“He’s calm for a 2-year-old poodle, but so happy and affectionate that people feel at ease around him,” said Dr. Cassidy Cooper, associate professor of sociology. She adopted Benny in May and started training him for basic obedience. He was easy to train, and such a “people dog” that Cooper took the next step to train him as a therapy dog.
“Therapy dogs have been used in high-stress environments for a few decades, and the research on academic stress, anxiety and depression was really compelling. Getting Benny therapy dog-certified was kind of a fluke on my end. I wanted to see how he would do and how students would respond. I was also hoping we could reduce the need for emotional support animals on campus by offering therapy dog services,” Cooper said.
The results have been positive, and Benny is a regular visitor to Ben May Hall and the Academic Park.
“I’d like to say that the whole endeavor was well-planned and executed with research-backed strategies in place, but it was much more organic, experimental and felt very much like a ‘God moment’ when Benny passed his last test and started having regular visitors,” Cooper said.
We asked Cooper about teaching Sociology and why it is such a popular field of study in UM’s College of Arts & Sciences.
Q: Why should someone choose to study Sociology at the University of Mobile?
A: Sociology allows us to see the world through a different lens and encourages us to think empathetically and strategically about our lived experiences and those of others. In many ways, I think it allows an applied, academic use of our biblical calling. For many UM students, connecting those dots between life, school, culture, God and the larger social structures is a powerful experience.
Q: What is your favorite class to teach?
A: I teach most of the sociology classes, but my favorites are Intro and upper level electives. The electives are fun because I get the chance to cater to my majors and what sparks their intellectual curiosity. Intro Is fun because we get to cover the breadth of sociology in one semester and most UM students haven’t heard of sociology before Intro to Sociology 202, so there are a lot of “ah ha” moments.
Q: What are some options for sociology majors at UM?
A: Sociology majors may choose from two concentrations for a Bachelor of Arts or Science in sociology: criminal justice or social welfare. We also offer an Integrated 5-Year Master of Science in Social Work in partnership with Samford University. In this program, students can earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology from UM and a Master of Social Work from Samford University in just 5 years.
Q: What is your background?
A: I’ve been at UM since 2013. I have a PhD in Sociology with an applied emphasis in education, crime, health care and economics. For my dissertation, I studied the relationship between high school quality, standardized testing and college success.