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Cara Bergstrom-Lynch - Professor of Sociology, Sociology, Anthropology, Criminology and Social Work

Ph.D., University of Michigan


Cara Bergstrom-Lynch

How did you arrive at Eastern?

“I grew up in Connecticut and am a product of the K-12 public school system in our state. Although I left Connecticut for more than a dozen years to pursue college (at Wellesley), work (at the Harvard School of Public Health), and graduate school (at the University of Michigan), part of what drew me to Eastern was a desire to give back to the state in which I was raised. My undergraduate college also focused on the liberal arts, so knowing that Eastern was a public liberal arts institution was a perfect fit.” 

Favorite moments in class

“In an anonymous evaluation asking students how they plan to make use of what they learned in class, a woman in my sociology of gender class said: ‘No more settling.’ In another anonymous evaluation for my social inequalities class, a student wrote, ‘This course reminded me that my voice counts and don’t give up in bringing awareness to any type of injustice. Never lose hope; with every little bit we do there is always a chance someone is listening.’ Last semester, in my LGBTQ+ Families class, my students put together an amazing ‘quilt,’ inspired by the AIDS Memorial Quilt that was displayed in the Student Center, with companion essays to teach our community about a variety of issues. Students took what they had learned and went out to teach others.”

Describe your research

“My scholarly interests center on gender, LGBTQ identities, parenting and families, and intimate partner violence.  My book, “Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals Becoming Parents or Remaining Childfree: Confronting Social Inequalities” was published in 2017. I’ve also published peer-reviewed, scholarly research articles in respected journals in my field of gender scholarship (Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work and the Journal of Gender Studies).  My current research project is titled “Perceptions of Appearance and Body Image Among a Racially Diverse Sample of LGBTQ Young Adults.”  It is a qualitative study of 51 in-depth interviews with LGBTQ+ individuals.”

I love staying in touch with our alumni and hearing about their lives after Eastern (families, work, graduate school) and all the amazing things they are accomplishing out in the world.

Cara Bergstrom-Lynch hanging out with Willi the Warrior

What do you find most rewarding about teaching at Eastern?

Seeing my students excel! I love staying in touch with our alumni (usually via Facebook -- I'm old-school) and hearing all about their lives post-Eastern (families, work, graduate school) and all the amazing things they are accomplishing out in the world. They are making our state and world a better place every day and knowing that what they have learned in their sociology classes has played a small role in that is very rewarding.

What is your teaching philosophy?

“I believe that when students feel both intellectually challenged and supported, they are better prepared to fully engage in the learning process. In my classrooms at Eastern (both in-person and virtual), this entails a type of learning and teaching that recognizes how various parts of the whole (e.g., each individual student, our classroom community, the broader society) are interconnected and interdependent — it is based on a philosophy of “holistic learning.” It is based on building a classroom community that encourages informed discussion and respectful debate. I believe that facilitating an environment of trust early on allows us to challenge each other with controversial topics throughout the course. Teaching holistically also means a recognition that each student’s life experiences and social identities outside the classroom carry over to inform their perspectives on the materials we cover in the classroom.”

Other memorable moments

“I first ran the 5k Hot Chocolate Run in December 2013, following the murder of Eastern sophomore Alyssiah Wiley at the hands of her ex-boyfriend. Through the generosity of my friends, family, colleagues and former students at Eastern, I have raised more than $20,000 for Safe Passage over the years. It has been an honor to run in Alyssiah’s memory and to support the critical work that Safe Passage is doing with survivors of domestic violence.

“As one of the co-founders of our department’s antiracism committee in 2020 (following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis and the subsequent push from Eastern’s student NAACP organization and other student leaders to address white supremacy and systemic racism on campus), we have been engaged in a variety of equity-minded practices aimed at fostering an anti-racist climate in our department and on campus more broadly. Through book discussions, invited speakers, a yearly racial climate survey, a recent “Joy & Justice” celebration last spring, and many other initiatives, faculty and students are working together in meaningful ways in these ongoing efforts.”

What advice do you have for after graduation?

“Advice that has stayed with me from my own college commencement speaker, who (I can't believe it either) was Oprah Winfrey. She said, first, ’Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe,’ and second, ’When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. Not the 29th time!’”

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Dr Bergstrom-Lynch: I thoroughly enjoyed the content of your online summer course and the effort you put into making it a functional online learning space. The content was interesting and dynamic and made discussion boards more interesting than in other classes that I've taken previously.
Student Quote
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