Family ties and a strong faculty union brought the ‘92 UCF graduate back home to teach
Growing up in Altamonte Springs, Dr. Michael Armato never expected to become an academic or an advocate for human society.
A Lake Mary High School student, Armato graduated from UCF in 1992 with a B.S. in Marketing. His sights were set on the corporate world, but after a 2-year stint in sales-related work, he discovered sociology. The subject fascinated him and motivated him to seek ways to improve people’s lives.
Armato departed for Gainesville in 1995 for his master’s in Sociology. He graduated with his Ph.D. in Sociology from New York University in 2006, just blocks from the Madison Avenue advertising firms he once studied at UCF. Armato was active in his union at UF (UFF-Graduate Assistants United) and became a founding member of GSOC-UAW during its historic unionizing campaign at NYU.
Armato began his faculty career as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Northeastern Illinois University in the fall of 2006, becoming an Associate Professor five years later and achieving tenure in the fall of 2012. He became one of the core faculty members of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at NEIU. His main areas of study were gender inequalities and perceptions of masculinity, subjects he continues to research at UCF.
During his time at NEIU, he earned multiple accolades, including an NEIU Research Community Grant in the 2007-2008 academic year, a Faculty Excellence Award for teaching in 2009, a Student Choice Award in the 2012-2013 academic year, and the Martha Thompson Outstanding Faculty Award in the 2015-2016 academic year. Throughout his time at NEIU, Armato was an active union member with the University Professionals of Illinois-Local 4100, holding multiple elected positions.
Deciding to leave NEIU was a difficult decision for Armato. “My work at NEIU was incredibly rewarding, but my partner, Amanda, had just had a baby, and with our daughter, who is now six and getting bigger, we just decided it was time to come back,” says Armato.
Relinquishing Tenure to Come Home to Central Florida
“UCF is such a diverse university, and it’s a university with high numbers of first-time-in-college students, which was a draw for me.”
The new position, however, posed a significant dilemma: After ten years of teaching in Chicago, Illinois, why would a tenured professor move to Florida for a non-tenured lecturer position?
“I liked that we had a faculty union,” says Armato. “Lecturers have a promotion process, but it is not a tenured position. I knew I was giving up security, especially moving back to a state with hurdles to union membership. But having UFF-UCF here gave me the confidence to make the jump.”
Now a Lecturer in the Sociology Department – and the Coordinator of the Social Sciences BS program since 2018, Armato will take on yet another role in the fall of 2019, when he becomes the Coordinator of the Sociology Undergraduate program.
“I was hired with the goal of taking this role on,” Armato says. “If anything needs to happen in terms of the curriculum I am involved. I was hired with that as the intent.”
Since joining UCF, Armato has been a reviewer on the College of Sciences Program Assessment Committee, as well as a member of both the Sociology Undergraduate Curriculum Committee and the PRIDE Faculty and Staff Association. After three short years, he’s contributed a fair amount of service to work to the college.
Armato has authored and co-authored journal articles including “Gendered Violence and Interruptions to Education,” “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: Men’s Enlightened Sexism & Hegemonic Masculinity in Academia,” and “Pedagogical Engagements: Feminist Resistance to the Militarization of Education.”
He is also a fan of scooters, and owns two of them. One he got for free on Craigslist and restored to working condition on his own.
Some of Armato’s most important work is supporting and providing leadership for UFF-UCF, the faculty union that facilitated his move back to UCF.
“If it were up to a fair number of administrators and politicians, there would be no unions. There would be a corporate environment where, semester by semester, we would just teach, no breaks,” says Armato. “There are a lot of threats on the horizon, including whether unions will exist. My own goal is to protect UFF from the most nefarious aspects of our political climate.”
Armato sees a growing UFF-UCF attracting even more talented new faculty members for years to come. “One of the ways to know our university faculty members are thriving is if we attract highly qualified members of academia.”