A Reedie Forever

Yale professor Julia Adams ’80 pays it forward as a trustee.

Randall S. Barton | February 5, 2018

“Once a Reedie, a Reedie forever,” Julia Adams ’80 proclaimed as she began serving as a new trustee for the college. “Reed is an outstanding model of liberal arts education, and I hope to give back a bit.”

A professor of sociology and international and area studies at Yale University, Julia also heads Grace Hopper College, one of Yale’s 14 residential colleges. She codirects the Yale Center for Historical Enquiry and the Social Sciences, and is on the board of the Social Science Research Council, which fosters research, promotes new generations of social scientists, and mobilizes necessary knowledge on important public issues.

Her fascination with history began as a child back in Wilton, Connecticut. “Since I was a kid I’ve particularly loved early modern European history circa 1500 to 1800,” she says.

As a historical sociologist, she studies large-scale social movements and developments through the processes of transformation and stasis. “If you’re interested in the development of states and empires over time,” she explains, “it’s hard not to be some sort of social science historian.”

She transferred to Reed as a sophomore, having studied ancient Greek and philosophy at Bryn Mawr. She had developed an abiding interest in historical sociology, and was eager to explore Reed, having been primed by enthusiastic alumni, including Mark Gould ’67, a professor of sociology at Haverford College, then a brother college to Bryn Mawr. Reed proved to be a joyful experience.

“There was great academic seriousness, which I really loved,” she says, “but there was also a sense of intellectual play, sometimes even gaiety. The fact that you could have those two things at once, I think for me, was really a revelation.”

Julia lauds the excellence of the sociology department at Reed, but also takes her hat off to other departments, including anthropology courses with Prof. Gail Kelly ’55 [anthropology 1960–2000].

“I am grateful to Prof. Peter Steinberger [political science 1977–] for inspiring discussions about Hegel and Marx and other light reading,” Julia says. “The pedagogy of the math department still inspires me. Early in high school I’d given up math and took it up again in college with some reticence. What I learned at Reed set me in very good store in graduate school with statistics. But even more than that, it was the absolute joy of building number theory from the ground up that really captured me. It was an amazing imaginative way to teach.” ­

Tags: Alumni, Institutional