Phyllis L. F. Rippey, Ph.D.
I’m an associate professor at the University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada after five years on the tenure track at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and that after getting my Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Iowa in 2006. I made the jump from a primarily undergraduate (a.k.a. Liberal Arts College) to a medical-doctoral research university because I really wanted to be able to mentor and work with graduate students. I have been teaching courses in research methods since 2007, with a particular focus on statistics, although I have published both quantitative and qualitative research. I see strengths and weaknesses in all methods and I’m not dogmatically a “quant” or a “qual” person. To me, methods are tools whose utility depends on one’s research question. The fact that we don’t use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail, doesn’t mean a screwdriver is better or worse than a hammer, they are just used at different times. In the same way, we shouldn’t use statistics to get at subjective meaning or ethnography to determine population trends, but that doesn’t mean statistics are superior methods to ethnography or vice versa.
Although none of this came easy to me, I am privileged to be the adult child of two professors both of whom were once deans at various universities. My father had a PhD from the University of Chicago in educational evaluation and assessment after teaching high school math, physics and chemistry (including to the unabomber! It’s true, google “Robert Rippey unabomber”). He eventually went on to teach stats and methods to medical and dental students at the University of Connecticut until he retired in 1989. My mother, 22 years his junior, got her PhD in political science while I was in elementary school and went on to become the first woman dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Western Illinois University when I was in college/university (she always hated statistics). Growing up in a household of academics meant that I had the unusually lucky experience of being able to safely ask my parents every “dumb” question that ever popped into my mind about how universities work, how to do research, or how to be a professor. I’m pretty sure that by high school I knew what the terms tenure, provost, and R&R meant.
My hope with this website is to share what I’ve gained through a lifetime of university involvement with as wide an audience as possible, so as not to hoard the opportunities I was lucky enough to be given. I’m also hoping that my students will read all of this before submitting work to me so I don’t have to keep repeating the same comments over and over.