*Originally published in the Summer 2014 Section Newsletter*
University of California, Santa Barbara
Thomas Pettigrew received his Masters and Ph.D. from Harvard University. He has taught at several universities and is now a research professor at University of California at Santa Cruz. He has won several awards including: The Career Contribution Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, The William Foote Whyte Distinguished Career Award from the Sociological Practice and Public Sociology section of ASA. He is this year’s winner of the Cooley-Mead Award for Lifetime Contributions to Social Psychology.
What life experiences have contributed to your interest in social psychology in general and/or your specific research areas?
I grew up in Richmond, Va. in the 1930s and 1940s. I was appalled as a child at the racism and discrimination that Black Richmonders faced daily in those years and wanted to work to end it. When I discovered social psychology in my second year of college at the University of Virginia, I knew immediately this was the field I wished to enter and intergroup relations was what I wanted to specialize in.
Where did you spend the early part of your sociological career (first as a student and then as faculty)?
Thomas started is BA at Virginia Tech (1948-9) and would graduate with a BA in Psychology from University of Virginia in 1952. He received both his MA and PhD in Social Psychology from Harvard, finishing in 1956. He began as a professor at the University of Northern Carolina (1956-1957), was at Harvard for a few years (1957-1980), was at the University of Amsterdam for a few years (1986-1991), and is now at the University of California, Santa Cruz (198-current).
What is your current (or recent) research focus?
On relative deprivation – see my Cooley-Mead address in March 2015.
What interests and/or activities, outside of sociology, are important to you?
Travel and chess – in the past, tennis though I can no longer play at 83 years of age.
Given your success in the field, how do you balance professional and personal demands?
My wife is an MD - so we had to learn to balance together.
We had only one child (son – Mark Pettigrew who is an Arabist with a Berkeley Ph.D.) and each of use tended to those matters that we were best at.
If you had to leave academia, what career would you choose?
Earlier I tried architecture – but I could not draw! The academic life proved perfect for me, and I have no idea of what else I could do well.
Do you know something today you wish you had known when you started in sociology? What is it?
To get a deeper math and statistics background.
What one piece of advice would give a graduate student? What about an assistant professor?
For grad students, take all the statistics and math you can acquire. The same for assistant professors plus work on that which you care deeply – not just research for the sake of publishing.