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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 25, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 31
JHU Course Catalog
Becoming an Adult: Life Course Perspectives on School, Work and Family

Stefanie DeLuca is interested in the way social context affects the outcomes of young people, primarily in adolescence and at the transition to adulthood.

By Amy Cowles

Editor's note: This is part of an occasional series in which reporters drop in on interesting classes throughout the university's eight academic divisions. Suggestions are welcome at

The course: Becoming an Adult: Life Course Perspectives on School, Work and Family. 3 credits. Offered by the Department of Sociology in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

The instructor: Stefanie DeLuca, assistant professor, who specializes in the sociology of education, sociology of neighborhoods and life course studies. DeLuca is interested in the way social context--family, school, neighborhood, peers, teachers, popular culture--affects the outcomes of young people, primarily in adolescence and at the transition to adulthood. She's currently examining these issues through five separate research projects blending quantitative and qualitative approaches.

Meeting time: 2 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and noon to 1 p.m. on Thursdays.

Syllabus: The undergraduates taking this course have firsthand knowledge of what this phase of life--the transition to adulthood--is all about. The course uses personal experiences as a way to delve deeper into the sociological and psychological dimensions of this demographically dense period. DeLuca introduces her students to several life course theories of human development through empirical work on adolescence, the transition to college, early employment and early family formation. The course pays attention to the way class, gender, race and nationality influence pathways, choices and outcomes of young people.

Course work: A research paper is worth half the final grade. Another 30 percent is made up of five critical assignments based on readings and lectures, with the lowest of the five grades dropped from consideration. The final 20 percent of a student's grade is participation in the weekly section meeting of class, where DeLuca gives guidance, hands out assignments and collects them. One assignment had students conducting "life course history" interviews with family members to find out why they had made the choices they had in early adulthood and in what historical context the decisions took place. In addition, each student is required to moderate one section discussion during the semester.

Required reading: The course has a hefty reading list consisting of articles and excerpts on electronic reserve at the library. The required books are On The Frontier of Adulthood: Theory, Research, and Public Policy, by Richard A. Settersten Jr., Frank F. Furstenberg Jr. and Ruben G. Rumbaut; and Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road From the Late Teens Through the Twenties, by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett.

Overheard in class: "People can't always see the social backdrop in their own lives. One reason social science is useful is that it allows us to pull back and see what has changed over time. Interviews help us do that. Telling a story is an affirmation, especially if we are talking about overcoming hardship. Human beings in general are storytellers. Once people are comfortable with you, [they'll tell you about themselves]; a lot of times people haven't been asked about what is going on with them without expecting to give something back. It's like therapy--that's why fieldwork can be exhausting."
— Stefanie DeLuca

Students say: "Professor DeLuca is by far the best professor I've had at Hopkins. She is such a good teacher and is excited to help us in any way possible, always letting us know about opportunities outside of class to get involved and expand our knowledge. I think that she is proof that you can be a successful researcher and a good teacher. She incorporates her research into her teaching and is so excited about it. She also lets us know how the things we are learning are applicable and can make a difference. Once she said that her job as a researcher is to do the most detailed research with the most integrity possible [in order] to arm those working to influence policy-makers with powerful data. Seriously, it is because of her that I want to pursue a Ph.D. and do research, and I hope I can teach someday and get kids excited about research the way she's gotten our class.
   "The class on becoming an adult is so applicable to things I've been reading in magazines, etc. Evidence of a more highly individualized society is everywhere. It's so interesting to see what people are looking for nowadays in a job, in their future. And talking to my parents and friends, I can tell it's really changed over time, and that it varies regionally. The best part about Professor DeLuca's classes is the readings and discussions. Because of the discussion, you really get to know everyone in the class. I look forward to her class every week."
— Christal Ng, a junior public health major from Cincinnati, Ohio


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