Stacy Evans

Stacy Evans

7/2/24, 9:03 AM
Stacy Evans portrait

Faculty Spotlight

Stacy Evans

Professor of Sociology

my Community

After what she calls "a lifetime of moving around," Professor of Sociology and Chair of Social Sciences Stacy Evans landed in the Berkshires in 1991 and never looked back.

"I've lived all over the country except for the west. I moved a lot as a kid," says Stacy, who resides in Williamstown. "I fell in love with the Berkshires and everything it offers, from the people to the beautiful environment to the cultural institutions."

In part, it was the movement from place to place that planted the seeds for Stacy's interest in sociology.

"I went from places like Virginia to Minnesota, which is a huge shift. What I didn't know I was doing was adapting to the local variant of U.S. culture," she says. "When I found sociology, it explained all of those transitions. It helped me understand my own life better."

But Stacy, who calls herself an "academic mutt," didn't start out in the field of sociology. While pursuing her undergraduate degree at Wellesley College, she switched majors a few times before choosing economics. It was a discipline that she says answered some of the questions she had, but it also opened the door to more questions about the effect of the economy on society.

Combining her knowledge of economics and sociology, Stacy studied employment issues and the impact they have on society for her bachelor's thesis.

"When you have one giant employer, they have a huge amount of power. What happens when that giant employer goes away? What are the social and economic implications of that happening?" she asks. "It started me thinking about what happens when people who are doing hard work, doing what they're supposed to do, and employment goes away. What is our social obligation?"

Deciding she wanted to delve further into understanding this relationship and to help make society a better place, Stacy completed a master's degree in public policy from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. "Public policy is basically, 'How do you run government organizations? How do you create programs to help people?' and so on," she says.

That led to even more questions.

"I looked around thought, 'Oh, the rest of the questions I want answered are in sociology,'" Stacy says. With this realization, she sought to continue her education yet further, eventually earning a doctorate in sociology from UMass Amherst.

"I fell in love with the subject as a way to understand the world. Sociology was the answer to the questions I personally really wanted to have answered," she says.

Stacy's questions were mostly focused on inequality — particularly class inequality. "How do we make society a better place for everyone? How do we give people better opportunities? Those were the driving questions of my entire career," she recalls.

Looking for answers to those questions, Stacy ultimately decided teaching was her passion.

While working on her doctorate, she taught at an elite liberal arts college in the Pioneer Valley and at BCC as an adjunct faculty member. Though the students at the liberal arts college were "wonderful," Stacy says, she found herself making a deep connection to the students at BCC.

"I was so amazed by what they did to get educated — the difficulties they had to face, the challenges," Stacy says. "I also genuinely liked the students. I found them interesting, compelling, smart. I knew BCC was where I wanted to be, so I kept taking adjunct jobs until they hired me full time in 2004."

Stacy quickly learned what made BCC a special place.

"The real heart of community colleges is their faculty, and at BCC, we have amazing faculty — people who are incredibly dedicated to teaching," she says. "One of the things we have here at BCC is a true community. It's very easy as a faculty member to live in your classroom, but that's not the way it works here. We talk to each other, we help each other, we enjoy being with each other."

Stacy also credits BCC's student support systems, noting that "all sorts of wonderful staff are working to make sure students are getting the services they need and that they are supported."

But in the end, she says, it's the students themselves, and their variety of life experiences, that matter most.

"Here, you have people who are still in high school, people who are just out of high school and people who might be coming back to college after 20 years in the workforce. That makes for a rich and diverse set of students that brings a lot more to what we do than just having everybody relatively the same," she says.

In fact, she readily calls the students her favorite part about teaching at BCC.

"I love talking to them, I love learning about them, I love working with them," she says. "Just about every student I have has a fantastic story and an unbelievable challenge they had to overcome."

One student of hers confided he was collecting cans for bus money to get to school. Others are managing difficult family situations or are working multiple jobs to make ends meet. "These situations are so common that I rarely encounter a student who doesn't have a special story and their own personal success," she says.

There is a wide variety of opportunities for people who study sociology, Stacy explains.

The first thing that sociology does in terms of preparing people for a career is that it focuses deeply on critical thinking. How do you look at a problem, how do you break it down, how do you collect and analyze data in an unbiased way? Sociology is great for any career that needs these skills.

Nonprofit organizations, for example, are a "huge section" of where Stacy's students get employed. They also fill positions in sales, marketing and teaching. "Any job that needs analytical skills, from insurance to marketing to nonprofit service provisions — all of those jobs are great places for people to go," she says.

And BCC is a great place to get started, Stacy says, noting that the risk is minimal.

"Try it. There's very little downside to giving it a try. We have an amazing staff at the One Stop who can help you figure out how to do that," she advises. "Everybody is college material. Everybody can do it. Not everybody wants to do it, and that's fine, too. But if you're thinking about it, there are lots of ways to try."

It doesn't require a full slate of classes to get started, she explains.

"We have classes — and sociology is one of them — where you can start out by taking just one or two courses and ease yourself in to college. You don't have to jump into some subject that really intimidates you," she says.

"I think a community college education is the best thing ever. It is a way that anyone can try it," Stacy says. "We have no entrance requirements except for a high school degree or its equivalency. We want everybody. That, to me, is the beauty of a community college. Everybody gets to try."