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Meet Assistant Teaching Professor of Sociology Megan Bolton


September 15, 2021

Megan Bolton, PhD, is an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Sociology. She received her PhD in sociology from Indiana University, minoring in social science research methods and concentrating in medical sociology. Before joining Drexel University, Bolton taught introduction and medical sociology courses at Indiana University. Her teaching interests are rooted in the sociology of health and illness, especially mental health and stigma. Her research focuses on the influence of social relationships on perceptions of self and others, mental health among emerging adults, and the stigma of mental illness.

Photo of Megan Bolton

Degree: PhD, Sociology, Indiana University
Research Interests: mental health, medical sociology, social networks, research methods
Hometown: Hillsborough, New Jersey

What did you do before coming to Drexel?

Before joining Drexel as an assistant teaching professor in the Sociology Department, I lived, worked and attended graduate school in Bloomington, Indiana. However, I was born and raised in New Jersey and always intended to return home to family and friends in the tristate area. I am enthusiastic about this next stage of life – teaching in the City of Brotherly Love and living in the neighboring Garden State.

What is your favorite food or restaurant?

Like my father and his father before him, I have an extensive love for sweets. My favorites include fresh-baked treats from small bakeries, French toast drizzled with maple syrup, crème brûlée made with vanilla bean and cupcakes topped with sugary icing and pretty sprinkles. Because of my sweet tooth, I do not particularly like when desserts contain nuts, fruits or other non-sweet confections. I am especially grateful to be back in New Jersey because I can, once again, indulge in dark chocolate sorbet from the Bent Spoon in Princeton, my Aunt Kathy’s homemade chocolate peanut butter squares and Johnson’s Popcorn from the Ocean City Boardwalk.

What book, movie, show, or podcast would you recommend?

While living in Indiana, my husband and I drove back and forth to New Jersey over a dozen times. That’s 750 miles of driving each way! In addition to our personalized music playlist, we also listened to podcasts and radio programs. Our go-to favorites included Revisionist History (Malcolm Gladwell), This American Life (Ira Glass), Cautionary Tales (Tim Harford), and The Happiness Lab (Dr. Laurie Santos).

Although I love reading for academic purposes and personal enjoyment, I especially love sharing books with others. I fondly remember reading the Harry Potter books aloud with my father as a child and am grateful for the public speaking practice he afforded me at such a young age. Additionally, my friend and I have our own two-person book club. We often read Agatha Christie novels, but I have yet to accurately guess who done it. I especially love The Book of Delights, which is a compilation of essays written by Ross Gay during a year of self-reflection. I keep this book on my bedside table for easy access when I need a pick-me-up in the face of grief or doubt. Some of my favorite academic books include The Scholar Denied (Aldon Morris) and The Loss of Sadness (Allan Horwitz and Jerome Wakefield).

What is your favorite thing about Philadelphia?

Although I have traveled to many cities across the United States, Philadelphia is my favorite. I especially love Old City for its cobblestone streets, antique buildings, and historical charm. Because it makes me smile, my husband always drives down one of these picturesque streets whenever we are in the city. Although I enjoy Center City neighborhoods, I have spent the most time in South Philly. I especially love driving under the holiday lights that drape across residential streets, eating cheesesteaks at John’s Roast Pork and enjoying the unofficial Two Street Parade on New Years’ Day. In addition to these favorite things, I look forward to spending more quality time with family and friends who live throughout and around the city.

What have you been working on recently?

Recently, I have been working on publishing my dissertation research and preparing new course materials for my sociology classes.

What would students be surprised to learn about you?

I did not pump my own gas until moving to Indiana. A friend from graduate school had to teach me how to properly function as my own gas attendant. Despite this, on a few occasions, I foolishly sat and waited for assistance before remembering that I was no longer in New Jersey.

What did you want to be when you were a kid? What made you want to become a professor?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher. I used to play school in my basement, taking attendance, grading homework and teaching my classroom of stuffed animals and dolls. I saved all my notes from grammar school, middle school, high school and college just in case I needed to tutor myself or others. When I was a teenager, I wanted to become a doctor and a scientist. Before switching to sociology, I intended to major in neuroscience, attend medical school and specialize in anesthesiology. Although different than imagined, I have achieved all three of my dream jobs: I am a (sociology) teacher, a doctor (of philosophy) and a (social) scientist.

Who inspires you?

My Grandaddy, John “Jack” Bolton, inspired me to become a professor. After retiring from the Army, my Grandaddy taught business courses at Monmouth University (originally Monmouth College) and assisted the Business School with accreditation until his untimely death in 1998. As a child, I remember accompanying him to campus, scribbling unintelligible notes in a blue book while he lectured and attending football games in school uniforms. At his funeral, countless students, both past and present, filed into the pews to pay their respects. Thus, from an early age, I wanted to be like my Grandaddy and leave a positive impact on others.

What was an impactful moment from your own college career?

As an undergraduate at Rutgers, I took a variety of classes my first two years. The juxtaposition between STEM classes and social science classes helped me realize which type of work best suited my personality, personal goals and mental health. Sociology of gender was the course that really opened my eyes to the social construction of reality and the ways in which social surroundings influence beliefs and behaviors. The tension between individual agency and social structure was mind-opening for me. I love sociology because it provides a way for me to channel my empathy into empirical evidence, practical research and social change.

Which current event/issue do you think students should know more about, and why?

The pandemic is the perfect moment for sociology to shine, as sociologists are well-prepared to explain current events, inform our next steps and predict future possibilities. This pandemic has also highlighted the importance of social connections for mental health, which has long been studied by medical sociologists and social epidemiologists. Lectures I taught before COVID are more relevant than ever, as the pandemic serves as a perfect case study for understanding the interplay between institutions and individuals – for example, racism and sexism, mental health and suicide, comparative healthcare systems and collective behavior.

What do you consider to be your biggest achievement thus far in your career?

I consider my teaching a success when students report seeing sociology in the real world and/or feeling seen in the classroom. My goal is to present sociology as a tool for everyday life rather than a pure classroom-bound discipline.