Dr. Gary D. Brinker has accepted the position of director of Fort Hays State University’s prestigious Docking Institute of Public Affairs. He will also become a member of the university’s Department of Sociology and Social Work. He will arrive in Hays in the next few days to assume his new duties.
Brinker replaces Dr. Brett Zollinger, who also split his time between leading the Docking Institute and teaching sociology. Zollinger will become chair of the Sociology and Social Work Department, replacing Rose Arnhold, who is returning to full-time teaching.
Brinker comes to FHSU from Missouri State University, Springfield, where he taught in the Department of Sociology and served as director of the Center for Social Sciences and Public Policy Research.
“A rapidly evolving global society is creating unprecedented challenges and opportunities for applied sociologists,” Brinker said. “The social problems of American society will soon be the social problems of the world. It is my goal to be an integral part of that mission, and as a new faculty member of Fort Hays State, I will do everything I can to facilitate an active and productive role for our institution.”
Brinker described the career path that brought him to Hays and FHSU. “Upon graduating high school in Memphis, Tennessee, I began pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Southeast Missouri State University,” he said. “However, unsure of what discipline I wanted to pursue, I decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy and study electronics, becoming a radar and air traffic control technician on a nuclear powered aircraft carrier.”
Honorably discharged following his six-year enlistment, Brinker decided to resume his studies, focusing on a major in sociology at Baylor University, Waco, Texas, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He said he was “fascinated by the discipline,” so he decided to pursue a terminal degree in Baylor’s Doctoral Program in Applied Sociology.
Brinker received his Ph.D. in Applied Sociology from Baylor University in 1997 and accepted a tenure track position as an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. He also was appointed Associate Director of the Center for Social Research at Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University). In 2002, he was tenured, promoted to associate professor and assumed the position of director of the newly named Center for Social Sciences and Public Policy Research. In 2007, he was promoted to full professor, continuing to do applied community research.
“In addition to an extensive applied community research agenda comprising a variety of surveys, program evaluations and needs assessments, I have been published in a variety of books and journals on topics such as population problems, traffic safety, the death penalty, compulsive behaviors and statistical analysis,” Brinker said. “My decision to pursue a degree in Applied Sociology is a reflection of my commitment to advancing the practical application of sociological knowledge and methods for the purpose of improving society, enhancing the effectiveness of its institutions and making sociology a marketable discipline for academic majors.”
Brinker was selected following a national search that was led by Lisa Karlin, assistant to FHSU’s president, Dr. Edward H. Hammond.
About the Docking Institute
The dynamic, award-winning public policy research Institute was founded at FHSU in 1980. Its mission is to facilitate effective decision-making among governmental and non-profit leaders. The Institute's six primary programs are: 1) Survey research, program evaluation research, public policy research, and community and economic development research; 2) Strategic planning and consulting; 3) Grants facilitation; 4) Economic and community development consulting; 5) Public administration training programs; and 6) Public affairs programming through conferences, speakers, forums, television and radio programming, newspaper columns, and scholarly publications. The staff and fellows of the Institute bring specialized knowledge and experience in the areas of program evaluation, research, grants facilitation, economic development, government, natural resource issues, healthcare, business, telecommunications and education. With a long-standing commitment to western Kansas, the Institute is uniquely positioned to work with issues affecting rural areas and regularly provides services to organizations and communities of all sizes throughout the region. Since its founding, the Docking Institute has worked with hundreds of local, state and regional organizations, agencies and communities to assist them in charting their future success.