Cora Marrett Award Statement
Charles Johnson, Oliver Cox, and E. Franklin Frazier were African American sociologists who, in their scholarship and advocacy, used the discipline to enhance the status of African Americans in the face of the nation’s historic racism. The award is for a lifetime of research, teaching, and service to the community in the tradition of these namesakes. This year’s awardee, Dr. Cora Bagley Marrett, exemplifies this tradition.
In her positions as teacher, researcher, administrator, and program officer she has been praised as a powerful advocate for inclusion. Whether it was the American Sociological Association’s MOST (Minority Opportunity Summer Training) program, her scholarly contributions, or her service as an administrator, Dr. Marrett’s career has been one in which scholars of color and women have greatly benefitted. It is generally recognized that from her contributions, the discipline has become more inclusive. As one of her letters of nomination said of her, “She was one of the early pioneers who used her sociological skills to analyze the influences of organizations on the careers of minority students and scholars….” It went on to say of her that she “…kept an eye on the organizational contexts that inhibit or encourage multiracial inclusion.”
Another letter of nomination said of her:
"Cora Marrett is one of the great trailblazers in creating opportunities for African American students and faculty not only at the University of Wisconsin campus but in the profession as a whole. Her scholarship earned her a full professorship at the UW-Madison in 1977, where she spent many years on research on the organizational context of educational institutional contexts and differential outcomes that such organizational processes produced for women and men of color. She was not only interested in the structure of opportunities that education opportunities offered but also in the conditions for long term success. Thus it is not surprising that [she] left the “pure research” side of academia for actual involvement in creating the kind of institutional conditions in universities, scientific associations, and research institutes that would produce enduring diversity."
That nomination went on to read:
"As a public intellectual of a very particular sort, Cora has worked diligently to apply her knowledge of academic governance and research infrastructure to change actual organizations. Her targeted audience is often elite policy-makers of the higher education establishment, a group that she has long since entered herself."
Whether it was at the University of Wisconsin at both the Madison campus and the system as a whole, the University of Massachusetts, Western Michigan University, The National Science foundation, The Social Science Research Council, the Russell Sage Foundation or the American Sociological Association, they have all benefitted from her intellect and commitment to making these institutions and those that they serve more inclusive and diverse. It has been said of her that “[s]he has herself not only opened doors directly for African American scholars but set up expectations for excellence and opportunities to excel that have directly paid dividends across the profession of sociology and related social science disciplines.” It is also said from all of her nominations, in one way or another, that she has influenced these changes with “wit, wisdom, and patience.”
As a testimony to these doors being opened, one of the letters of recommendation said of Cora Marrett:
"Personally, I was a Ford Foundation Post Doctoral Fellow, a program that she urged Ford to develop once [these students] ended their pre-doctoral program. That program helped me in my career and there were many others who secured tenure because we had that critical year to focus our scholarship. The program is designed with an eye [toward] how minority faculty ‘s careers [often] become problematic and link [these fellows] with mentors to help navigate their careers. Understanding the extent of institutional changes necessary to actually change the color of the faculty in higher education, she has consistently worked, in many respects behind the scenes to turn knowledge into programs that are vehicles for individual mobility and institutional change."
Whether it was her role as mentor, a colleague, an administrator, a program officer or her service on boards, committees, commissions, institutes, or a fellow of some 48 varying entities, Cora Marret is an exemplar of the contributions of these African American pioneers in using sociology as a craft to, not only change status of African Americans as a people, but making use of science to replace what was often rationalization and folklore. Theoretically and empirically, the namesakes for this award used the discipline to force a confrontation with accepted empirical realities. As Johnson, Cox, and Frazier, pioneered the use of sociology in search of justice for African Americans, each in their own way, Cora Marrett’s career took up where theirs left off. Hers is the case of showing where the opportunity is likely to lie, and people being pleased with the outcome. Essentially, she has used the discipline to make the discipline, itself, and higher education, more generally, more inclusive. It is this commitment and efforts over the course of her career that the committee overwhelmingly and unanimously selected Dr. Cora Bagley Marret to be this year’s recipient of the Johnson-Cox-Frazier Award.