Where can a BA degree lead you? Our inspiring convo with Dr. Corman

Dr. Michael Corman is an Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Department of Social, Cultural and Media Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley. Dr. Corman’s research and teaching interests include a variety of topics that intersect with the sociological study of health, illness, and society.

As students embark on their academic journey, it’s not always clear where their degree may lead them or what opportunities they’ll encounter along the way. To learn more about what a Bachelor of Arts degree can offer students, we spoke with Dr. Michael Corman, Assistant Professor of Sociology at UFV, about his intriguing career path.

Watch the full, unedited interview:


What do you like the best about your work?

I love teaching. I love being in the classroom. I love seeing my student’s faces. I also love learning from my students. We have an extremely diverse student body here at UFV which is such a huge asset both as fellow students but also as academics and as professors.

I also love research. What I do for a living in terms of research is that I listen to people and I observe people. How cool is that?

What surprises you about your career?

One of the things, I guess is surprising is how diverse my job is. I teach, I work with medical doctors in Ireland, I publish and do research with nurses, I have students who are so interesting and come from different places and I can learn from their lived experiences. So the ever-changing-ness of what I do for a living.

I’ve taught Introduction to Sociology for almost thirteen years now and it’s never the same. I’m never ever bored.

What are the major factors that contributed to your career choice in sociology?

Social change and social justice

How have your personal values impacted your work?

I have been raised to think about social justice, to challenge inequalities and, of course, this is the underpinnings of sociology . . . to make change, to challenge social inequalities, to challenge power relations that benefit the few and the powerful. So, part of my own values made me align with what I do for a living right now, which is to teach sociology.

What is your preferred learning style and why?

I love to be able to put knowledge into practice. So experiential learning. I love listening to profs and reading content but also to be able to apply it.

In terms of my own teaching, putting content into practice is the major “so what” of what I try to do. Trying to teach my students “why does this matter to you.”

I try to engage both as a learner and as a teacher. I try to create an environment in my classroom that is less hierarchical and more conducive to collaboration and discussion so we can learn together.

What makes you feel successful in your work as a sociologist?

Once in a while, I’ll get emails from my students that say, “Mike, it’s your class that encouraged me to do a sociology degree or go on to my Masters or PhD.” And that brings one of the biggest joys to my life.

When did you know that you were good at what you do?

Generally, I think if you like or love what you do, sometimes you can be thought of being good at what you do. But getting feedback from my colleagues and my students to me was that moment where I was like, “I think I’m okay at this.”

So what are you reading right now?

Upstream Medicine. It’s geared towards making change beyond the clinic to making change in society.

Describe a place that impacted you and what was impactful about it?

Doha, Qatar. My first professorship. Being exposed to such diversity and difference. It really hit me in the face and really made me a better sociologist.

When you think of the future, what do you dream of?

I dream of a more equitable society. A society that challenges inequality, challenges racism, classism, sexism and ageism and all these different axes of inequalities that really we’re seeing today but have been underlying and present historically as well.

To me, what I do for a living is ever more important. I see and I hope for a more equitable world based on principles of social justice. A more generous way of organizing society.

February Success Stories

Seasonal Sociology announced as a 2021 PROSE Awards finalist

Social, Cultural & Media Studies (SCMS) Professor Emeritus Dr. Elizabeth Dennis recently co-authored a book chapter in Seasonal Sociology with colleague, Alison Thomas, from Douglas College. On January 21, Seasonal Sociology was announced as a 2021 PROSE Awards finalist in the Social Science Textbook category.

Read moreFebruary Success Stories

Enhancing resilience with a career mindset and ongoing reflection

Guest blog post by: Dr. Candy Ho

The recent CERIC Pulse Survey revealed that 84% of students and clients are perceiving the current pandemic period to be a stressor, while 16% see it as an opportunity. Adapting a career mindset can help students and clients navigate this time of uncertainty by taking stock of valuable skills, and knowledge; reflecting on ways they can leverage their talents to contribute meaningfully; and staying connected with new and current contacts who might be in the know of opportunities.

Being reflective also enhances one’s resilience. In my work with students I employ Nancy Schlossberg’s Transition Theory – specifically, the 4S Model – to inform my coaching questions:

Read moreEnhancing resilience with a career mindset and ongoing reflection

Working together to build peace

On October 29, students, staff, faculty and community members came together to discuss peacebuilding efforts locally and globally with area directors Cesar Flores and Lizzette Miranda from the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

“It’s very important to see faculty, students and people from the community interested in this big topic because there are realities that the world is facing,” said Flores.

Read moreWorking together to build peace

New School of Creative Arts has successfully launched

As of Friday, September 27, 2019, UFV College of Arts’ new School of Creative Arts (SoCA) has successfully launched.

The new cultural hub was featured in Academica Top Ten and The Abbotsford News. The school combines departments in theatre, visual arts, art history and media arts with the end goal of creating a centre for creative innovation in the Fraser Valley. Dr. Heather Davis-Fisch is the school’s new director. She was previously the department head for the theatre program from 2016-2019.

Read moreNew School of Creative Arts has successfully launched

Yvon Dandurand, Criminology and Criminal Justice Associate Professor writes UNODC Manual

Congratulations to Yvon Dandurand, Professor Emeritus Criminology and Criminal Justice, UFV and recent UFV graduate Jessica Jahn, who recently wrote the “UNODC Manual on the Prevention of Child Recruitment and Exploitation by Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups: The Role of the Justice System”. The manual was also released during the Annual Session in Vienna of the United Nations Commission on Crime prevention and Criminal Justice.

Lieutenant Governor’s medal: Leanne Julian an advocate for Indigenous inclusivity

As Leanne Julian stood outside as part of a group of geography students listening to Mt. Lehman community members explain how they wanted to present their community it to the world, she could literally see her father’s home community, the Matsqui First Nation, not far in the distance.

But nobody else seemed to notice.

Read moreLieutenant Governor’s medal: Leanne Julian an advocate for Indigenous inclusivity

John Belec awarded the 2019 J. Alistair McVey Award for Teaching Excellence

Congratulations to John Belec, UFV Associate Professor in the Geography and Environment department. John was recently awarded the 2019 J. Alistair McVey Award for Teaching Excellence by the Canadian Association of Geographers.

“The purpose of the J. Alistair McVey Award for Teaching Excellence is to recognize a geography instructor known for the quality of their teaching. This is in recognition of the central importance of teaching excellence in geographic education. The recipient is intended to be a teacher in a university, college or secondary school in BC or Alberta. This award is named after Alistair McVey, a well-known and highly-respected geography instructor in the BC college system for more than 35 years” (CAG).

Read moreJohn Belec awarded the 2019 J. Alistair McVey Award for Teaching Excellence

North Korea’s Current Economic Situation and Global Peace Workshop

The UFV College of Arts and the Department of Economics recently held a workshop on “North Korea’s Current Economic Situation and Global Peace”, moderated and organized by Dr. Bosu Seo.

The workshop aimed to inform Canadian mainstream society about North Korea’s fluctuating economic situation and its impact on countries around the world, including
South Korea, USA, China, Japan, and Canada. The guest speakers included Dr. Yvon Dandurand (Professor Emeritus, UFV Criminology & Criminal Justice and Ex-United Nations Office Drug and Crime Lead consultant) and Mr. Shin, Tae-Young (Representative, The National Unification Advisory Council Vancouver Chapter).

Read moreNorth Korea’s Current Economic Situation and Global Peace Workshop

You May Be Wrong, But You May Be Right: Exploring Biases with Sven Van de Wetering

“People who think they’re always right are almost always wrong. People who are always willing to consider the possibility they’re wrong tend to be right much more often,” says associate psychology professor Sven Van de Wetering.

It is this basic conundrum that Van de Wetering wanted to explore in a course he’s designing — one that looks at ideological biases from a psychological perspective. Heuristics, Biases and Critical Thinking, will be available in Winter 2019 and Van de Wetering sat down with the College of Arts blog to talk about his inspiration for this new offering.

“We know a huge amount about how we, as human beings, fool ourselves,” says Van de Wetering. In fact, he says, there is no shortage of psychological literature on the topic and he recently found a book that listed 99 different biases, which he says isn’t even complete.

What isn’t discussed as much is how to recognize these biases in your own thinking and how to account for this not only in research, but in day-to-day discussions.

One of the things that led him to the topic is a recent crisis in his field of social psychology, where liberal thinkers have been accused of shutting out their more conservative-minded colleagues. Van de Wetering was at first determined to do some research into this question, but eventually he and his research assistant, Flora Oswald realized that what social psychologists really need is more help identifying their biases from the outset. He considered developing a workshop for his peers, but decided that those who chose to attend such a program were probably already aware of the need to take other perspectives into account.

“Maybe, what I need to do instead, is catch them young,” he told himself.

Fortunately, Van de Wetering, who has been teaching psychology at UFV for 20 years and has access to a new crop of students every semester, is in a good position to do this. Encouraged by Oswald, he came up with a 13-week course in about 20 minutes. Still he wasn’t sure how interested students would be in the idea of studying their own prejudices and biases, so he offered a prototype in winter 2018. The response, he said, was overwhelming.

Moving away from the typical lecture format, Van de Wetering asked students to do a great deal of reading ahead of time and then to spend class time discussing real-world issues through the lens of various biases. Issues like: should there be a ban on pit-bulls? (an interesting topic, but one Van de Wetering says he’ll probably never use again, as it was too inconclusive.)

Van de Wetering also made it clear from the outset that the students would have input into the way the class ran.

“Just about my first line . . . was ‘I am not the only smart person in the room. I’m counting on you guys to help me figure out what it is we’re actually doing to think critically in this course,’” he said.

Students, he says, loved being so involved. “I think I’ve touched a nerve – I think I’m offering something that they really, really want: relevance and an active role in the overall design of the course.”

With algorithms constantly directing content on our social media channels to things we’ve shown interest in before, Van de Wetering thinks a class about biases is particularly relevant today.

“If you are actually seeking the truth, having people echoing your prejudices back to you is not a good thing,” he says. “You want people to challenge you even if it turns out that they’re ultimately wrong.”

A Few Examples of Cognitive Biases

  • Confirmation Bias: Favoring information that conforms to your existing beliefs and discounting evidence that does not conform.
  • Halo Effect: Your overall impression of a person influences how you feel and think about his or her character. This especially applies to physical attractiveness influencing how you rate their other qualities.
  • Self-Serving Bias: The tendency to blame external forces when bad things happen and give yourself credit when good things happen. When you win a poker hand it is due to your skill at reading the other players and knowing the odds, while when you lose it is due to getting dealt a poor hand.
  • Narrative bias (from Van de Wetering): The tendency, when one has embraced a narrative that can be used to explain a certain group of facts, to ignore facts and possibilities that do not cohere with that narrative.