Gary John Adler Jr. Twitter

Gary John Adler, Jr.

Director, Undergraduate Program in Sociology

Assistant Professor of Sociology

Faculty Affiliate, PSU Rock Ethics Institute

Faculty Affiliate, PSU Social Thought Program

Member, PSU Society for the Study of Religion

515 Oswald Tower
University Park , PA 16802
Office Phone: (814) 863-5365

Office Hours:

  • By appointment.

Curriculum Vitae

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  1. Ph.D., University of Arizona
  2. M.A., University of Arizona
  3. M.A., Jesuit School of Theology/Graduate Theological Union
  4. B.A., University of Dayton


Much of my research has focused on how religious organizations produce empathy, tolerance, political behavior and activism. My recent book, Empathy Beyond U.S. Borders (Cambridge University Press), is about immersion travel as a form of transnational civic engagement by colleges and churches. I examine why organizations send people abroad, how cross-cultural interactions are produced, and the cultural and emotional mechanisms of travel that change individuals. This book won Honorable Mention from the Altruism, Morality, and Social Solidarity Section of the American Sociological Association (2020).

I have also published on congregations, survey methodology, and Catholic parishes, including the edited volume, American Parishes: Remaking Local Catholicism (Fordham University Press).

Current Projects

I have two active research streams.

The first considers how culture matters in a variety of empirical topics, from medicine to political behavior, to racial identity, to religious organizations.

A second stream is focused on “street-level” church-state interactions. Most research in this area is focused on major court cases and big social institutions (healthcare, education). But, most church-state interaction actually happens at the local level, among local religious leaders and local government officials, who we know almost nothing about. With colleagues across the country, we have interviewed religious leaders to understand how this “street-level” church-state management occurs at a moment in U.S. history when religious diversity is increasing and the US Supreme Court is encouraging more local religious accommodation. We have completed 100 interviews in six different counties. We have also launched the 2020 Survey of Pennsylvania’s Municipal Officials.


My research has been supported by ARNOVA, the Association for the Sociology of Religion, the Louisville Institute, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies, the Penn State Rock Ethics Institute, the Penn State Social Sciences Research Institute and other funders.


Research Interests:

Culture, Social Movements, Religion, Civic Organizations, Catholic Parishes

Research Interests:

Social Institutions and Culture:

beliefs and values, religious organizations, collective behavior, moral action