Maureen Hallinan’s Legacy of Research and Leadership

Author: Tara Hunt ’12

In 1984, Notre Dame invited Maureen Hallinan to join the faculty as the University’s second female endowed chair at a time when academia was an “all-male bastion,” she says.

Now, after 28 years of service, she has retired, having proven herself as a meticulous researcher, prolific writer, and honored professor in the sociology of education—and having advanced the academic reputation of her entire department.

“Her expectations for her own work and her expectations for the department were always high,” says Rory McVeigh, professor and chair of the College of Arts and Letters’ Department of Sociology.

“Since coming here she’s worked tirelessly not only to set the example in terms of the quality and recognition of her own work but also to make sure the department itself would be highly regarded throughout the nation.”

Inspiring Research

Hallinan spent years researching the nature of open classrooms and how and why they fostered different relationships. That work then led to studies of interracial relationships and then achievement gaps between races—which was a new field at the time.

“She is very influential in the field of sociology of education,” says Amy Langenkamp, an assistant professor who primarily studies education transitions such as those between middle and high school or high school and college.

She is perhaps best known, however, for her research on academic tracking and how children respond to being tracked above or below their capabilities.

Hallinan’s work, Langenkamp says, is consistently an inspiration for her own research today.

“In some senses, all research on education stems from the research she has done.”

Researchers at Notre Dame also benefit directly from the Center for Research on Educational Opportunity (CREO), which Hallinan founded as a branch of the University’s Institute for Educational Initiatives.

Establishing Opportunity

Hallinan’s vision for CREO was simple: Make Notre Dame the place to go to study the sociology of education and any tangential topics.

“What’s important is that people keep doing the very best research they can do,” she says of CREO. “We need to have a broad vision where we can take on any topic that has sociological relevance.”

Notes Langenkamp: “There are very few places in the country where there is a group of sociology of education scholars who work together in the same department,” she says. “Intellectually, that is an incredibly rich environment.”

As Hallinan began the retirement process, she helped select her successor at CREO, Professor Mark Berends, a specialist on the impact of school organization and classroom instruction on student achievement, who took on the director position in 2009.

With Berends at the helm and recent faculty hires such as Langenkamp and Megan Andrew, an assistant professor who studies the relationships between education and health among young immigrant and minority populations, the center is continuing to realize Hallinan’s founding goal of stimulating diverse and substantial research.

Providing Leadership

In addition to her work leading CREO and continuing her own researching and teaching, Hallinan also been a leader outside Notre Dame, serving as president of the American Sociological Association from 1995-1996 and president of the Sociological Research Association in 2000.

This level of engagement both on and off campus was at times extremely demanding, Hallinan says, but she does not regret her investment of time and thought.

“And Notre Dame was very generous to me,” she says. “They couldn’t have done more to support my research and promote my career.”

Hallinan holds degrees from Marymount College and Notre Dame in math and received two doctoral degrees from University of Chicago, one in sociology and one in education. Prior to her tenure at Notre Dame, she taught at Stanford University and University of Wisconsin, Madison. She officially retired in May of 2012.

Learn More

Originally published by Tara Hunt ’12 at on April 01, 2013.