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Ryan Kelty

Chair, Department of Sociology; Associate Professor of Sociology
  • Ph.D., University of Maryland, 2005  
  • M.A., University of Maryland, 1997
  • B.A., Middlebury College, 1993

Curriculum Vita (PDF)



Research Interests

  • Civil-Military Relations
  • Military Outsourcing and Civilianization
  • Social Influences of Military Service
  • Environmental Sociology
  • Environmental Justice
  • Sociology of Place
  • Social Construction of Identity

Courses Offered Annually Or Biannually

  • SOC 101: Introduction to Sociology
  • SOC 221: Social Inequalities
  • SOC 306: Research Methods
  • SOC SCE: Senior Capstone Experience

Special Topics Courses Offered Every Other Year

  • SOC 394: Armed Forces & Society (spring odd years)
  • SOC 394: Environmental Sociology (fall odd years)
  • SOC 394: Sociology of Religion (spring even years)
  • SOC 394: Sociology of Death & Dying (fall even years)

Research Agendas And Student Work

Military Sociology

My research in the area of military sociology focuses on the use of civilian contractors as “force multipliers” in our contemporary armed forces. This line of research examines whether and to what extent integrating civilian contractors with our military personnel affects such important outcomes as job satisfaction, commitment to the military, unit cohesion, unit readiness, and one’s decision to remain in military service. This work has included combat arms soldiers (infantry & combat aviation), combat support units (e.g., logistics, military intelligence, and military police), as well as samples of department of the Army civilian employees and smaller samples of civilian contractors. To date data have been obtained and analyzed from the Army and Navy. The overriding conclusion is that the integration of contractors with military and DOA civilian personnel does appear to have negative impacts on cohesion, satisfaction, organizational commitment and retention. These results are despite reports by service members that they see lots of benefits from contractors (and some challenges) and that they often enjoy working with them. The statistical modeling of these results tell a very different story that that of individual soldiers’ experiences—demonstrating unintended and unexpected consequences and the power of sociology to uncover patterns in social life that affect people despite what they themselves report being aware of.

I also write on civil-military relations in contemporary American society, as well as exploring historical trends on issues ranging from race, gender, physical ability, to changes in organizational structure and its effects on service members and civilians.

Environmental Sociology

My second research agenda, with Ruth Kelty of the National Coastal Ocean Service, focuses on environmental sociology. In particular, having grown up in Alaska and been a commercial fisherman for much of my young adult life, I developed an interest in the social organization of rural Alaskan fishing villages. This line of research is focused on the relatively small, highly seasonal communities in Bristol Bay, Alaska that participate in the annual sockeye salmon fishing. Taken together, the five fishing districts in Bristol Bay represent the largest and arguably best managed wild salmon fishery in the world. An international mining company has leased land at the headwaters of the rivers that support this salmon fishery and has applied for permits to use open pits mining to extract copper, gold, molybdenum, and other minerals— it is thought to be the largest gold deposit in the world (known as Pebble Mine). This has cast in motion heated arguments about whether and how such minerals should be extracted—framed by many fishers and native people as competing resource uses: “we can have fish or mining, but not both since the mine destroys the habitat for the fish.” The mining company argues that fish (and other flora and fauna) can safely coexist with modern mining practices. Quite a bit of environmental impact research has been done on the physical science side, very little has been done on the human impacts. Our research focuses expressly on the human dimension of the fisher/ecosystem. Initial studies have focused on the identities fishermen and women develop based on their relationship to the environment in these fishing districts and the effects that the presence of these identities have on their attitudes toward natural resource health, resource use in the fishery, and the expected impact of Pebble Mine on the natural environment and their own way of life/culture/communities. We also examine fishermen’s and women’s place attachment to these rural fishing communities. This refers to how strongly they connect with and are committed to a particular place (geography, community, natural resources, etc.), again connecting to expected changes that would be brought about through developing Pebble Mine. This applied sociology is expressly intended to inform local, regional, and national leaders and policymakers on the human component of these rural Alaskan ecosystem since humans are part of, not apart from the “natural” ecosystem. This work combines both qualitative and quantitative methodologies to achieve both breadth and depth in understanding on the issues under investigation.

Student Work

  • 2009 Students of SOC 306: Sociological Research Methods conducted an assessment of environmental stewardship at Washington College. Dimensions investigated include water use, electrical use, heating and air conditioning, chemical and pesticide use, recycling, and dining facility composting.
  • 2009 Sarah Milligan and Nicholas Handrick (Washington College). “Race and Gender in Life®.” Eastern Sociological Society annual meeting: Baltimore, MD.
  • 2009 Sarah Cannon & Kristen Gowing (Washington College). “Chutes & Ladders® of Society: Social Class in the United States.” Eastern Sociological Society annual meeting: Baltimore, MD.
  • 2007 Melanie Kwan (U.S. Military Academy). “Differential Effects of Army Branch on Marital Relations.” Women in the Military: Where They Stand annual conference. Women’s Research & Education Institute: Arlington, VA.
  • 2007 Amie Foster and Allison Gould (U.S. Military Academy). “A Relativist Review of the Unites States Military Academy’s Ability to Create Officers of the 21st Century.” Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces & Society. Chicago, IL.
  • 2007 Jacklyn Oeser (U.S. Military Academy). “The U.S. Military Academy as a Relatively Unique Institution.” Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces & Society. Chicago, IL.
  • 2007 David White, Jr. (U.S. Military Academy). “The Long Gray Line in Blue Jeans.” Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces & Society. Chicago, IL.

Professional Associations

Recommended Books

  • Environment: Ishmael - Daniel Quinn, Last Child in the Woods - Louv
  • Education: Savage Inequalities - Johnathan Kozol
  • Military: War in European History - Michael Howard, War Without Mercy - John Dower, Corporate Warriors - Peter W. Singer, Carnage and Culture - Victor David Hanson, The Face of Battle - John Keegan, A Soldier’s Heart - Elizabeth D. Samet
  • Religion: Wayward Puritans - Kai Erickson, The Tao of Pooh - Benjamin Hoff
  • Social Inequality: Rooted in Place - William Falk, Second Shift - Arlie Russell Hochschild, Nickled and Dimed - Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Gender: The Beauty Myth - Naomi Wolf, Female Chauvinist Pigs - Ariel Levy

American Sociological Association’s Distinguished Book Award Winners 1986-2009