned to her as a mentor. As a graduate researcher under Wilson, Pattillo studied Groveland, a Black middle-class neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. …

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