December 2012 Issue • Volume 40 • Issue 9

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An Alternative Gift Fair for Sociology –
Donate to the Small Grants Program

donate to the small grants program

In recent years, “alternative gift fairs” have become more common—providing holiday shoppers with a chance to make a donation to a non-profit organization in a friend or family member’s name. Shoppers then send a card to that person explaining their gift and the greater good it will do in the coming year. This year, you might consider making a donation to the ASA Small Grants Program in the name of a colleague, friend, or family member. Contribute directly to one of the three ASA funds—the Howery Teaching Enhancement Fund, the Community Action Research Initiative, or the the Fund to Advance the Discipline—or make a general contribution to support all three elements of the Small Grants Program. To make a donation, log in to the ASA website and click on the “Contribute” link. Please keep the ASA Small Grants Program in mind as you consider ways to express your appreciation to colleagues and friends, as you consider your end-of-year tax deductions, or as part of your estate planning. For more information on any of the small frants, see the “Funding” page at

Carla B. Howery Teaching Enhancement Fund

The Howery Teaching Enhancement Fund provides small grants (up to $2,000) to projects that advance the teaching and learning of sociology, serve as seed projects that will continue to have an impact over time, and are systematic in their impact.

Scott McNall and Cynthia Siemsen (California State University-Chico) used the funds to buy books related to sociology and climate change for faculty. “Our biggest success was to help assure that sustainability will be one of the major pathways that students can choose to complete their general education requirements. We intend to show the key role sociology can play in helping to understand the causes and consequences of climate change, and to identify solutions.” 

Angela Harvey (The Ohio State University) used the funds to cover a small summer stipend, as well as the costs of reading packets for inmates, and travel costs for students who participated in an “Inside-Out” course conducted in a prison. She conducted a comparative evaluation of the course and worked to establish a partnership between the prison and her university that will allow inmates to receive college credit for the course.

Liz Gauerholz (University of Central Florida) used the funds to pay for transcribing interviews with sociology instructors. Her research examined how institutional and classroom factors shape the instructional approaches and expectations of sociology teachers. Institutional effects seem to be the strongest at large, public institutions “where demands for increased enrollments are intense.”  However, in spite of the pressures, sociology faculty members continue to be passionate and committed to teaching. In the words of one of her respondents, “I find it very rewarding… teaching is really changing students’ lives… It’s very rewarding, and that hasn’t changed.” 

In an age of rapid changes in both student demographics and the shape of higher education, donations to the Carla B. Howery Teaching Enhancement Grant support research that advances teaching and learning in sociology so that it can continue to change students’ lives by helping them to understand their world in new ways.

Community Action Research Initiative (CARI)

The Community Action Research Initiative (CARI) is a small grant program that supports sociologists who are bringing social science knowledge, methods, and expertise to address community-identified issues and concerns. The sociologists conduct pro bono work with a community organization or local public interest group. CARI provides up to $3,000 for each project to cover direct costs associated with doing the research. For those of us whose work and research functions relatively far from the direct needs of communities, making a donation to CARI offers a unique way to help bring the insights of sociology directly to the people and communities who need them. The ASA Spivack fund provides matching funds.

Successful research programs include Beth Tarasawa’s (St. Norbert College) research with The Giving Tree Pantry of Green Bay, WI, and the Howard-Suamico School District. Tarasawa examined how economically disadvantaged students supported by The Giving Tree compared to similarly disadvantaged students who were not supported. The school district hopes the research will be used to advocate for increased support to disadvantaged students.

Another research program supported by CARI was Leah Schmalzbaur’s (Montana State University) research with Latino immigrants in Montana’s Gallatin Valley. She worked closely with the Gallatin Valley Human Rights Task Force to help the Latino community organize itself to advocate for better living conditions.

Shannon Elizabeth Bell (University of Oregon) worked with the Sludge Safety Project (SSP) in the coal mining region of West Virginia. Bell’s research helped SSP inform, protect, and organize coalfield citizens who have suffered the environmental consequences of irresponsible coal mining practices, specifically, the water pollution from coal waste.

Using CARI funds sociologists have addressed these issues and other issues like minority health, gang violence, childhood poverty, local food deserts, homelessness, and “walkable” communities. Financial support for CARI is needed to allow for similar research projects in communities of need in the future.

Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline

The Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline (FAD) is a small-grant program jointly undertaken by the Sociology Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the ASA that has been in existence for almost a quarter of a century. Since its inception, more than 310 scholars have received funding. The more ASA members contribute to the program, the more grants can be awarded to ASA members. The primary intellectual purpose of this program is to advance sociology and nurture the development of scientific knowledge by supporting small, groundbreaking research initiatives. The second intellectual purpose is to hold conferences and other activities that develop new research agendas and networks. The FAD program holds two award competitions per year (June and December). Winners receive a maximum of $7,000.

The scholars who applied to the FAD program in recent years came from a broad spectrum of colleges and universities, all academic ranks, and a mix of professional ages. The FAD program has always been successful in recruiting professionally younger scholars who received their PhD degrees fewer than seven years ago. Topic areas have included: State, Civic, and Global Transformations; Politics and Culture of Immigration and Assimilation; Economic Sociology: Inequality, Disadvantage, and Mismatch; Integration of Structure and Culture; Comparative Studies of Health Movements; Managing Identities; and Socialization. FAD raises awareness of sociological projects and allows more junior faculty to experiment with novel approaches and theories.

Hiroshi Ono (Texas A&M University) received FAD funds for “Globalization and Inequality in the Labor Market: The Study of Career Mobility in the Japanese Financial Sector.” One used the grant to help support his field research in Tokyo where he interviewed finance professionals in foreign-owned investment bank, and HR specialists and headhunters who serve the market for workers making the transition from domestic to foreign firms.

Pamela Popielarz (University of Illinois-Chicago) received funding for “Schools of Bureaucracy: Fraternal Orders in the Industrializing Midwest, 1890-1920.”  She said, the grant “helped me to expand my project significantly. I was able to hire an RA to code some data that I’d already gathered on my own… I was also able to travel to gather new data from a source that had been suggested to me by several colleagues.”

R. Tyson Smith (Rutgers University), who received funding for “Informal Coping Mechanisms of U.S. Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars,” reported that FAD helped him move forward with an important project on returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. The money has helped get the (very long) interviews transcribed. “It’s nice to have the financial and intellectual support of the ASA. The critical feedback from reviewers was beneficial too.”

Marc Dixon (Dartmouth College) and Andrew Martin (Ohio State University) received funds for “Social Protest and Corporate Change.” “The FAD award was critical in allowing me to start a new line of research prior to promotion,” said Dixon. “The award has supported a steady stream of undergraduate research assistants at Dartmouth and is now bearing fruit in multiple papers in progress and is the basis of a larger funding proposal.”

Melinda Kane (East Carolina University) used the ASA FAD grant to expand her research on university-recognized LGBT student groups by funding a graduate research assistant to help with data collection and analysis. “Not only did this result in the traditional research outcomes such as new data, conference presentations, manuscript submissions, the research also contributed to a discussion of LGBT issues at a campus brownbag attended by university administrators, faculty, and students. The experience helped my graduate assistant qualify for a new university position, focused specifically on the retention of LGBT students.

FAD holds a workshop each year at the ASA annual meeting to help ASA member scholars, especially career, to sucessfully apply for a grant. The FAD director (Roberta Spalter-Roth) discuss: What are the chances of winning? What kinds of proposals get funded?  What makes research “cutting edge” and significant for sociology as a field?  How do you emphasize the scientific, social and educational impact of the proposal?  How do you deal with suggestions and criticisms if you are asked to revise and resubmit? Along with the annual workshop, Spalter-Roth ( provide pre-proposal guidance to potential applicants.

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