My primary areas of specialization include the intersection of race/class/gender inequality, culture, social change, and qualitative research methods. Broadly speaking, I’m interested in the ways marginalized groups use art as a form of political protest and engagement. I explore this phenomenon closer in my dissertation, which examines how a young, urban community of spoken word performance poets engage in political acts outside “official” political institutions, perceiving their poetry as a tool for transforming civil society and, more specifically, their local communities. To date, no in-depth sociological study has been conducted on this emerging and largely undocumented art form. This research diversifies existing scholarship predicated on adult-centric, social movement models of political participation by considering alternative ways contemporary young adults act politically, demonstrating how they use the arts and popular culture as a platform from which to articulate a political voice and engage in political action aimed at social justice. This research builds upon previous work I have published on art and social change, including research on African American verbal art traditions and an analysis of the political and sociological significance of Jack Kerouac’s novel On The Road, as well as a chapter on intersectionality theory and politics.

I am also co-creator and co-editor of the award-winning website The Sociological Cinema: Teaching and Learning Sociology Through Video, designed to help instructors incorporate video into the classroom. I teach courses on the Sociology of Gender, Ethnographic Field Methods, and Introductory Sociology. In addition to teaching courses at UMD, I am also involved in the University's Teaching and Learning Program, Culture Lab, and Critical Race Initiative.


Areas of Interest

  • Race/Class/Gender
  • Culture
  • Social Movements & Change
  • Social Theory
  • Qualitative Research Methods
  • Teaching Sociology


  • MA
    Sociology, University of Maryland, 2009
  • MA
    Social Sciences, University of Chicago, 2004
  • BA
    Sociology & Women's Studies, University of Wisconsin, 2001
  • PhD
    Sociology, University of Maryland, 2014
Valerie Chepp
vchepp01 [at]