American Sociological Association

2020 ASA Award Recipients

The ASA awards are conferred on sociologists for outstanding scholarship, teaching, practice, and advancing the public understanding of sociology. The ASA proudly announces the recipients of the awards for 2020. Congratulations to the following honorees:

Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award

Vilna Bashi Treitler, University of California-Santa Barbara

In the tradition of Oliver Cox, Charles Johnson, and E. Franklin Frazier, this award amplifies and honors the scholarly work and activism of those who have devoted their research agendas to advancing the interests of disadvantaged populations, here in the United States and on the global stage. As the award stipulates, recipients should have a record of outstanding work, such as, but not limited to, social justice issues, human rights, or committed to analyzing activism among groups who have endured a long history of racial discrimination. 

Bashi Treitler received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1997. It was in Wisconsin, as a graduate student, that she began the work that would become her dissertation and, ultimately, her signature book, Survival of the Knitted (Stanford University Press, 2007). Based on analysis of interview data and multi-site ethnographic observation in the West Indies, New York, and London, Bashi Treitler develops a new theory to explain the migration patterns of West Indian blacks. Prior to her work, scholars believed that migrants with plans to reach the United States would first seek to acquire the requisite social capital to facilitate their move. Survival of the Knitted challenges this dominant narrative, showing in meticulous detail that West Indians who never intended to migrate are encouraged to do so by migrant relatives already living abroad. These migrants mobilize their friends and relatives to move to the U.S. too, relying on these extended networks as a mechanism to challenge structural racism in America, helping new migrants to leverage opportunities established migrants have carved out for them.

Scholars in her field note that Survival of the Knitted established Bashi Treitler as a “scholar of international distinction,” focusing as it did on the experiences of West Indians who left their predominately black country of origin for a new homeland in two of the world’s largest, most diverse cities. Bashi Treitler’s second book, The Ethnic Project (Stanford University Press, 2013), continues in this vein, revealing the challenges groups face as they attempt to manage simultaneously racial and ethnic identities in the United States. Tracing the histories of immigrant and indigenous groups―Irish, Chinese, Italians, Jews, Native Americans, Mexicans, Afro-Caribbeans, and African Americans, Bashi Treitler shows that these groups adopt a strategy employed by white ethnic immigrants generations before them: they attempt to draw distinctions between their group and native-born blacks under the realization that to get ahead in America means discriminating against the group located at the bottom of the racial hierarchy. She shows that this pattern is one way, amongst many, in which the racial order in the U.S. is upheld. 

In addition to her scholarship, Bashi Treitler has worked to chip away at social inequality globally in her professional activities. Since 2015, she has served as Vice-Chair of the United Nations (UN) Committee for the Elimination of Racism, Afrophobia, and Colorism, and is also a Board member and UN Representative for the Drammeh Institute, an NGO committed to archiving and producing film footage to educate the world on issues of central importance to the African Diaspora. Bashi Treitler also served in 2015 as Chair of the Nominations and Election Committee for the United Nations NGO Committee for Human Rights, served for nine years as a member of the Board of the International Sociology Association’s Research Committee on Racism, Nationalism, and Ethnic Relations, and is an active member of the Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean’s working group, Afrodescendants of the Americas, based at the University of South Florida. She was also a founding member of ASA’s section, Global and Transnational Sociology, serving as Program Committee Member from 2009-2013. 

Citing her innovative scholarship. activism, and extensive professional service, scholars working in her field identify Bashi Treitler as “one of the most accomplished, influential, and internationally recognized scholars working in immigration and transnational studies in the United States today,” making her an ideal recipient for the prestigious Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award.

Dissertation Award
Christina Cross, University of Michigan, The Color, Class, and Context of Family Structure and Its Association with Children's Educational Performance

Christina Cross is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow (2019-2022) and Assistant Professor (beginning 2022) of Sociology at Harvard University. 

In her dissertation, “The Color, Class, and Context of Family Structure and Its Association with Children's Educational Performance.” Christina Cross speaks directly to core sociological concerns with inequality and to heated debates in studies of family, education, and poverty. In a groundbreaking, carefully executed analysis, Cross challenges the policy impulses of sociological research that situate nuclear families as the primary intervention mechanisms in eliminating ethnoracial disparities in children’s educational achievement. Christina Cross offers a simple, persuasive, and nuanced repositioning of Black families in public policy solutions, turning a fascinating eye on extended kin networks that include a wide array of kin, not just grandparents. The writing quality is stellar, and the mastery of complex datasets is impressive.

Contrary to popular and academic perceptions, Cross finds that it is not unusual for children to experience being raised in an extended family household and that lack youth are more likely to transition into such households before reaching adulthood than youth of other ethnoracial statuses. Parental education and other social class factors explain such transitions into extended kin networks, irrespective of ethnoracial status. Most importantly, the socioeconomic precedents of extended kin households are less harmful to the educational outcomes of Black children than those of white children and of Afro-descended native-born adolescents than their West Indian counterparts. These relationships hold across a wide array of educational outcomes, including high school completion, grades, grade-level repetition, and suspensions. 

The evidence Cross marshals for this realignment of sociology’s contribution to public policy is novel, seamless, and compelling. Her empirical contributions, methods, and writing are simply outstanding. Her approach is undeterred in its systematicity and precision. Beautifully written and wonderfully focused, this study offers up truly novel and exciting findings. Taken together, this dissertation uses sophisticated methods to advance sociological theories about race and family life. Christina Cross’s intervention calls for a refashioning of sociological theories that have had a tremendous influence on how society views Black families and how society should formulate public policies to support Black families. 

Distinguished Career Award for the Practice of Sociology
Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, Princeton University  

Dr. Patricia Fernandez-Kelly is Professor of Sociology and Research Associate at the Office of Population Research, and Director of the Center for Migration and Development at Princeton University. 

As one of her nominees describes, “… through her work at the Center for Migration and Development she brings together voices in sociology, community action, and the arts about the moral plights and social dilemmas of immigrants to academic and community audiences; this powerful combination of sociological insights, social action, and the arts reflects a lifetime of Dr. Fernandez-Kelly’s public projects and initiatives that have served as models of public sociology.” 

Fernandez-Kelly earned a PhD in 1981 from Rutgers University with an original investigation into the outsourcing of skilled handwork by globalizing corporations to women in low-wage factory towns. Her book on Mexico’s maquiladora program, For We are Sold, I and My People: Women and Industry in Mexico’s Frontier (SUNY Press, 1984), in which she interviewed 510 workers in 14 different plants, in addition to working in one of the factories, has become a  “hallmark of ethnographic expertise.” From this work she received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to work with a film producer to create The Global Assembly Line, a documentary that won an Emmy award in 1987, thus bringing sociological analysis to a global audience. Fernandez-Kelly has received grants from the Ford Foundation, Revson Foundation, and Tinker Foundation for her research into the exploitation of women by globalizing companies. 

Fernandez-Kelly held a research professor position at Johns Hopkins University Department of Sociology from 1987-1997 and received federal funding for an ethnographic study in African American neighborhoods in Baltimore. Grounded in nearly a decade of ethnographic data collection, her book, The Hero’s Fight: African Americans in West Baltimore and the Shadow of the State (2016) received a C. Wright Mills Finalist Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems.

Fernandez-Kelly subsequently became the Acting Director of the Program in Latino Studies at Princeton, focusing on national security and deportation. She co-edited, with Paul DiMaggio, Art in the Lives of Immigrant Communities in the United States (Rutgers University Press, 2010). She worked on a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant documenting barriers to health care, and from this created a program for Latino prisoners in a state prison, starting a journal, Inside Out, in which prisoners wrote their stories and poems. 

Dr. Fernandez-Kelly helped found The Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund where she still chairs the Board of Trustees. She has helped organize a range of legal services for immigrants and their families facing deportation. With Alejandro Portes, she is co-editor of The State and the Grassroots: Immigrant Transnational Organizations in Four Continents (Berghahn Books, 2016). She is currently working on a book titled Hialeah Dreams: The Making of the Cuban-American Working Class in South Florida. She is a prolific scholar with over 12 books and well over 50 book chapters and journal articles. 

As one recommender sums up, “her many accomplishments and national stature in the field are well established … for those of us working in gender and global and transnational connections, her work is widely recognized as foundational to work that has developed in the last two decades. She has organized many panels and edited volumes, and has spread her generosity among colleagues, students, and a broader community of the disenfranchised. I think she is in a class of her own and deserves the highest recognition.” 

Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award, co-winner
Brian Powell, Indiana University- Bloomington

Brian Powell is the James H. Rudy Professor of Sociology at Indiana University-Bloomington. Professor Powell is an exemplary community-oriented scholar-teacher and a tireless supporter of students and the discipline. Dr. Powell is highly deserving of this special recognition for his contributions to teaching beyond his home department, his personal record of outstanding teaching evidenced by his many awards, his scholarship on teaching and learning, and his contributions to the enhancement of teaching at the local, regional, and national levels. 

He has received countless awards for his teaching and mentoring excellence, winning virtually every internal departmental and university teaching and teaching-related award offered at Indiana University, including the Sociology Department’s Sutherland Award; Certificates of Distinction awarded by Blue, Golden Key, and Mortar Board; the Indiana University President’s Teaching Recognition Award; the Sociology Department’s Mentoring Award; and the North Central Sociological Association’s Schnabel Teaching Award. 

As one of the co-creators of Indiana University’s Preparing Future Faculty Program, Professor Powell has played a critical role in conceptualizing and building the program. The innovative program has helped develop generations of teacher-scholars who prioritize teaching and mentoring and who have gone on to win a raft of teaching-related awards and publish their own scholarship on pedagogy and in the research areas of education, family, and inequality. As one letter writer put it, “Far from just mentoring individuals, Brian is in fact mentoring a family of scholars -- some of whom happen to be ‘family scholars.’”

Powell’s nominator, Bernice Pescosolido, wrote, “Brian’s teaching superpower is really his mentoring.” Another letter writer describes his experience of reaching out to Professor Powell’s mentees as part of building the nomination packet: “What struck me the most was how much their responses illustrate the fact that Brian’s mentoring is completely selfless. This man has no ego. He does have a strong sense of self, a strong sense of professionalism and of professional ethos -- but no ego. Instead the collective responses show that his mentoring approach, while deeply grounded in an effort to help individual mentees find their own way, pursues the collective goal of advancing our discipline.”

One former graduate student who served as a TA for Professor Powell reflected, “Dr. Powell made every class nothing short of magical. The students came to class and did amazing amounts of work because he so inspired them and ignited their interest in sociology and gender. His enthusiasm, breadth of knowledge, ease of rapport, and openness to his students was something I watched in awe as a graduate student. It is fair to say that his teaching is always in the back of my mind as I prepare and deliver my own lectures…. I think I owe my own success in part to the strong start and example I received from Dr. Powell.” 

Finally, a nomination letter co-signed by 67 former and current students sums up why the Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award Committee enthusiastically selected Powell for this award: “Professor Powell has had an outsized influence on the development of teacher-scholars in our field. While many senior scholars have trained scores of graduate students who have gone on to conduct sociological research, Professor Powell is unique in his emphasis on teaching and mentorship. His careful attention to classroom pedagogy and curricula, supportive relationships with students at all levels, and research on teaching (and universities, more broadly) has created generations of scholars who genuinely care about teaching and see it as an essential part of our careers as sociologists.”

Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award, co-winner
Michael Schwartz, Stony Brook University 

Michael Schwartz is a Distinguished Teaching Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, at Stony Brook University. Professor Schwartz is a consummate sociologist and scholar-teacher who has acted as an unwavering supporter of students, colleagues, and the discipline during his five-decade career. Dr. Schwartz is highly deserving of this special recognition for his breadth of contributions to teaching in the United States and globally. His dedication and work to influence and shape several generations of PhD students at Stony Brook and beyond is an outstanding model for the discipline. As one letter writer attests, “Whether as colleague, as chair, and basically in every context I have come to know him – I cannot think of anyone for whom the notion of ‘generosity of spirit’ would be more appropriate. And we are fortunate that his unabated enthusiasm continues to enrich us, in the department, the discipline and the American Sociological Association at large.” 

His nominators focused on Schwartz’s three innovations that have had deep global impacts, informing and diffusing new teaching techniques and ideas: 1) new teaching approaches to methods and statistics; 2) creating innovative assessments; and 3) curricular innovations.

First, Professor Schwartz developed one of the first graduate methods classes on computers. Shortly after arriving at Stony Brook in 1970, he introduced a computer analysis course for advanced students that trained them in writing Fortran programs and utilizing early statistical packages on mainframes. His nominators describe the import of this contribution: “Michael taught the first generation of students who used computers to analyze large sparse matrices; something that diffused from Stony Brook to other universities. His paper on network analysis was published in Sociological Methodology and was written to allow faculty to teach their students network analysis by providing mathematical models and proofs to use before any package programs for network analysis had been developed.”

Second, Schwartz pioneered the design and implementation of a “track paper” system, which served as an alternative to traditional comprehensive examinations. The “track paper” system continues to provide students with an opportunity for professionalization and to develop publishable research early in their graduate careers. Students learned to “do sociology” in a ways that required an “applied, authentic and meaningful use of information instead of reproducing facts,” and the system gave students space to take intellectual risks, experiment with topics, and build academic confidence. His nominators write, “The innovation gave an opportunity and safe environment, especially for several minority and working-class students mentored by Michael, to begin analyzing the role of subaltern groups in redressing inequality, as the letters testify. His depth of mentoring, particularly of under-represented groups, is also central to what makes Michael truly exceptional as a teacher. He has ‘a very natural way of making you feel as though you belong,’ former student Alex Trillo says, which ‘for many students, can be a major part of the battle.’”

Third, with Judith Tanur and Stephen Cole, Professor Schwartz designed a teaching practicum that included supervised teaching, still used at Stony Brook. As the current chair of the Sociology Department at Stony Brook, Daniel Levy states, “As far as I know, his (mandatory) class for our doctoral students was the first one of this kind in the country.” 

Ninety-five students and colleagues endorsed Professor Schwartz’s nomination. The primary letter demonstrates why the award committee enthusiastically chose to honor Schwartz: “Michael has dedicated his life to sociology and his students, teaching us to use our sociological imagination, think critically, and apply sociology where it really matters: in changing the world.”-

Distinguished Scholarly Book Award, co-winner
Pathways of Desire: The Sexual Migration of Mexican Gay Men by Hector Carrillo, Northwestern University

Héctor Carrillo’s, Pathways of Desire: The Sexual Migration of Migration of Mexican Men (The University of Chicago Press, 2017) offers new insight on migration processes that challenge researchers to consider the role of sexuality in transnational relocations of significant number of migrants, namely gay and bisexual men. Until recently, the field of migration and immigration focused on economic and political motivations for migrants to relocate, with few researchers investigating reasons to migrate among gay, bisexual, and transgender subjects. Carrillo’s ethnographic work is important not only for giving us a window into migrant communities that we know relatively little about, but it is also timely given the rising asylum claims based on sexual oppression and violence. 

Carrillo brings attention to the full arc of these men’s migration experiences, and challenges the view that gay men from countries like Mexico would logically want to migrate to a “more sexually enlightened” country like the United States. Carrillo and his research team, conducted semi-structured interviews with 150 gay and/or bisexual men, including 80 men born and raised in Mexico, 36 U.S.-born Latinos, and 34 non-Latinos who had sexual relationships with Latinos, most of whom agreed to be re-interviewed one year later for a total of 265 interviews. In the interviews with Mexican men, Carrillo contextualizes their migration experiences by exploring men’s situations in Mexico, their relations with significant others, and their motivations to migrate to the United States. These interviews, alongside participant observation in several sites where gay and bisexual men congregate, provide an engaging and enlightening narrative that problematizes our understanding of the sexual climate for gay and bisexual men in both countries. Carrillo discusses the challenges many of the men faced to incorporate into urban gay communities in U.S. cities and their sexual and romantic relationships with U.S.-born Latinos and non-Latinos in the United States. He skillfully weaves together stories of sex, sexuality, and romance on both sides of the Mexican border. Carrillo offers us a complex theoretical interpretation of the issues, institutions, and aspirations affecting Mexican gay men and significant others in their lives. The framework of desire that reverberates throughout this impressive study also gives us insight into ways in which the intricacies of cross-cultural sexual and romantic relations may affect the sexual health and HIV risk of transnational immigrant populations.

Carrillo shows that sexual globalization is a bidirectional, albeit uneven, process of exchange between countries in the global north and the global south. Carrillo’s work seeks to “destabilize assumptions about the directionality of sexual globalization” (p. 267), particularly the assumption that the Global North vis-à-vis the Global South is more sexually enlightened for gay and bisexual men. While many of his interviewees articulate this narrative, Carrillo argues this assumption offers at best a partial and limited understanding, given the dynamic character of sexuality in countries such as Mexico, which are becoming more accepting of sexual diversity. Encouraging scholars to delve more deeply into the assumptions regarding motivations for migration and the context for immigration and incorporation are major contributions in this research. In sum, Pathways of Desire is essential reading for scholars, practitioners, and activists in a wide range of fields, including sociologists of immigration/migration, queer studies, public health, and public policy as well as Mexican migration studies. It is an exceptional interdisciplinary study.

Distinguished Scholarly Book Award, co-winner
Trans Kids: Being Gendered in the Twenty-First Century by Tey Meadow, Columbia University

Tey Meadow’s Trans Kids: Being Gendered in the Twenty-First Century (University of California Press, 2018) is a beautifully written ethnographic analysis of one of the most pressing social issues in society today, how gender categorization and gender nonconformity is being navigated within families. Understanding the context and challenges individuals and their families experience as youths change their assigned gender category creates new possibilities for thinking about gender as an accomplishment with more fluidity than hitherto recognized or legitimized. Unlike ethnographic research that focuses on a particular geographic location or particular social site, Meadow travels across different sites to produce an “ethnography of a category” that interrogates how gender categories are produced, challenged, and reframed. 

Over the course of four years, Meadow hung out with families and trans kids in different settings, such as conferences for families, children, and day care providers in five different cities; professional conferences for mental health professionals working with gender nonconforming and transgender youth; hotels; medical clinics; schools; and gatherings of families at work or play. Meadow conducted 80 in-depth interviews with 62 parents of 50 gender nonconforming and transgender youth. 

Theoretically innovative, Meadow builds on, but also challenges, West & Zimmerman’s classic model of “doing gender” through interaction. Meadow demonstrates that gender does not dissolve but changes, with a variety of new categories developing among gender nonconforming children. How Meadow captures each youth’s enactment of challenging a gender binary to explore what is right for them offers new insight on gender and gender nonconforming processes in everyday life. The vibrant description of a kid wearing hot pink jeans with “deliberately coiffed brown hair,” artful makeup, and dramatic vocal inflections while demonstrating dance moves clued in Meadow to the complexity of displaying identity with aspects of being “gay” and simultaneously “deeply and essentially feminine” (p. 1-2). This portrait is but one example of gender nonconforming and transgender kids doing a range of identities across different social landscapes. Meadow notes that maleness is more brittle and policed than femaleness; intervention with transgirls comes earlier than for transboys. Many youth simply switch to the other side of the gender binary but express more fluid identities. Atypical gender evolves into a new form or forms of gender.

What also sets Meadow’s work apart from other accounts of transgender and gender nonconforming subjects is the analysis of children and the complex processes whereby their parents (largely cis-gender along with a number of gay parents and parents of color) became activists in supporting their children’s desire for legitimacy of their identity or identities. The parents (mostly mothers), after an “epiphany day,” facilitate their kids’ gender transitions or gender nonconformity. Meadow talked and walked with parents in workshops and in clinics as they discussed how they were growing to learn to call their children new names, allow them to wear whatever clothing they choose, and demand that the state alter the gender designation on their children’s passports and birth certificates. Meadow develops a complex matrix of gender identities and sexual orientations within the context of harassment by communities (including violence) and parental desire to protect their children. The importance of storytelling about trauma as part of the process of defining new categories and making social change is a major contribution. Meadow argues that: “social change is produced not merely by social actions or organizations but by bundles of emergent stories” (p. 214). How parents become activists for trans kids is a narrative that captures our attention. This book brings home the need to reconsider gender categories many, if not most of us, in the U.S. naturalize. 

Jessie Bernard Award
Jennifer Glass, University of Texas at Austin

The Jessie Bernard Award is given in recognition of cumulative scholarly work inclusive of research, teaching, mentoring, and service that has enlarged the horizons of sociology to encompass fully the role of women in society. Dr. Jennifer Glass, Centennial Commission Professor of Liberal Arts at University of Texas at Austin, has achieved distinction in the field by producing a compelling body of scholarship that tests common assumptions about the structural disadvantages of mothers in the workforce and informs policymaking through methodologically rigorous research. Just as importantly, she embodies the full spirit of the award by acting as a strong advocate on behalf of women, feminist scholarship, and gender-inclusive policies through her transformative institutional leadership and mentorship in the profession.

Based on a long and impressive record of scholarship, grants, and awards, Glass has significantly advanced the current state of the field by revamping our conventional understanding of gender, work and religion. Glass is widely recognized for her research on the role of work-family reconciliation policies in mothers’ disadvantage in the labor market as well as whether and how mothering responsibilities explain working women’s stagnant wage growth and concentration in low-wage jobs and their underrepresentation in the STEM fields. Her work reaffirms the role of inhospitable work environments and employer perceptions on the work trajectories of mothers and pushes both scholars and policymakers to reassess the role of gender inequality in shaping work experiences and labor market outcomes. 

The high quality and broad impact of her work is evidenced by her regular publication in top-tier journals in family, gender, and sociology and substantial support for gender and family research from top funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Glass has also inserted these issues into the public forum through her various op-ed pieces and media appearances on prominent media outlets on topics such as contraceptive mandates, telecommuting among working parents, and the impact of conservative views on sex and marriage on divorce rates. Her near decade of service to the Council on Contemporary Families as Executive Director, Board Member, and Treasurer has been instrumental in helping the nonprofit organization push academic research on gender, families, relationships, and sexuality to the forefront of public discourse.

Through prominent leadership positions both at her university and throughout the profession, Glass has also demonstrated her unwavering commitment to anti-discrimination and gender-inclusive policies and institutional reform that has helped pave the way for future generations of gender scholars. According to her colleagues, she has worked zealously to strengthen parental leave policies and promote a gender equitable campus environment through a multitude of service activities during her time at the University of Notre Dame, the University of Iowa, and her current employment at University of Texas at Austin. One of her nominators highlights how, among her many accomplishments, she played a critical role in reviving and building the new Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies Department while Chair during her final years at the University of Iowa. Finally, her record and letters of support clearly highlight the many students and junior scholars who have benefited from her generosity, pragmatic wisdom, and inspirational support through informal and formal mentorship and numerous research collaborations. 

The members of the Jessie Bernard Award committee are proud to join a large circle of esteemed feminist scholars and past recipients in supporting Jennifer Glass as recipient of this year's distinguished award.

Public Understanding of Sociology Award 
Tressie McMillan Cottom, Virginia Commonwealth University 

Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom recently joined the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill as Associate Professor in the School of Information and Library Science and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Information, Technology and Public Life and before that was an Associate Professor of Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University. She completely embodies the essence of this award and was selected for her impressive and inspiring commitment to furthering the role of sociology in the public’s understanding, and creatively using sociology for the public good.

Cottom, who earned her PhD from Emory University, is a digital sociologist, author, speaker, columnist, and a social media force. She is a prolific writer, including co-editing two volumes on technological change, inequality, and institutions, and authoring Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy (Palgrave MacMillan, 2017), and THICK: And Other Essays (The New Press, 2019).

Importantly, she is on the cutting edge of many of the leading areas in public life. This includes co-founding the nation's first program in Digital Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth, helping to prepare a new generation of sociology students with highly developed skill sets for engaging in public sociology. 

Her voice and thoughts have influence nationally and internationally on issues in the digital world, race/class/gender inequality, higher education, and the media. She and her work have been featured on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, The New York Times Book Review, NPR, Inside Higher Ed, Slate, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Afrikana Film Festival, Congressional Veterans Committee, The New Black Fest, and the State of California Department of Finance to name a few. 

But her engagement in public sociology goes further. In the book The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux by Cathy Davidson (2017), six pages are devoted to our award winner. Among other items, the author notes that Cottom is among the nation’s most followed sociologists (over 35,000 Twitter followers), is one of the most persuasive activists on what is often called #BlackTwitter, and that she "is fearless in the face of white supremacist trolls and hackers who frequently assail her with racist and misogynistic insults. She maintains her professionalism and systematically critiques or exposes them, one by one" (p. 126).

As one committee member wrote, “while all the candidates are very impressive, she stands apart from the others because of the scale and scope of her platforms for public engagement. For example, who else among us has been on The Daily Show not once but multiple times discussing various aspects of our research?”

Another committee member stated that “Dr. Cottom clearly weighs in on important conversations that are current today, including the rise of for-profit colleges. She engages in various public conversations by writing and speaking to a number of non-sociologist audiences. Looking at her CV and letters provides ample support for her voluminous engagement within the tradition of public sociology.”

And still another committee member noted that “the quantity and quality of Dr. Cottom’s engagement with the general public is extraordinary. Moreover, she’s truly raising the profile of sociology. She’s on the trajectory of some of the best known academics in America. And I can’t imagine a better representative. If one measure of success in this arena is visibility, then she is at the top.”

Clearly, Tressie McMillian Cottom is a public sociologist of the highest order and a most fitting winner of the ASA 2020 Public Understanding of Sociology Award.

W.E.B. Du Bois Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award
Aldon Morris, Northwestern University 

The W.E.B. Du Bois Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award recognizes scholars who have exhibited outstanding commitment to the profession of sociology and whose scholarship has been of groundbreaking significance contributing in important ways to the advancement of the discipline. Aldon Morris, Leon Forrest Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University, the recipient of this award, is President-elect of the ASA and past President of the Association of Black Sociologists. He is eminently qualified for the Du Bois award. 

Morris’ vast scholarly work has not only challenged prevailing modes of thinking in a variety of subfields inside and outside of our discipline, it has helped reorient scholarship in sociology itself. His innovative work in the study of social movements, for example, created a paradigm shift in discussions and understandings of collective behavior and social movements. His insightful analysis of the emergence, endurance, and success of the U.S. Civil rights movement, specifically, remains a lasting contribution. Morris’ more recent work on W.E.B. Du Bois provides, as one colleague stated, a “fundamental reorganization of our thinking about the basic canon and history of sociological theory making.” Apart from this impressive scholarship, Morris has distinguished himself with his role in institution-building and mentoring. 

Professor Morris’ illustrious career began at the State University of New York-Stony Brook, where he received his PhD in sociology in 1980. Morris then joined the Sociology Department as an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 1980. His unique scholarly contributions began almost immediately with the publication of his now influential 1981 ASR article, "Black Southern Student Sit-In Movement: An Analysis of Internal Organization." This work, published in our discipline’s flagship journal, provided a perceptive account of the "local movement centers" that fueled protest that, on its surface, appeared spontaneous and unorganized. Morris further developed this and related ideas in his first major book, The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement: Black Communities Organizing for Change (Free Press, 1984). Morris argued that previous social science treatments had "for too long ... portrayed the masses as a flock of sheep reacting blindly to uncontrollable forces.” He instead offered an "indigenous" perspective that emphasized the role of social connections, cultural beliefs and leadership that preexisting institutions like Black churches provided. As he put it, "internal organization was the critical factor that enabled the movement to gain momentum and endure" (1984: xii). Origins won numerous awards, including the American Sociological Association’s Distinguished Scholarly Book Award (1986), our discipline’s highest award for scholarly books. 

Other important edited volumes followed, including Frontiers in Social Movement Theory, co-edited with Carol Mueller (Yale University Press, 1992) and Oppositional Consciousness: The Subjective Roots of Social Protest, edited with Jane Mansbridge (University of Chicago Press, 2001). And, by all indications, Professor Morris’ most recent book, The Scholar Denied: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology (University of California Press, 2015), stands to accomplish even more. This is not a mere biography but, as one colleague described it, “an epic, monumental study that represents a sea change for the discipline of sociology.” It suggests a “fundamental reappraisal of the very founding of American sociology,” another colleague said. Morris argues in this book that Du Bois played a critical role in the development of modern sociology, indeed was a central figure in the founding of U.S. sociology. The book has already rightfully received a variety of awards, including the Oliver Cromwell Cox Book Award from the ASA Section on Race and Ethnic Minorities, the Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award from the ASA History Section, the Eduardo Bonilla-Silva Outstanding Book Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems, the Betty and Alfred McClung Lee Book Award from the Association for Humanist Sociology, the R. R. Hawkins Award from the American Association of Publishers, and the Prose Award for Excellence in Social Sciences. 

We sociologists are proud to note his additional achievements, which include the ASA Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award (2009); the Lifetime Achievement Award from the ASA History of Sociology section; the Joseph Sandy Himes Award for Lifetime Scholarship; the A. Wade Smith Award for Teaching, Mentoring and Service from the Association of Black Sociologists; the John D. McCarthy Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Scholarship of Social Movements and Collective Behavior; the Award for Outstanding Leadership in Social Activism, Community Organizing, and Scholarly Teaching from the New York City Council; the William Julius Wilson Award for Sociological Practice; and the Lester F. Ward Award for Sociological Practice. It is in these lights that ASA President-elect Aldon Morris, the Leon Forrest Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University, is the 2020 recipient of the ASA W.E.B. Du Bois Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award


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