Prompted by the work of Rodney Stark and Peter Berger, Sam wanted to know how friendship networks in congregations shape adults’ religious lives. “With resources like the Baylor Religion Survey and faculty mentoring, I was able in my first year in the program to take my interest in church-based social networks and write a research paper that went on to appear in print.”
In this study he analyzed data from the Baylor Religion Survey, the most in-depth national survey of American religion in existence. "The survey was developed by a team of sociologists of religion in our department and is being used by sociologists of religion around the country," Sam said.
“The intensity and rigor of the sociology graduate program is coupled with a collegial student environment in which students don’t have to compete for funding. The faculty members are also incredibly supportive and really take you under their wing. The faculty to graduate student ratio probably makes a difference in this. There is also excitement around research and writing in the department, which is contagious. The faculty members are high-level academics adept in developing graduate students’ research skills and modeling how to integrate excellence in research and excellence in teaching,” he said.
The National Science Foundation recently awarded Sam with a grant in support of his dissertation research on health disparities in India, one of his interests along with the sociology of religion. "My mentors and fellow graduate students encouraged me to apply for the NSF award. It’s great to have that kind of support going into dissertation work.“ Sam plans to pursue a career in academia after he graduates. “I’ll miss people at Baylor when I graduate. You really become close to your fellow students and mentors because you spend day in and day out kicking around what you’re learning, researching, and teaching and go to professional conferences together. Many of us hang out evenings and weekends. No doubt we’ll all continue to see each other as we continue to share similar interests and go to the same conferences.”