About Spencer

Spencer is a second-year doctoral student in Sociology at the University of Michigan — Ann Arbor. He received a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and English Composition from the University of Washington — Seattle in 2010.  As an undergraduate, he was honored as a GSBA Pride Scholar; as a graduate student, he has been named a Rackham Merit Fellow and is supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.


Broadly, my research highlights reciprocal relationships between issues of social structure—operationalized through studies of social tie formation and network dynamics, examinations of organizational form and function, and the ongoing analysis of physical space—and micro-level social-psychological concerns (such as identity formation, sense-making, and narrative generation processes).  These concerns lend themselves well to research in a variety of different environments, and with a diverse spectrum of populations–in this regard, I am grateful for Michigan’s highly interdisciplinary program, which has enabled me to establish strong working relationships not only within the Department of Sociology, but also in the Department of Women’s Studies, the School of Information, and the University of Michigan Medical School.  I am also affiliated with the University of Michigan’s Graduate Certificate Program in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Studies.

I am a member of Dr. Jason Owen-Smith’s research team, working to identify the ways in which organizational contexts facilitate disparities in physician referral network structure (and, in turn, how variations in referral network structure may contribute to ongoing racial and class-based disparities in expenditures and treatment outcomes for surgical care).  This summer (2014), I will also be serving as a research assistant to Dr. Elizabeth Armstrong, conducting pilot interviews for an upcoming project exploring how Americans at mid-life (ages 35-60) negotiate relationship expectations and navigate the dating world.  More information about both of these projects will be accessible via my research page soon.

Prior to undertaking graduate study at Michigan, I worked for several years in the consumer technology repair sector, and I have a continually developing interest in the sociology of technology and communications; this interest has manifested itself most recently in a research project concerning the role that digital community networks have played in the development of the neurodiversity movement.  Another current project considers how transgender and gender-variant young adults put together their life-history and coming-out narratives, and how the process of modifying or adapting those narratives over time may shape other decision making about identity, presentation, and transition.  Full abstracts for the work mentioned above, as well as working abstracts for other current and prior projects, are accessible via my research page. Other research interests include sex and gender, sexualities (broadly defined), bodies and embodiment, digital ethnography, human geography and the sociology of space, narrative and memory, collective action and social movements, and qualitative and ethnographic methods, and queer and trans* identity “work.”

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