Marc Flacks is a Sociology professor at Yuba College. He also is an active volunteer and supporter of local social programs.
While taking a Sociology course taught by Professor Flacks, community service and social justice are shown not as some abstract idea or ideal, but as tangible support that helps real people. Marc Flacks does a great job of showing students that getting involved and making a difference doesn’t have to feel like some impossible task. With like minded individuals working towards the same goal of helping those who are in need, can quickly seem less like work and more like fun. I was able to catch up with Mr. Flacks and ask him a few questions relating to his chosen profession, his experiences leading to the decision of Sociology as a major, and community outreach.
Professor Flacks has been teaching at YC for about 6 years now. He previously had been teaching at a 4-year university in Southern California, but the community college environment, “with its focus on teaching and community engagement, is a better fit” for him, he said. Also, while Marc grew up in Southern California, he said that he “finds NorCal, and particularly the Sacramento Valley, an ideal place to raise kids.”
When asked about teaching and the major he chose while attending college, Flacks said, “as for Sociology, it is in my blood! My dad is a Sociologist, and I always admired his work, and also saw that he was happy in his career. I kind of always knew I wanted to be a professor.”
However, originally, Flacks explained that he wanted “to get as far away from Sociology as I could, since I didn’t want to be boring and do exactly what my dad did. But when I started college, I just took the classes that interested me–classes about revolutionary movements in Latin America and Africa; classes about youth subcultures like punk and hip hop; and classes about social movements of the 1960s, etc. And when it came time to select a major, I realized I was almost done with Sociology already, so I stuck with that.”
The variety of things that can be benefitted from a socological view is quite interesting. From the perspective now of teacher, Flacks explained he “tells students that Sociology is a very broad field, that allows you to learn about a huge range of things, from music, to sports, to politics, to revolutions. So if you are like me, and have a short attention span, sociology can be great, because it will never bore you.”
With regard to social action, I was curious if some life experience sparked the drive in Flacks to action, or what, in his opinion, was the thing which planted the seed. Flacks replied, “I was raised with a strong ethic of social justice. My parents and their parents were very involved in social issues, particularly the labor movement and the women’s movement. My grandparents and parents made many sacrifices in order to fight for a better world, and, if there is one expectation they have had for me as an adult, it is to also commit myself to actively critiquing our social world and trying to improve it.
Specifically regarding our area, Professor Flacks explained that here at Yuba, he has “been inspired and motivated by the work of Rachel Farrell and the local organization she started called the Harmony Health Family Resource Center.” The Center works on a wide range of issues affecting the local community, from poverty to mental health, problems connected with these issues, like drug abuse, neglect of children, poor physical health and nutrition. Working on all these problems, it becomes clear that, if we want healthier people and families in Yuba County, we need to improve the social environment.” Mr. Flacks more specifically has been directly involved with Harmony Health FRC, and has helped with such activities as: “refurbishing a local park to make it safer and more attractive, especially for kids; establishing a low-cost, healthy food restaurant called The Eating Well where people in Linda can get high quality, healthy food, at an affordable price; working with an after school group of teens to collect oral histories about the flooding in the Yuba-Sutter area; putting on ‘Open Mic Nights’ in Linda at the Eating Well, so local folks can get together to share their talents; and, my pet project, 49er Olive Oil–a nonprofit olive oil company that uses volunteers from the Yuba College community to make and sell olive oil to raise money for local charities.”
Something that has always seemed to snag or hang up students, including me, when choosing a major, is finding what exactly the career path options are, and the type of real day to day work that one could expect. When asking Professor Flacks about these issues with regard to sociology majors I was surprised at what I found. Flacks explained that “a sociology degree can take you in many directions. Yes, teaching is one possibility, but on top of that, “working in the nonprofit sector, as a project manager or program manager or even Executive Director, is quite common among soc majors. If you want to work for a for-profit company or corporation (if money, rather than social justice is your goal!), a sociology degree can help you get into the Human Resources field, and possibly Advertising or Marketing. With an MA or PhD in sociology you can get involved in various sorts of research positions, in the nonprofit, government, or the private sector. So, like I said, it is a good major if you have a lot of interests, and maybe are not quite sure what you want to do with the rest of your life.”
Coming up on Yuba College’s Earth Day on April 25th, Flacks said that “the students of Sociology 2 would like to present several exhibits on the general theme of ‘Healthy Bodies = Healthy Planet’. That is, we are exploring how activities that are good for the human body can also be good for Palent Earth. For example, eating locally grown olives and olive oil is good for the environment, since importing olives increases green house gasses and other environmental problems. But eating olives and olive oil is also extremely good for you, and the ‘Mediterranean Diet’ is increasingly being shown to have health benefits, like reduced chance of heart disease, less risk of Alzheimer’s, and lower rates of obesity.
The students in Soc 2 are developing other presentations along these lines of showing how healthy lifestyles can lead to a healthier environment (and vice versa!)”
“So I hope folks will come out to support Earth Day, and don’t forget, when you buy 49er Olive Oil, you are supporting positive change in this community, and helping your own health as well! And by the way, 49er Olive Oil just won a Gold Medal at the California Olive Oil Council’s 2013 Competition, so you know it is good!” boasts Flacks
I appreciate Mr. Flacks for taking the time to respond to these questions, and if anyone is interested in getting involved or learning ways they can help the Yuba College community, don’t hesitate to reach out, or just stop by a table!