Meet the Professor: Cindy Struthers, Sociology and Community & Economic Development

Cindy Struthers

Cindy Struthers

Next fall, WIU’s new Master of Arts in Community and Economic Development will begin. This degree program will cover a number of disciplines, including economics, geography, management, and sociology. I sat down with sociology professor Cindy Struthers to learn more about her.

Cindy is a native of Lansing, Michigan, and received her doctorate in sociology with emphases in family inequalities, rural sociology, and gender from Michigan State University. She received her M.A. and B.A. in sociology from MSU as well. Cindy is currently serving as the executive director/treasurer of the Rural Sociological Society, a professional social science association that seeks to enhance the quality of rural life, communities, and the environment.

Cindy teaches a number of courses at WIU, including “Community,” “American Family,” and “Women and Poverty.” She will be teaching “Advanced Community Development and Practice” as part of the M.A. program.

Q: What are you most looking forward to in this new degree program?

Cindy: It sounds funny, but a new course prep always reinvigorates my enthusiasm for teaching. New courses force you to really look at what is happening in the field, and it’s a lot like completing a puzzle. You have to make a whole bunch of decisions about what to include and how it fits with all the other pieces. You have to put yourself in the minds of your students and not just choose every quirky thing you want to read for the next 8 -16 weeks (though some of that is always involved).

I am also very excited to be working with a diverse group of students, some of whom might be on a traditional educational trajectory and some who have chosen to improve their credentials and some who are simply lifelong learners who want to give community development a look-see.

Q: What are you passionate about?

Cindy: Passionate? I grew up in the Midwest—we are not a passionate people. Family, friends, helping communities remain vital; maintaining a sense of optimism and hope for the future.

Q: Favorite thing(s) about WIU?

Cindy: The school colors: purple and yellow. The school colors are actually “purple and gold,” but yellow is my favorite color.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

Cindy: “They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol

Q: What is your favorite place?

Cindy: New Orleans, Louisiana

Q: What are you reading right now? What’s next on the list?

Cindy: I can’t remember the name of the book I am reading right now (it’s an earlier book written by an author that has a new book on the New York Times bestseller list), and I am not organized enough to know what I’m reading next. However, two of the most fun and informative books I have read fairly recently are Novella Carpenter’s “Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer” and Aziz Ansari’s “Modern Romance.” I wish I had read Ansari’s book a little earlier in the year, because I would have assigned it to my Soc. 370 students this semester.

Q: Anything else you would like your prospective students to know about you?

Cindy: I have some real concerns about the continued vitality and future of rural places across the Midwest and the rest of the country. I can’t wait to hear what some of your observations and solutions might be. I have lived in four different small towns in Illinois since coming to WIU.

I’m a homebody who loves to travel. I’m always looking for a great cup of coffee, a quirky boutique, and a non-chain restaurant. I buy a lot of yarn (at independently owned shops), but never seem to complete any of the dozen or so projects I start. I have two Australian Shepherds; one is named Aussie and the other is Sydney, and two cats (Louis Armstrong and NOLA).

I have rather eclectic taste in music and books, but I tend to gravitate to blues music because I love the way different guitars and guitarists sound. Right now, I am primarily into “humor” and have read a couple Christopher Moore and Mindy Kaling books back to back.

Thanks to Cindy for taking the time to talk to me! 

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MAPPING new directions for small communities

Recent studies have shown that rural populations are declining. But citizens of some small towns across the state are taking community development into their own hands, with the help of a group of experts from the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA), which is housed at Western Illinois University. A recent article from the Herald-Review.com (Decatur, Ill.), describes how, in the community of Shelbyville, residents are working together—and with the IIRA—to help sustain and improve their town.

(More, below the image)

screen shot of IIRA MAPPING image

Just what does the IIRA do? Find out more on their website, or read about IIRA staff member Fred Iutzi’s recent appointment to the Alternative Fuels Commission board by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.

Students ‘dog-gone’ helpful during National Volunteer Week

As part of National Volunteer Week, students from WAVE, (or Western’s All Volunteer Effort), spent the week doing community service projects around the area, including spending time with seniors at area residential facilities, playing with children at the YMCA, and other activities.

Check out some of the highlights of that week (April 19-23) captured by WIU Visual Production Center photographers:

Cleanup at Moses King Brick and Tile Works national historic district in Colchester, IL (April 21, 2010)

(photos by Larry Dean)
student riding lawnmower

Crystal Sewell, special events coordinator for WAVE and a sophomore social work major from Aurora, IL, drives the lawnmower (check out that hood ornament!) while Tim Schroll, geography department staff member, gives guidance on the cleanup project.

picture of controlled prairie burn

(l-r) Karen Peitzmeier, a faculty assistant for the Peace Corps Fellows in Western's Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, (IIRA); Vladymyr Ivanyshyn, a junior law enforcement and justice administration major from Norridge, IL; and (in red sweatshirt) a member of Volunteer Now of Macomb, get started on a controlled prairie burn at the historic site.

picture of students volunteering --clearing brush

picking up brush at the historic Moses King brickyard site

Volunteering at the McDonough County Animal Shelter (April 22, 2010)

photos by George Hartmann
picture of students walking dogs during Volunteer Week

who is leading who, here?

picture of student with animal-shelter cat

The shelter is a popular spot for student volunteers on many days, not just during Volunteer Week.

picture of students playing with shelter dog

(l-r) Brandon Rusciolelli, a junior biology major from Rochester, IL, and Kyla Keefauver, sophomore pre-law enforcement major from Topeka, IL bond with one of the cuddly creatures at the shelter.

picture of students with small shelter dog

What is this dog's expression saying? Leave your caption in the comments below.

Want to see more? You can view the entire set of photos, and purchase copies, from the WIU Visual Production Center Lightbox online photo service.