His academic journey started in the Pacific Northwest, where he received a bachelor's degree in communication arts from George Fox University. "I was interested in public speaking and the idea of connecting with a public audience," Dr. Dougherty says. "I hadn't heard of sociology in high school but ended up taking an intro class in college to fulfill a requirement."
That was the start. After working in admissions at his alma mater for four years, he relocated to Indiana to pursue a Ph.D. in sociology at Purdue University. He wrote a dissertation on participation and growth in U.S. congregations. He joined the faculty of Calvin College in 2002. He enjoyed teaching and mentoring undergraduates, but he desired more time for research and writing.
So when the opportunity to join Baylor's Department of Sociology and the Institute for Studies of Religion presented itself, Dr. Dougherty packed his bags and headed south. The idea of participating in a Christian research university appealed to him. "I came to Baylor because I could conduct scholarly research and teach in a place where I didn't have to leave my faith commitments at the door," Dr. Dougherty says. "This is a world-class program, and there is no place that is more ideal for me."
His current research merges religion, organizations, innovation, and racial-ethnic diversity. "My primary research centers around American congregations, the way they form and function, why they grow and decline," he says. "It is the collective experiences that really fascinate me."
Teaching continues to be important to Dr. Dougherty. He regularly teaches Introduction to Sociology. At the graduate level, he teaches a seminar on religious organizations. "The students are highly engaged and I feel like a participant in a lively conversation," he says. "It is such a rewarding experience to work with these junior colleagues, to be pushed in my own research by their comments."
Despite hot summer weather, he is pleased to be in Texas at Baylor. "You won't find a better sociology of religion program anywhere in the world," he says. "The department is advancing and becoming one of the premiere players, it's been an enjoyable process."