Writing About Job ShadowingVisits
Created 11/27/2012

Visits to all of our field sites in Sociology 215 are meant to do three things:
(1) Encourage you to think about readings and class topics and to use those materials in your discussion of the field experience;
(2) Raise issues for you about participation in community life and political activity and to discuss how engagement and social responsibility, or disengagement and social irresponsibility happen;
(3) Give you field experiences to prepare you for other courses that will have more intensive field experiences, like Anthropology/Sociology 201.
Your paper is not meant to be long. Three or four pages is enough. You also should not try to write about all of the themes given below. Pick your focus, state it, and give lots of description and detail to develop your points.
One of the most important things about the time you spend observing is that you should not be passive. Be involved in activities and, most importantly, talk to people. Try especially to meet people other than the hosts who bring us into the settings. In addition to the main participants in the program (the kids in a school), seek out and talk to some of the people who are more in the background---office people, family members, custodial staff. Look at the questions given for each assignment and ask people in the setting what they think about the issues that are listed.

 

Job Shadowing

We are fortunate that executive directors of some important local organizations are interested in having SOCI 215 spend a day with them going to meetings and learning about the work they do leading a large organiztion. When you visit the likelihood is that you will not know much about the organization this person leads, what programs or acitivities go on within it, how it gets the resources it needs to operate, or who it serves. You also probably have not thought much about being a leader or what leadership involves, much less what kind of work a person does if they are the head of an important organization.

Visits we have lined up involve a hospital and the local United Way. For the hospital case, you will want to read course material on corporate influences on health care, the evolution of the professional model of patient care, and the difficulties low -income people have securing health care. Anticipate that the CEO of a hospital will be aware of these criticisms, on one hand, but that he will not think they are fair to his organization or that they relate to the positive aspects of his work. You will want to bring a balanced perspective to your observations.

The United Way CEO will have important things to say about the work of fundraising in the community since the United Way is an organization that receives contributions, mostly from people who donate at work. The United Way then allocates money to social welfare organizations in the local community, so you can learn things about how decisions are made about funding these agencies and you will have a chance to learn about the entire array of organizations that exist in a community. The United Way also is close involved in community life. This is partly because community members must believe that the United Way Fund serves important needs. However, the United Way in recent years also has taken on the responsibility of continually examining needs that are arising in the communities they serve. As needs change, the activities the United Way funds should change. The CEO must be continually involved in community dynamics and processes. For this reason, our readings on social capital and community structure that we covered early in the semester are important for you to pay attention to.

Objectives of the Visit

1. Settings we observe are chosen because a lot is going on. In some of the settings we are observing a small group of people but we think about lots of connections within our own lives. In other settings there are many different kinds of people, doing different things, suggesting different meanings to us. Your visit with an organizational CEO will offer both of these qualities. You will meet significant people and hear surprising things. One objective of this visit is for you to recognize the number of different things that are going on simultaneously in this setting.

2. You will have a chance in this setting to see how a large and important organization operates behind the scenes. Be aware that every organization has a political process that involves people from a variety of professional backgrounds and competing economic interests and value commitments. The CEO often is the person who has to work out these differences of opinion nad who also may have to change the organization to resolve these economic and philosophical differences. You should be interested in what some of those complex interactions are about, but also talk to the CEO about how he or she views and manages the politics and conflicts that arise in the organization.

What You Should Write

a. In all of our writing assignments, one task for you is simply to tell about your experience. Write about what you did, what happened, who you talked to, what caught your attention and what you learned.

b. This is a course in Human Services meant to focus on broad issues so you want to think about the broader implications of what you see. In particular, talk about what we mean when we talk about something being an "organization". Your day with a leader will probably involve moving from one meeting to another and watching your CEO play the role of "leader". Probably your CEO will want to explain to you in a philosophical way what he or she is trying to accomplish and also what it means personally for him or her to be in this role. Your CEO will probably also want to explain to you what the organization does and what are some current pressing issues they are facing. Try to understand these issues and try to briefly explain them in your written report.

c. One thing emphasized in our class is that often there are several ways to view specific events. Try in your field visit to allow opposing viewpoints to co-exist in your mind and let these clashing frameworks play out in your writing. This would be especially easy in a hosptial CEO visit since we have readings that are strongly critical of the institution and you will be visiting someone who is personally invested in the morality and importance of the organization. The United Way is not so easy to view from multiple perspectives, except that the CEO is likely to be somewhat distant in involvement terms from actual community programs and services. We sometimes see a clash between an elite, "top of the institution" view (which is where the CEO sits) and the social capital and rich community dynamics that happen on the ground. Historically also, the United Way has been a representative of the status quo, in the sense that it funds and speaks for established agencies that do not necessarily want to hear about new and critical problems. Explore these contrasting perspectives with your CEO and report on the different perspectives you have come to recognize through your visit.