Washington Signature
[ Search and Navigation ]   [ View Full Site ]


Ryan Kelty

Associate Professor & Chair, Department of Sociology

On leave.  Returning fall 2018.

  • Ph.D., University of Maryland, 2005  
  • M.A., University of Maryland, 1997
  • B.A., Middlebury College, 1993

Curriculum Vita (PDF)



Areas of Interest

  • Diversity in the Armed Forces
  • Military in the Lifecourse
  • Civil-Military Relations
  • Military Outsourcing and Civilianization
  • Social Influences of Military Service
  • Environmental Sociology
  • Environmental Justice

Courses Offered Annually or Biannually

  • SOC 101: Introduction to Sociology
  • SOC 221: Social Inequalities
  • SOC SCE: Senior Capstone Experience

Special Topics Courses

  • SOC 470: Armed Forces & Society
  • SOC 370: Environmental Sociology
  • SOC 351: Sociology of Religion
  • SOC 394: Sociology of Death & Dying
  • SOC 394: Sociological Documentaries
  • SOC 394: The Internet & Society
Professional Experience
United States Air Force Academy: Visiting Professor (2016-2018)
United States Military Academy, West Point: Assistant Professor (2005-2008)
University of Maryland: Instructor (2004-2005)

Research Agendas and Student Work

Military Sociology

Though the U.S. has used civilians in the military since the founding of the Republic, there has been a significant qualitative and quantitative shift in their use since the first Gulf War in the early 1990s.  My research in the area of military sociology focuses on the use of civilian contractors as “force multipliers” in our contemporary armed forces, and examines whether and to what extent integrating civilian contractors with our military personnel affects such important outcomes as soldiers’ job satisfaction, commitment to the military, unit cohesion, unit readiness, and decisions to remain in military service. This work has included combat arms soldiers (i.e. infantry & combat aviation), combat support units (e.g. logistics, military intelligence, and military police), as well as samples of department of the Army civilian employees and smaller samples of civilian contractors. To date data have been obtained and analyzed from the Army and Navy. The overriding conclusion across these studies is that the integration of contractors with military and DOA civilian personnel has significant negative impacts on cohesion, satisfaction, organizational commitment and retention of service personnel. These results are despite reports by service members that they see many benefits of the use of contractors (and some challenges) and that they often enjoy working with them. The statistical modeling of these results tell a very different story than that of individual soldiers’ experiences—demonstrating unintended and unexpected consequences of this “Total Force” manning strategy, and the power of sociology to uncover patterns in social life that affect people despite what they, themselves, report being aware of.

I also write on civil-military relations in contemporary American society, as well as exploring historical trends on issues ranging from race, gender, to changes in organizational structure and its effects on service members and civilians.  

My most recent work examines the the moderating role of both mastery (i.e., the sense that one can control one’s life) and unit cohesion on the relationship between perceived threats to one’s life on mental health outcomes among deployed Department of the Army civilians (federal employees).  A recent interview with Alex Bierman (University of Calgary), my coauthor, and I on this topic can be heard here: podcast.


Environmental Sociology

Having grown up in Alaska and worked as a commercial fisherman for much of my young adult life, I developed an interest in the social organization of rural Alaskan fishing villages. This line of research is focused on the relatively small, seasonal communities in Bristol Bay, Alaska that participate in annual sockeye salmon harvests. Taken together, the five fishing districts in Bristol Bay represent the largest and best managed wild salmon fishery in the world. An international mining company has leased land at the headwaters of the rivers that support this salmon fishery and has applied for permits to use open pit mining to extract copper, gold, molybdenum, and other minerals— it is thought to be the largest gold deposit in the world - known as Pebble Mine. This has cast in motion heated arguments about whether and how such minerals should be extracted, framed by many fishers and Native Alaskans as competing resource uses: “We can have fish or mining, but not both, since the mine destroys the habitat for the fish.” The mining company argues that fish (and other flora and fauna) can safely coexist with modern mining practices. Quite a bit of research has been done on the physical environmental impact. Very little has been done on the social impacts. Our research focuses expressly on the human dimension of the fisher/ecosystem interaction. Initial studies have focused on the identities fishermen and women develop based on their relationship to the environment in these fishing districts and the effects that the presence of these identities have on their attitudes toward natural resource health, resource use in the fishery, and the perceived risk of Pebble Mine on the natural environment and their own way of life/culture/communities. This line of research also examine fishers’ place attachment to these rural fishing communities. This refers to how strongly they connect with and are committed to a particular place (geography, community, natural resources, etc.), again connecting to anticipated changes that would result from developing Pebble Mine. This applied sociology is expressly intended to inform local, regional, and national leaders and policymakers on the human component of this rural Alaskan ecosystem since humans are part of, not apart from, the “natural” ecosystem. This work combines qualitative and quantitative methodologies to achieve both breadth and depth in understanding the issues under investigation.



Student Work

  • 2016    Jack Butler (Washington College). “The Modern Athena: Full Gender Integration in the United States Military” [Film screening]. Documentary produced for senior capstone project. Chestertown, MD. Film can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7_-XFoVI8g

  • 2016    Sarah Kraus (Washington College). “Attitudes Toward Treatment Options for Children with ADHD.” Eastern Sociological Society annual meeting: Boston, MA.

  • 2015    see Sarah Kraus (Washington College). Risk in Personalizing Privilege and Oppression in prior section.

  • 2015    Austin Lewis, Jennifer Swain, Jack Butler and Peter Gould (Washington College). Documentary film – “Small Town, Big Heart” received the highest rated “Award of Excellence” from the Videographer Awards. Film can viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfUYZEc7dxI

  • 2014 Kasey Baumann & Ryan Kelty (Washington College), “The Symbolic Life Review: Exploring the False Dichotomy of Life and Death through Multi-Media Expression.” Eastern Sociological Society annual meeting. Baltimore, MD.

  • 2009 Students of SOC 306: Sociological Research Methods conducted an assessment of environmental stewardship at Washington College. Dimensions investigated include water use, electrical use, heating and air conditioning, chemical and pesticide use, recycling, and dining facility composting.
  • 2009 Sarah Milligan and Nicholas Handrick (Washington College). “Race and Gender in Life®.” Eastern Sociological Society annual meeting: Baltimore, MD.
  • 2009 Sarah Cannon & Kristen Gowing (Washington College). “Chutes & Ladders® of Society: Social Class in the United States.” Eastern Sociological Society annual meeting: Baltimore, MD.
  • 2007 Melanie Kwan (U.S. Military Academy). “Differential Effects of Army Branch on Marital Relations.” Women in the Military: Where They Stand annual conference. Women’s Research & Education Institute: Arlington, VA.
  • 2007 Amie Foster and Allison Gould (U.S. Military Academy). “A Relativist Review of the Unites States Military Academy’s Ability to Create Officers of the 21st Century.” Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces & Society. Chicago, IL.
  • 2007 Jacklyn Oeser (U.S. Military Academy). “The U.S. Military Academy as a Relatively Unique Institution.” Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces & Society. Chicago, IL.
  • 2007 David White, Jr. (U.S. Military Academy). “The Long Gray Line in Blue Jeans.” Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces & Society. Chicago, IL.

Professional Associations

Recommended Books

  • Environment: The End of Plenty - Joel Bourne; Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit - Daniel Quinn; The Sixth Extinction - Elizabeth Kolbert; Last Child in the Woods - Richard Louv
  • Military: Recruiting for Uncle Sam - David Segal; Modernity & the Holocaust - Zygmunt Bauman; War in European History - Michael Howard; War Without Mercy - John Dower; Corporate Warriors - Peter Singer; Life-Course Perspectives on Military Service - Janet Wilmoth and Andrew London (eds.)
  • Religion:  Extraordinary Groups - Richard Schaefer and William Zellner (eds.); The Tao of Pooh - Benjamin Hoff; Wayward Puritans - Kai Erickson
  • Social Inequality: Imbeciles - Adam Cohen; Second Shift - Arlie Russell Hochschild; Reproducing Racism - Daria Roithmayr; The Invisible Line - Daniel Sharfstein
  • Gender: The Beauty Myth - Naomi Wolf, Female Chauvinist Pigs - Ariel Levy

American Sociological Association’s Distinguished Book Award Winners 1986-2016