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Michael Gillespie

Associate Professor of Sociology


Michael D. Gillespie is Associate Professor of Sociology at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois, which he joined after completing his Ph.D. at Western Michigan University. 

Dr. Gillespie has the distinguished honor to teach the required applied statistics course in the Department of Sociology/Anthropology.  This course, for which students most often only enroll because it is a program requirement, is therefore met with much anxiety and skepticism by Sociology majors.  However, integrating statistical literacy with a pirate, props, M&M chocolate candies, and real world applications, Dr. Gillespie develops for his students a critical eye toward social statistics that, in hopes, lives and breathes outside of the classroom. 
Inspired by bell hooks, Paulo Freire, and Parker Palmer, teaching sociology and statistics with a critical pedagogical orientation is an opportunity, not an impediment, combining his passions for education, statistics, and sociology with a group of diverse students who have their own biography, struggles, and passions.  When these worlds collide, as Carl Sagan writes, ‘something incredible is waiting to be known’.   Entering the classroom is not just an effort to teach, but to connect with the social and educational needs of his students.  Meeting students where they are as experts in their own lived experience—as no one enters the classroom as a blank slate—necessitates connecting with students as social human beings; that is, with respect to who they are as people and students.
Also to these ends-- reflecting his commitment to the whole life of the students—Dr. Gillespie serves as the coordinator of the departmental internship program, the coordinator of the Faculty Fellows Initiative, is the adviser for the newly formed Hunger Action Team, is an honored (and honorary) member of EIU’s chapter of the National Residence Hall Honorary, and serves as an allied faculty member in the Women’s Studies Program.
Dr. Gillespie’s research focuses on the historical and contemporary circumstances of poverty and food insecurity at the national, state, and local levels.   His work compares trends in assistance programs for poor persons and families with other social, economic, and political conditions over time, and follows how policies and procedures generate and perpetuate social inequalities. 

As a scholar activist, he is currently looking at such conditions in the East-Central Illinois region, using government data and geographical mapping techniques to educate stakeholders about the incidence of poverty, inequality, and food insecurity in Coles County and surrounding areas.  This has lead to the 
development of the Coles County Poverty Data Project, a repository of graphical data and information on poverty in Coles County, and the surrounding region.  More information is available at:

Areas of Expertise

  • Demographics/Census
  • Family
  • Sociology
  • Welfare

Family Poverty; Welfare Programs; Applied Research


Ph.D. (Western Michigan University, 2010)
M.S.W. (University of Michigan, 2003)
B.A. (University of Michigan-Dearborn, 2001)

Research Interests

Dr. Gillespie's doctoral dissertation, "From Reproduction to Consumption: The Economic Deterioration of Families in the United States after World War II", takes the start of the "Great Recession" in 2007 as the end-point of the decades-long decline in the economic wellbeing of middle-, working-, and poverty-class families in the United States.  The major argument of this work is that welfare state retrenchments in public assistance combined with the deregulation of financial and non-financial capitalist firms contributed in part to the economic decline of families under growing levels of debt.

Currently, his research is focused the poverty and food insecurity in Coles County and the Eastern Illinois region.  He is also using GIS mapping techniques to explore the geography of poverty and insecurity in East-Central Illinois, and within Coles County.  

Other broad research interests include the causes and consequences of poverty, historical social welfare policy, the sociology of the family, gendered and racial disparities in public policies, political sociology, and historical-comparative sociology, including the conceptualization and macro-social and economic measurement of social indicators.  Dr. Gillespie also has applied research and methodological interests and has worked extensively with social and family welfare programs in conducting evaluations of poverty reduction and child welfare programs.

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