Class to unite sociology, theatre students with youths

Joanna Williams

A new class will bring sociology and theater students together with juvenile offenders in hopes of leading them down a new path.

Sociology 346: Special Topics -Theatre in Diversion, is aimed primarily at high school students who committed nonviolent offenses. These juveniles will work with theatre students on a play or original short pieces. The sociology students in the class will conduct research to see if these methods lead to improvement in the youth.

Crystal Bohlander, court improvements field supervisor for the Department of Family and Juvenile Services, said she thought of creating a class after the death of WKU English professor Pat Taylor  last spring.

Bohlander said when Taylor died it was not only a “profound” loss by the university, but also the local theatre community.

After noticing that WKU did not have a theater diversions program, Bohlander approached David Young, the head of the theatre and dance department.

“We did not have a theater diversions program at Western, so it seemed like an appropriate thing for her and the kids and the community,” Bohlander said.

The class has taken more than eight months to create, and spring 2012 is when the first class will begin. 

Jerry Daday, associate professor of sociology and one of the instructors for the course, said the class will have around 15 to 20 students, although the number is not finalized. Daday said he hopes the class can be offered every spring semester hereafter.

“We’re hoping to see the sociology students do a data collection to see what affect this had on the children,” he said. “They will also do research to see if this can get going across the state.”

Carol Jordan, a part-time instructor in the theatre department, will also be instructing the class.

Jordan said Bohlander approached her and Daday earlier this semester and they talked to Young about starting a partnership.

Daday said five students have signed up from the sociology side so far. Their reason for doing so was mainly to gain “practical” research experience since many want to go to graduate school in sociology, he said.

Bohlander said the class has received support from the university and everyone who has heard about the idea.

“My hope for the program is the youth who are a part of it are inspired to contribute to the community as much as Pat Taylor did,” she said.