Sociology professor turns rock passion into scientific research

Valerie van den Broek, Features Editor

Ever since Jill Stein was young, she loved listening to her parent’s rock and roll records in their Los Angeles house.

Her mom even took her to rock concerts, not knowing that years later she would still be at concerts, but this time backstage.

Growing up, Stein had a lot of connections in the music industry and worked at the local rock and roll radio station KTYD.

“Music is a big escape for me,” she said.

Stein graduated with a master’s and Ph.D. in sociology from UCLA and did ethnographic research on her time touring with the band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

“They were big at the time, and they got big quickly,” Stein said.

During the tour, Stein was engaged to Stan Lynch, one of the original members of the band.

Her marriage gave her an inside look at the band’s social life and an opportunity to get close to the members.

“Students had to come up with an original topic for their ethnography,” she said. “I had access to something that other sociologists didn’t have access to.”

Stein mentioned that being a professional musician is a lot of work and that a lot of people don’t recognize that. 

“Sometimes I would put on a CD in the house, and Stan would go ‘Oh no, not work,’” she said.

Stein said Lynch would tell her she “had more fun with my career than me.

“It was hard work for them, and failure is always part of the risk,” she said.

After graduating from UCLA, Stein became a lecturer, teaching an introduction to sociology course at the university.

“I was a gateway for students who took sociology for the first time and I loved that,” she said.

Stein even created a class, the Sociology of Rock and Roll, and brought students on field trips to concerts.

Teaching sociology wasn’t always something Stein wanted to do. 

Stein had an interest in languages and arts and wanted to write.

“I didn’t have a lot of guidance in college,” Stein said. 

She ended up pursuing a career in education after one of her professors in college suggested it to her.

When a full-time sociology position opened up at City College, she leaped at the opportunity.

Stein likes small colleges more because she feels more connected to her students, she said.

“Jill is not only passionate about the information she lectures on, but she is also genuinely interested in what her students know,” said former City College student and sociology tutor Alex Vandenbelt.

Stein is also the author of “The Real World: An Introduction To Sociology.”

“I was dissatisfied with the sociology textbooks,” she said, so she created her own.

The book now has six additions because according to Stein, sociology always changes.

“I learn a lot from my students,” she added.

Now 18 years into teaching at City College, she says she loves every second of it and makes teaching her students her priority.

“This is my dream job,” she said