This fall Dr. Wendy Marie Laybourn joins the University of Memphis’ Department of Sociology as an Assistant Professor. She is excited to return to her home town and her undergraduate alma mater, where her sociological imagination was first ignited.
At four months of age, Wendy was adopted by a white working class couple and was raised in Memphis, TN. Growing up in a city haunted by the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., she was acutely aware of the centrality of race in America. Experiences of racial division, racial inequality, and bridge building have informed her perspective and academic work.
After graduating from the University of Memphis with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, Wendy worked as a case manager for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. Her work with a state agency’s program for children and families significantly shaped her commitment to child welfare. She incorporates insights gained from her employment into her adoption-related research.
Looking for a balance to the emotionally taxing job as a case manager, Wendy began weekend work as a VIP hostess at the hottest hip hop nightclub in the city. Weekend work turned into working full-time in nightlife before returning to academia. While working at the nightclub, Wendy was intrigued by how people used that social space to create and maintain identity. Although her foray into nightlife was intended as an escape from social services, she found similarities between the two. Both revolved around the presentation of self and the negotiation of multiple, and oftentimes, competing identities.
With sociological inquiry reignited, in 2012, Wendy began her graduate studies at the University of Maryland, where her research largely focused on identity-making processes. Wendy’s dissertation examined the effects of ideologies about race, family, and national belonging on Korean adoptee’s racial, ethnic, and adoptee identity formation. In focusing on adoptees’ identity formation, she gives particular attention to the effects of proximate social structures, such as online social networking sites (e.g., Facebook) for the creation and enactment of a “Korean Adoptee” identity.
Outside of academia, Wendy is actively involved in the Korean adoptee community. She enjoys traveling, sampling local restaurants, and making notoriously long To Do lists.