Robert Moorehead took a sociology class in high school but found it boring.
It wasn’t until he took Introduction to Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz that he fell in love with it.
“The material was immediately relevant to the world around me, helped explain the world, and I felt learning this new perspective really empowering,” he said. “I remember being a sociology major and taking Contemporary Theory from Andy Szasz. Andy described studying sociology as like the scene in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ when Toto pulls back the curtain to reveal that the great and powerful wizard was really just an old man pulling levers and turning knobs. Once you see that, you can’t go back to seeing things the way you used to.
“Similarly, in a sociology class, you learn to see the world in new ways, and once you do that, you can’t unsee the new things you’ve seen. There’s no going back.”
Before entering graduate school at the University of California, Davis, Moorehead was Member Services director at Kaiser Permanente’s San Francisco Medical Center, an English conversation teacher in Japan and a research coordinator at Stanford University School of Medicine. He also was a Spanish-Japanese interpreter/translator/assistant teacher at a Japanese elementary school, where he did his dissertation research on the incorporation of Peruvian immigrants at the school.
Then he was hired as an associate professor in the College of International Relations at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. For more than four years, he was part of the first faculty in a new Global Studies major that taught an all-English curriculum to students from across the globe.
Now at College of DuPage, he enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for sociology with students.
“There’s a great moment in class discussions when you see students focusing intently and nodding along. You can see them making the connection between the class material and their personal lives,” he said. “My favorite moment in teaching is when students teach me something. When students ask questions that no one has asked before or connect the dots in new ways, that’s a real highlight for me.”
Moorehead is inspired by a sense of justice, which started at a young age.
“My mom loves telling the story of when my family went to Disneyland back when I was 5 years old,” he said. “My parents lost me as the Main Street Parade was passing. They looked all around and couldn’t find me. Then they looked out in the parade and saw me, right in the middle, punching the Big Bad Wolf in the stomach. I was upset because the wolf would pick on the Three Little Pigs. As the youngest kid in the family, I identified with the pigs because my older brother picked on me.
“At university, I started taking classes on race and ethnicity. I volunteered at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers Project at Stanford, transcribing King’s speeches and sermons. I was inspired by Dr. King’s words and perspective, and I still turn to his work to help me get through difficult times. And today, I teach and research inequality. But I’m not punching wolves anymore.”