Monday, May 20, 2024
Jennifer Haylett

In the bustling halls of academia, where the pursuit of knowledge reigns supreme, it's easy to forget that behind every professorial title lies a rich tapestry of life experiences. Professor Jennifer Haylett, a beloved figure in the field of sociology at the University of Iowa, offers a glimpse into her multifaceted world beyond the lecture podium.

Earning her PhD in sociology from the University of California-Davis in 2015, Jenn Haylett is an Associate Professor of Instruction, an honors advisor, and the Director of Undergraduate studies. In 2021 she was awarded the prestigious title of Distinguished Associate Professor of Instruction, given to those candidates promoted to Associate Professor of Instruction at Iowa who excel in teaching and service. In 2023, she received the 1stGen@Iowa award for First-Generation Student Advocacy, 

Hailing from a military family, Professor Haylett traversed various corners of the United States during her formative years—Georgia, Ohio, Hawaii, North Carolina, and Virginia—instilling in her a sense of adaptability and resilience. Her journey led her to the University of Idaho, where she embarked on her academic odyssey, ultimately discovering her passion for sociology by serendipity.

"It was like finding a missing puzzle piece," she recalls, reflecting on the moment she stumbled upon a Social Problems class that ignited her intellectual curiosity and set her on a trajectory toward sociological inquiry. She says that the course material strongly resonated with issues that concerned her, such as racism and sexism. “From there, I took every sociology course I could!”

teaching in classroom

Inspired by a mentor who left an indelible mark on her undergraduate years, Professor Haylett embarked on a path to academia, driven by a deep-seated desire to empower future generations of students. Her research delves into the intricate interplay between economics and intimacy, with a particular focus on reproductive technologies such as egg donation and surrogacy.

"I'm fascinated by the complex dynamics that unfold when economic transactions intersect with deeply personal decisions," she explains, shedding light on her research aimed at unraveling the nuances of family creation and relational dynamics. “Questions that motivate my interests include: How do we determine the price of bodily material and labor? How do economic factors shape the surrogate/intended parent relationship? How does the incorporation of a third party in family creation shape people’s thoughts on the intimacy of family?”

Reflecting on her journey, Professor Haylett offers sage advice to her younger self and aspiring sociologists alike: "Pay attention to what you are genuinely interested in and curious about. That passion will sustain you through the ups and downs of graduate school. In addition, critiques of your work are not critiques of you as a person!"

She joined the department in 2015, and as she has watched the evolution of the department at Iowa, Dr. Haylett acknowledges the winds of change while cherishing the enduring threads of continuity. She arrived at a sociology department with no official criminology program but has worked alongside Professor Michaela Ruppert, a criminologist, the whole time. As instructional track faculty, they form the foundation of undergraduate education in the department. Her warmth and dedication have earned her a special place in the hearts of students and alumni alike, with a message resonating far beyond the confines of the classroom.

"Stay in touch," she urges, extending an invitation to alumni to share their post-graduation adventures and insights, embodying the spirit of community that defines the discipline of sociology. “We would love to hear where you’ve landed and how you’ve been able to incorporate a sociological perspective into the work that you’re doing!”

Haylett dogs pic
Outside the classroom, Hank on the left and Edie on the right pay close attention to Jenn Haylett  

Outside of work, Professor Haylett finds solace and joy in the simple pleasures of life: nurturing relationships, indulging in culinary creations, and crafting heartfelt gifts. With a strong belief in the power of connections, she dedicates significant energy to fostering her social circle, cherishing the bonds forged over shared experiences and laughter.

Relationships are the key to life, in her view, “so I put a lot of energy into maintaining and growing those relationships. Friendships in particular are important to me, and I have a core group of friends I try to visit each year.”

At home, she spends her free time with her partner and her dogs. She enjoys crafting, cooking, reading memoirs, and sending gifts to friends and co-workers. 

In a world often characterized by transient encounters, Professor Haylett stands as a beacon of connection, bridging academia and real life with grace and authenticity.