Outstanding Sociology Alumnus, Professor, and Professional
Dr. Nicholas Guittar, ’01, ’05, ’11, was honored with the 2015 Sociology Outstanding AlumKnight Award in February. The Sociology Department nominated Dr. Guittar for this award based on his outstanding career achievements, service to students, and loyalty to the university and department.
He is currently assistant professor of sociology at Valdosta State University. Previously, Dr. Guittar served for three years as an assistant professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina Lancaster (USCL) and was also a graduate teaching associate at UCF.
“Dr. Guittar is a personable, humorous, and caring professor who makes his students feel comfortable and engaged. He brings his material to life because he takes the time to build a rapport with his students and to hook them into the subject matter,” said Dr. Liz Grauerholz, professor in the UCF Department of Sociology and Dr. Guittar’s mentor while at UCF.
Dr. Guittar’s primary research area is gender, sexualities and social inequalities. In just 2-3 years after graduation, he re-worked his dissertation into a book entitled “Coming Out: The New Dynamics,” published nine peer-reviewed journal articles or chapters with two more under review, and published a textbook.
While at UCF, Dr. Guittar received the Sociology Department’s competitive Graduate Student Teaching Award. He also was given the “Teacher of the Year” award for his division while at USCL. Dr. Guittar freely gives his time and expertise, and has taken numerous leadership roles in student organizations and activities.
“As someone who bleeds Black & Gold, I am thankful and humbled to receive an Outstanding AlumKnights award. From O-Team ’98 to my doctoral studies in sociology, UCF shaped me into the teacher-scholar and family man that I am today. Go Knights,” Dr. Guittar said in appreciation of his award.
Dr. Guittar shared more on his time at UCF, his career, and shared valuable advice to students and alumni.
Why did you choose to attend UCF?
I attended UCF as an undergraduate and I loved every minute of it. For me, it was a no-brainer to return to UCF for my doctoral education. The Department of Sociology has a wonderful open door policy, great variety in teaching and research areas among the faculty, and a drive to become a top sociology program nationally.
How has your UCF degree helped you in your career?
My UCF degree prepared me to be a very balanced teacher-scholar with diverse teaching experiences and a wide-array of research skills. This, in turn, helped position me as a good candidate for the academic job market. Few programs create a comfortable environment for students to engage in both qualitative and quantitative research, but I was able to do just that in the Department of Sociology. Further, I found the best mentor, friend, and collaborator a graduate student could ever ask for in Dr. Liz Grauerholz. Her continued guidance, as well as that of other departmental faculty such as Dr. Fernando Rivera and Dr. Shannon Carter, has helped me seamlessly segue into being an academic professional who makes an impact in the classroom while also producing quality research.
Were you involved in any extracurricular activities at UCF?
During my doctoral studies, I limited my extracurricular involvement at UCF, although I did serve as an advisor for the student organization EQUAL @ UCF. However, digging back into my undergraduate years, I was heavily engaged in extracurricular activities. These experiences impacted me as much as anything I learned in the classroom, which is why I always encourage students to immerse themselves in everything the university has to offer. Some of my most impactful experiences involved being a UCF O-Teamer (’98), being a Resident Assistant, serving as a student senator, being involved in UCF Greek Life, and working as a Summer Orientation Advisor.
Have you stayed involved with UCF since graduation? If so, how?
I have stayed involved with UCF, primarily though the Department of Sociology. I have had the opportunity to return to the department and speak to graduate students about my experiences with qualitative research, and I continue to collaborate with researchers at UCF on a couple of research projects. Of course, I also stay involved in UCF by being a huge fan of UCF athletics—Go Knights!
What is your best UCF memory?
My best UCF memory is a seemingly random moment which occurred during my doctoral commencement. After walking across the stage with my mentor and dissertation chair, Dr. Liz Grauerholz, I began to make my way back to my seat. On the way I crossed paths with and shared a brief exchange and hug with Paul Viau. Paul is currently Associate University Registrar and Director of the Veterans Academic Resource Center, but back in 1997, when I began my undergraduate education at UCF, he was my amazing first year academic advisor. That series of moments, which included interactions with the first and last persons to impact my education at UCF, was a beautifully unscripted “bookend” of my time at UCF.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
As a teacher-scholar I have the honor of engaging students in lifelong learning. Sociology is not simply a course of study; it is a toolkit for understanding the connection between self and society and learning how to be an agent of change. Seeing students embrace the themes covered in class and apply their newfound knowledge into their own daily lives is both rewarding and humbling. It is my favorite element of working in academia.
What is your most memorable experience on the job?
In the fall of 2010, while a doctoral candidate at UCF, I had the privilege of teaching my first section of Race & Ethnicity (SYD 3700). I had an amazing group of students, but one of them in particular changed my teaching forever. I tend to show up early to class to chat with students and settle into things. This particular student, we’ll call him Josh, usually showed up before me with a classic novel in hand. One day in particular I sat down next to him and we had an amazing conversation about our favorite authors and their best works. Thirty minutes later, during a class discussion on the impact of “stereotype threat” I noticed that Josh was not his usual engaged and talkative self. Instead, he sat quietly with a glazed look on his face. When the time seemed right, I glanced across the circle and asked Josh what was on his mind. He paused for a moment and then proceeded to tell everyone that, despite the fact that he always has a book in-hand, he was 19 years old and I was the first teacher to ever recognize his love for literature and talk to him about it. He then explained to class that, as a 6-foot+ black male, teachers tended to engage him in conversation about sports (a topic that did not interest him in the slightest) but never literature. My white privilege had never felt so tangible. Stereotype threat was no longer a concept covered in class, it was a brutal reality which impacted a young man’s life in profound ways.
What piece of advice would you give to current students as well as UCF alumni?
Life after college can be rewarding, but it can also be quite challenging. The job market may task your sense of self, and various professional experiences will challenge the confidence you’ve worked so hard to develop. Take solace in knowing that your education is YOURS. Prepare yourself for the unexpected journeys ahead, and never stop seeking knowledge. Do not become complacent, docile, or disconnected from your social sphere, be an agent of change. Many people worked tirelessly to support you while you were advancing your education. That, in turn, places a responsibility upon you to proactively impact the lives of tomorrow’s college graduates and community leaders.
Dr. Guittar answered some more questions in our 30 second get-to-know-you round of the interview.
Do you play an instrument?
Given that my last name is Guittar (pronounced “guitar”) I should be a rock star by now. Although learning to play guitar is on my bucket list, I’m sorry to say that I do not currently play any instruments.
What or who inspires you?
I am inspired by my children: Gavin, Liam, and Ellie. Their intuitiveness, resourcefulness, and pure love of the world constantly renews my amazement with and curiosity of the world around me. In many ways they are a direct reflection of my amazing spouse, Dr. Stephanie Gonzalez Guittar (UCF ’02, ’06, & ’12). Three degrees, three children, and three marathons later Stephanie is, quite simply, an “incredible machine” and an inspiration to the entire “Guittar, Party of 5.”
What is your favorite quote?
“Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.”