A Lander University faculty member who studies “intentional communities,” also known as communes, is the recipient of the 2022 Young Faculty Scholar Award.
Dr. Zach Rubin, an assistant professor of sociology, also led an in-depth study on food insecurity at Lander University, the first such study to document the challenges faced by students’ not having consistent access to food and/or meals.
“It is nice to feel appreciated for the research that I do,” Rubin said.
His research on intentional communities has earned national recognition from the Communal Studies Association, which selected Rubin for the “Outstanding Article” award in this field of research in 2020 and again in 2021 – the first time a researcher has received the honor in two consecutive years. In addition to five journal articles, Rubin also has written two book reviews, contributed three pieces to the American Sociological Association’s national teaching resource and made five conference presentations.
Rubin said his research focuses on a subject not highly researched and for which there is little grant money. Yet, intentional communities have existed in America since the early 1600s. In fact, some researchers consider Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, settled by the Puritans, to be early examples of intentional communities.
“In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, residents were living out their vision of piety,” he said.
In an intentional community, residents typically share similar social, political, religious or spiritual views and are united in an effort to support one another by sharing responsibilities and property. Other American intentional communities have included The Shakers, the Amana Colony and the Oneida Community. In Israel, the well-known kibbutz villages have long been recognized and studied for their communal way of life, which is mostly agricultural based.
Rubin’s award-winning 2021 article in the Humanity & Society academic journal examined the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Missouri. The members’ lifestyle can be considered a form of political activism, Rubin said.
Dr. Lucas McMillan, dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Lander, said Rubin represents the many engaging teachers and productive scholars within the college. “We are happy that Dr. Rubin has been honored in this way given his many publications … as well as other projects in the works, one co-authored with a Lander student. These scholarly contributions showcase that Lander faculty have external validation of their work.”
Rubin’s research actively informs and improves his teaching, McMillan said.
“He has re-shaped courses to give students practice in gathering data about the Greenwood area and then helps students use community-oriented data to understand social problems. His work on food insecurity led students to participate in a nine-county phone survey,” he said. “Dr. Rubin has connected and collaborated with local nonprofits on these data projects and to better demonstrate the applied nature of sociology.”
A gifted teacher, Dr. Rubin has modified existing courses and offers new courses for Lander students. “Dr. Rubin is among those who mentor students in undergraduate research projects and this assists students’ ability to prepare for careers or graduate school,” McMillan said. “It is vital to faculty members to serve as models of lifelong learning. Through scholarly activity, a professor stays connected with the best practices in the field, communicates to students about the relevancy of research, and can better train students to engage in their own projects.”
“It is gratifying to see students producing really fantastic pieces of work that wouldn’t exist ordinarily,” Rubin said.
Rubin earned his bachelor’s degree in geography and sociology from the University of Missouri, Columbia, as well as a master’s degree in geography and doctorate in sociology.
Before joining Lander’s faculty in 2019, Rubin was a graduate instructor at the University of Missouri and an adjunct professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Indianapolis.
He is an associate editor of the Criminology and Deviance Section of TRAILS, the Teaching Resources and Innovations Library in Sociology. For the Communal Studies Association, Rubin is a member of the board of directors and also is chair of the Book Awards Committee. He is on the board of the Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Living at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.
Rubin, who has received travel and research grants to support his studies, is chair of Lander’s Student Needs Committee and a faculty mentor of the Tabletop Gaming Association. He has been a volunteer at Lander’s Bare Necessities Food Pantry since its opening in 2020.