A sociologist who studies human behavior through complex concepts — like social geometry.
When he was an undergraduate, Daniel Boches took a class taught by a sociologist and the rest is history — sort of. He actually majored in Economics and minored in Sociology at Temple University. It wasn’t long before he realized he wanted to keep investigating human behavior, and he pursued an M.A. in Sociology at the University of New Hampshire and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. On the Hill, he teaches courses like Criminology, Social Psychology, and Introduction to Sociology.
You’ve conducted research on the theory of social geometry. What does that involve?
Once you learn about social geometry, you can’t unsee it. The idea is that configurations of variables in human interactions — ethnicity, wealth, if they’re strangers or friends — predict the behavior that occurs. My Ph.D. dissertation, “The Social Control of Medical Mistakes,” applied social geometry to the medical world. We know from research that the majority of medical mistakes don’t result in litigation, so I was interested in how doctors police mistakes among themselves. I interviewed 60 doctors and asked them how they responded to mistakes they’ve observed throughout their careers, then used social geometry to predict their responses.
When did you know you wanted to teach Sociology?
After earning my master’s degree, I taught Sociology and Criminal Justice as an adjunct instructor at a small private liberal arts institution in New Jersey. I fell in love with teaching. Working with students in intimate, discussion-based classes with just 10-15 people is part of what drew me to McDaniel. It’s amazing to pass around articles and have students share ideas while they draw on their own experiences to make sense of the world around us.
What part does Sociology play among the liberal arts?
As a sociologist, I teach the highly scientific and analytical, but you need both sides of the coin to be a responsible, democratic citizen. Other disciplines, like in the humanities, can equip students with moral, political, and ethical insights to help make the world a better place. The social sciences offer one piece of the mosaic that I think is essential for all of us — not just McDaniel students, but our larger communities.