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An aerial photo of campus.

Benedictine College Adds Sociology Professor

Jesse Smith

Dr. Jesse Smith has joined the Benedictine College Department of Sociology & Criminology, one of the oldest Sociology programs in America. Smith comes to Benedictine as an Assistant Professor after completing his doctoral degree in Sociology and Demography at The Pennsylvania State University. He spent several years in south-central Indiana working in the fields of mental health, addictions treatment, and child services. He also held a pre-doctoral family demography traineeship with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

“Dr. Smith is a great addition to our faculty,” said Department Chair Dr. Kevin Bryant. “He brings a strong background in both the academic aspects of sociology instruction as well as the practical aspects of doing social work in the field.”

Smith, who also holds a Master of Arts in Sociology and Demography from Penn State as well as Master’s and bachelor’s degrees in social work from Indiana University, has been published in journals such as Sociology of Religion, Journal of Marriage and Family, Socius, and Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. He has presented at conferences of the American Sociological Association, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and the Population Association of America. His research interests are diverse, focusing on such topics as religious nationalism, moral development, and the transmission of faith between generations. The subject of his dissertation, “Secularization, Atomization, and Polarization: Linking Trends in 21st Century American Religion, Family, and Politics,” was very timely considering the current situation in the United States.

“I’m excited to be at Benedictine College because I’m excited about the Catholic mission. We live in a world that often asks us to separate our faith from other areas of our lives and keep it in the background, which to me seems exactly backwards,” Smith said. “If I’m living out my faith, it should be a part of everything I do. At Benedictine, I don’t have to choose. It’s a great feeling to be at a place where my teaching, research, and religious commitments can all come together, and to know that everyone from the college president to the student body shares in that mission.”

Benedictine College, located in Atchison, Kansas, first established a Sociology Department in 1919 when the college was known as St. Benedict’s College. This puts it among the oldest and most established continuously operated sociology departments in the country. Sociology degrees have risen in importance today due to the focus on the study of social groups and institutions, including those based on religion, race, gender, politics, and family. Sociology majors enter a wide variety of career fields, ranging from public relations and community or nonprofit leadership, to data analysis and public policy, to actual field work as a researcher or case worker.


Benedictine College

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is honored to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. Benedictine College is dedicated to transforming culture in America through its mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.