December 2013 Issue • Volume 41 • Issue 8

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ASA Honors Program Participants: Then and Now

We recently caught up with a few former ASA Honors Program participants at various stages of their careers to find out where they are now and what the Program meant to them. The Honors Program provides undergraduate sociology students a rich introduction to the professional life of the discipline. Exceptional sociology students from across the country and the world come together for four days and experience all facets of the ASA Annual Meetings. For more information on the Honors Program, see

Dennis Rome

Honors Program Director and Associate Provost at University of Wisconsin-Parkside

While working as one of the first summer student interns at the ASA under the guidance of Carla Howery, I applied to the 1984 ASA Honors Program. I am a sociologist today in part because of my memorable and valuable experience in the Honors Program. The most important aspects of the ASA Honors Program are building new friendships, learning to present a paper at a major conference, and networking with other sociologists, which may result in a mentor/mentee relationship.

The program has changed much since my participation 29 years ago. During the summer I participated, Professors Burton Wright and William Brown were co-directors, and participants could receive up to three graduate credits from Central Florida University. Every participant, regardless if one opted for credit, was required to write a 20- to 25-page paper about their experience in the Honors program.

In August of 1984, I arrived at the orientation of the ASA Honors Program a couple of days before the start of the Annual Meeting held in San Antonio, TX, with much enthusiasm and some anxiety. Anxiety because there would be other “honors” students from around the country, and how would I fit in with such an intelligent and talented group of participants? My anxiety quickly developed into bewilderment when Sam Brown, another honors participant, and I signed into the hotel and learned that we had mistakenly been paired with two female honors students! The four of us remained friends for many years and thus one of the first lessons I learned from my ASA Honors experience was that of lasting friendships.

Another lesson from my honors experience is the importance of “mentoring.” In addition to meeting then-ASA President James Short, there were other opportunities to meet prominent sociologists whose books I had read and/or whose works I have since tried to emulate. I was honored to meet Earl Babbie, a prominent sociologist whose presentation was humorous, informative, and engaging. Following his presentation, he invited us to write to him (in the days of snail mail), and he actually responded to our letters.

I found the sociologists I met during my program to be approachable and encouraging. For example, Al Szymanski volunteered to read a draft of my master’s thesis. The ASA Honors Program was an introduction to what can be a very challenging and enjoyable discipline, and had it not been from my experience in the ASA Honors Program, I doubt I would have met my mentors Carla Howery, David Takeuchi, Louis Gray, and Jeanne Ballantine. I thank them and others for guiding me through an enjoyable career and life as a sociologist!  

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David Embrick

Associate Professor at Loyola University-Chicago

After receiving my degree from Texas A&M University in 2006, I found myself very fortunate to land a job in the Department of Sociology at Loyola University-Chicago.  Currently I am the President-Elect of the Southwestern Sociological Association and Co-Founding Editor of the new ASA Section on Race and Ethnic Minorities journal, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. Having just received tenure last year, I have had many opportunities to reflect on the tenure process, life as an academic, what it means to be a research scholar.  I was, in many respects, unprepared for the many life lessons I faced along the way—life lessons all of us heard as whispers in the hallways while we were graduate students, yet were too busy to fully appreciate or consider how these things might affect us in the future.  However, looking back on my life, and in reflection of the many conversations I have had with colleagues and friends, I find myself thinking how extremely lucky I am to have had great mentorship along the way, from my dissertation chairs Rogelio Saenz and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva to my former and current department chairs at Loyola, Fred Kniss and Rhys Williams, and the countless folks in between.  Certainly, being involved in the ASA Honors Program (2000) during my senior undergraduate year and a fellow in the ASA Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) as a graduate student has been instrumental in not only the ways that I am able and better equipped to navigate the sometimes murky waters of academia, but it has allowed me access to a network of amazing colleagues. I count both as some of my greatest honors to date.

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Sean Everton

Assistant Professor in the Defense Analysis Department at the Naval Postgraduate School

After being an ASA Honors Student recipient in 1998, I completed my BA in sociology at San Jose State University (1999), and then went on to earn an MA (2001) and a PhD (2007) in sociology from Stanford University where I wrote my doctoral thesis on causes and consequences of status on the economic performance of venture capital firms. While finishing my doctorate, I taught at both Santa Clara and Stanford universities. After graduating I joined the Department of Defense Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, currently serving as an Assistant Professor and the Co-Director of the CORE (Common Operational Research Environment) Lab. I have published articles in the areas of social network analysis, sociology of religion, economic sociology, and political sociology. My current research specializes in the use of social network analysis to track and disrupt dark networks (e.g., criminal and terrorist networks). A monograph on using social network analysis for the crafting of strategies for the disruption of dark networks was recently published by Cambridge University Press.

Before pursuing an academic career, Everton played professional baseball, worked as a CPA, earned a black belt in Tae Kwan Do, and co-pastored a congregation with his wife.

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Joseph Ewoodzie

Doctoral candidate at University of Wisconsin-Madison

It was a pleasure to participate in ASA’s Honors Program in 2005. Presenting my work at the ASA Annual Meeting in Philadelphia was when I started to imagine myself as a sociologist. After I graduated from Ithaca College, I worked for a year before applying to graduate school. I applied to a handful of programs, and, to my surprise and delight, I was admitted into Wisconsin’s Sociology Department. (I thank Stephen Sweet, who got me involved with the Honors Program, for insisting that I apply to Wisconsin). Under the superb mentorship of Mustafa Emirbayer at Madison, I have taken on two projects in graduate school. My master’s thesis, which has since been turned into a book manuscript, combines never-before-used archival material with sociological theorizing about symbolic boundaries to provide a new historical account of the making of hip hop. For my dissertation, I conducted an ethnographic study about foodways in Jackson, MS. Following more than a dozen black Jacksonians, from the homeless to politicians, in five different neighborhoods for 10 months, I experienced and documented how mundane day-to-day decisions about food are made by taking detailed field notes, conducting in-depth interviews, and taking photographs.

Ewoodzie was recently selected as a member of the Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) 40th cohort.

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Diane Grams

Tulane University

Diane Grams conducts research on urban culture. Her second book, Producing Local Color: Art Networks in Ethnic Chicago (2010), is an investigation of art producers in Chicago’s Bronzeville, Pilsen, and Rogers Park communities.

The ASA Honors program [in 1999] was a guided introduction to the ASA. I quickly learned the important role of ASA for building professional networks and for professional development. Moreover, I always looked forward to lively discussion and feedback in paper sessions at the Annual Meeting.  In 2010 as a Visiting Fellow at the Yale Center for Cultural Sociology, I developed “Freedom and Cultural Consciousness: Black Working-Class Parades in Post-Katrina New Orleans,” a paper subsequently named “Best Conference Paper of the Year-2011” by the Urban Affairs Association. The paper will appear in the Journal of Urban Affairs in 2013. Prior to joining Tulane’s faculty in 2007, I was the associate director of the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago (2003-2007); also taught courses in cultural policy and research methods through the University of Chicago’s Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies. I earned my PhD and MA from Loyola University Chicago (2001, 2004), where I won a Schmitt Dissertation Fellowship for my research on Chicago arts production networks.

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