In a country consumed at its roots by status, materialism and incessant self-focus, Sociology Professor Jeff Torlina is bent on initiating change within the local, national and global community. The experiences that formed him into the individual he is today could give insight to those looking to critically evaluate themselves and the world.
His heavily industrialized hometown of Detroit, Mich. was hit hard by economic reorganization, and consequently Torlina, his family and friends suffered a good deal during the 80s.
“There were enormous hardships in Detroit when people were being laid off and the factories were closing down never to open again, and a lot of us kids freaked out thinking that the future was hopeless and there was no point in trying anymore,” said Torlina. “We also had to deal with the impending nuclear holocaust that shook all of our youth into a real state of worry and I lost a lot of friends because we didn’t have much hope for the future and were just an angry out of control youth that looked to get through each day. The community transformed into a depressing shell of a city, but it made me who I am, there is no doubt, for better or worse.”
Torlina found common ground with the counter-culture
“Our whole society was questioning itself and it’s role in the world and whether or not it was a moral thing to be the worlds police force and to just reproduce capitalist exploitation in our society and abroad,” Torlina said. “We were the most affluent society in the world and yet some people fell through the cracks. We questioned how we could pride ourselves on being so giving when it wasn’t shared universally.It wasn’t some utopian era thats for sure but those movements that I was drawn to were those that really did see the potential for change.”
With nowhere else to turn, Torlina decided to give community college a try. Although he originally quit after his first semester, upon finding out his GPA was high he decided to give it another shot with a lighter load.
“I did find that it saved my life. It was really exciting to think about and question things in a way that I had never considered. So thats why I’ve never left, it has just has been that meaningful. It is something that we need and I believe in it passionately,” Torlina said.
Although he originally planned on being a high school social studies teacher, his professors talked in into pursuing higher degrees.
“I think its important to say that I had never heard of sociology until I was 20-years-old, and then later on I was kind of pressured into finding something to specialize in through graduate school which is why I randomly chose sociology,” Torlina said. “If I was going to go on to be a college professor I had to choose something and sociology was the thing that I thought I would most likely be entertained by and interested in into the future. I found sociology after I saw all of these varieties of issues that were interesting to me.”
Through experiencing life and education in his own unique way Torlina maintains the ability to relate to the position of his students. Torlina has developed valuable knowledge that make him a good source of advice.
“I just think that is so important to tell people that until you’ve had experience enough to see what’s available you can’t go on making these choices. We as a university want to push people into making these decisions about what they are going to major in and specialize in a
nd it’s not fair,” Torlina said. “ It’s easier on the institution because then we can track you we can figure out where we are going to put our resources it makes it convenient for the institution but I think it does a diservice to the student esspecially when most of us haven’t been exposed to what the alternatives and the options are.”
Influential musical group: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; individual song“Everybody I love you”