Alumni Profile: Luft, Aliza (Current Faculty)

Name: Aliza Luft

Current Occupation: Assistant Professor of Sociology at UCLA

What is your typical day like?

I wake up at the earliest 5:30 AM; if I get to sleep in a little I wake up at 6:30. I walk my dog, try to work out, go to a spin class maybe, grab breakfast, and go straight to campus. Once I get to campus, I usually spend a couple of hours reading, writing, doing my research and data analysis, or preparing for my classes, which are currently on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I try not to check my email first thing in the morning but instead during or right before lunch. In the afternoons, I’ll either continue with my work or with administrative and organizational work. I like to reserve Tuesdays for meeting with students,  which is why you’re here now! And I try to leave by 6:30 or 7:00pm every day.

 

What do you enjoy most about being a professor?

I enjoy the intellectual flexibility of being a professor – that I get to ask questions about the kinds of things I am interested in and to research the answers to the best of my ability. When I worked for others, I would often find myself frustrated by the limitations on what kinds of questions I could and couldn’t ask, or how I was or wasn’t allowed to pursue different possible answers. As a professor, you never stop learning and can follow wherever your questions lead you. It’s a real privilege.

 

Why UCLA?

Working at UCLA is a dream job. Not only is this a top 10 Sociology Department, but I appreciate that UCLA is a public school with an ethnic, racial, and economically diverse community. The students here are great and I learn a lot from them and the perspectives they bring to bear on our classroom discussions. I also deeply value my peers and my colleagues – when I came for my interview, many of them asked challenging questions that pushed me think harder about my own work and ideas and I appreciate knowing that I can always turn to them for thoughtful and critical feedback on my research.  

 

Many say that getting a career in Sociology is near impossible. Have you found this to be true?

It depends what you mean by “a career in sociology.” The truth is, many people don’t know what sociology is. We don’t do a great job marketing ourselves. But sociologists, in fact, are everywhere: in marketing, media, technology, politics, social work, and more. Job opportunities for sociologists are actually much more diverse than for other majors, but they are often concealed under different headings.

 

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned as a sociologist?

This isn’t a lesson so much as a theoretical concept that has profoundly influenced my understanding of human behavior – the concept is called “habitus” and it was developed by Pierre Bourdieu. Habitus essentially draws attention to how it is that we come to embody the social world, how our environment shapes who we are, how we act, move, feel, why it is that people have preferences for certain things, why we value the things we do, what is important for us, what do we ignore or dismiss or disregard and why? I appreciate that the concept of habitus alerts us to the connection between social processes and our physical and psychological dispositions.  

 

Do you have any tips on researching efficiently?

Time management never really stops being a challenges as more and more responsibilities accrue over time and with greater expertise. I have heard that the “Pomodoro Technique” is very helpful, which entails reading for about 20 minutes, taking a 5 minute break, and then repeating this 5 times until you then take a break for an hour.”

 

How can one improve their public speaking?

Practice is obviously very important. I also feel as if a good lecture requires the speaker to think about his or her audience and to find ways to connect with them. It’s important to not talk down to your audience, and to not speak at your audience, but to imagine the talk as an opportunity to engage with your audience, to create a dialogue of sorts. Sharing personal stories is also a great way to engage your audience and to make the lessons feel more relevant and interesting.”

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Conducted by Lily Rosenberg

UCLA Sociology Class of 2018