Melissa Pirkey

Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow

Office: 232 Tarbutton Hall



  • PhD in Sociology, University of Notre Dame, 2015
  • MA in Sociology, Southern Connecticut State University, 2008
  • BFA in Industrial Design, Rochester Institute of Technology, 2003


My research centers on the development, efficacy, and resiliency of Alternative Food Institutions (AFIs) such as community supported agriculture (CSA) organizations, farmer’s markets, and cooperatives. My past work focuses on how inter- and intragroup processes within a CSA organization impacts the organization’s stability and efficacy as well as member’s responses to organizational change. More recently I have begun to trace the development of audience expectations for alternative food institutions, with the larger goal of demonstrating the role emergent definitions of these types of organizations play for organizational survival. While my substantive interests lie within the sociology of food and food systems, the theoretical foundations of my research are much broader. Through the study of AFIs I address central concerns of organizational life which fall along two complementary lines of inquiry. The first is the identification of processes and mechanisms that help to produce cohesion, commitment, trust, affective regard, and group identification in groups and organizations. The second is the examination of how these outcomes generate support, stability, productivity and a sense of community in those groups. To accomplish these two goals I bring together theories and perspectives from the sociology of organizations, sociology of culture, and social psychology. My specific areas of expertise include ecological and institutional theories, theories of social exchange, social cognition, and symbolic interaction.