Joe Swingle

Senior Lecturer in Sociology

Studies processes of stratification, higher education and inequality with primarily a U.S. focus.

I began teaching at Wellesley in the fall of 1999 as a lab instructor for Quantitative Reasoning 199 (Introduction to Social Science Data Analysis). I finished my Ph.D. the following year and have remained at Wellesley ever since.

I teach two of the four required courses for the sociology major, Sociology 190 (Introduction to Probability and Statistics) and Sociology 290 (Methods of Social Research). I also teach courses on the family and inequality. In 2015, I a Calderwood Seminar in Public Writing (Sociology 324) for the first time. Soc 324 is geared towards sociology and other social science majors interested in writing for a non-academic audience using a sociological perspective. Students in the class write op-eds and book reviews, report on public lectures, and conduct interviews with professional sociologists.

My most recent research interests center on higher education. Together with Professor Lee Cuba and two Bowdoin College professors, I co-authored a book exploring how students navigate their four years of college (Practice for Life: Making Decisions in College, Harvard University Press, 2016).

Prior to my graduate studies, I attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota where I majored in Sociology/Anthropology and played a lot of ultimate frisbee. Upon graduating from Carleton, I spent the next two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa where I taught secondary school mathematics in the small town of Bibiani in Ghana's Western Region.

When I am not teaching, researching, or meeting with students, you can find me playing with my two sons, Aaron and David, and yellow lab, Princess Leia.


  • B.A., Carleton College
  • M.A., Harvard University
  • Ph.D., Harvard University

Current and upcoming courses

  • In this course, students develop and apply mathematical, logical, and statistical skills to solve problems in authentic contexts. The quantitative skills emphasized include algebra, geometry, probability, statistics, estimation, and mathematical modeling. Throughout the course, these skills are used to solve real world problems, from personal finance to medical decision-making. A student passing this course satisfies the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) component of the Quantitative Reasoning & Data Literacy requirement. This course is required for students who do not satisfy the QR component of the QR & DL requirement via the Quantitative Reasoning Assessment. Those who satisfy the QR Assessment, but still want to enroll in this course must receive permission of instructor.