Dr. Aaron Franzen

Associate Professor of Sociology
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Aaron Franzen joined the sociology and social work faculty in fall 2014 as an assistant professor. He has long been fascinated by identity formation and how individuals form specific beliefs and values. While everyone’s biography always includes being a part of various groups, the world that they see and experience is nearly never identical to others’, even within those groups. And yet in daily life we still work together, attempt to solve problems, form friendships with one another and so on, implying shared goals and overlapping visions of the future. Dr. Franzen is interested in how these unique differences slightly shift how people go about their work, such as taking care of patients, and how these differences create conflicts between people or within professional pursuits.

As an undergraduate, Dr. Franzen admittedly did not know what he wanted to do, initially being accepted into an engineering program and then starting off as a biochemistry major. Despite an interest in the subject, he realized he was not interested in related professions so changed to a philosophy minor and sociology major his junior year.

His current research projects include understanding how medical education influences future medical professionals in both desirable and undesirable ways. Additionally, he has begun to follow pre-health undergraduate students as they develop as professionals, including changing their goals, in order to capture shifts in empathy, moral development and other characteristics. He teaches courses in sociological theory, sociology of medicine, environmental sociology and sociology of religion.

Areas of expertise

  • Sociology of health and medicine
  • Sociology of religion 
  • Quantitative methodology 
  • Social Theory


  • Ph.D., sociology, Baylor University, 2014
  • M.A., sociology, Baylor University, 2011
  • M.A., historical theology, Concordia Seminary, 2009
  • B.A., sociology, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, 2005

Selected Publications

  • “Discord Is Easy and Love Is Scarce: Fractals of Personhood and Infinite Love,” Part 1, Part 2, Christian Scholar’s Review, 2023
  • "The Inadvertent Death of Life, Reformed Journal, 2023
  • “Influence of Role Models and Unstructured Relationship on Changes in Medical Student Character, Medical-Specific Empathy, and General Empathy,” Peer reviewed with Tristen Clifton, Medical Research Archives, 11(7.1), 2023
  • “Why Gun Control Reform Is So Difficult: A Latent Class Analysis of Gun Policy Preferences," Peer reviewed with Pamela Ray Koch, Sociological Focus, 56(3):335–49, 2023
  • “From Stigma to Acceptance: Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Central China,” Peer reviewed with D. Feaster, Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 2020
  • “Influence of Physicians’ Beliefs on Propensity to Include Religion/Spirituality in Patient Interactions,” Journal of Religion and Health, 2018
  • “Patient or Physician Centered Care?: Structural Implications for Clinical Interactions and the Overlooked Patient,” Peer reviewed, Religions, 8(8):158, 2017
  • “Stress Buffer or Identity Threat? Negative Media Portrayal, Public and Private Religious Involvement, and Mental Health in a National Sample of US Adults,” with S. Stroope and M. Walker, Society and Mental Health, 2017
  • “Is This Relevant?: Physician Perceptions, Clinical Relevance and Religious Content within Clinical Interactions," Peer reviewed, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 55(3):438–64, 2016

View Dr. Franzen’s publications in Digital Commons or on Google Scholar.

Outside the College

Dr. Franzen grew up in Colorado enjoying the outdoors and fully embraced Michigan’s plentiful options upon moving here. Kayaking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, fly fishing, camping and a weekly family hike are all welcomed additions to the Franzen family rhythm of life. Dr. Franzen has also enjoyed slowly naturalizing more of his backyard, recently seeding over 2,000 square feet of it with native and often edible plant species. 

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Dr. Aaron Franzen

Phone Number616.395.7554

Van Zoeren Hall Room 266 41 Graves Place Holland, MI 49423-3698
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