The American Sociological Association (ASA) presented the 2016 major awards at this year’s Annual Meeting on August 21 in Seattle. The Awards Ceremony, followed by the Presidential Address by Ruth Milkman, was well attended. These awards are given to sociologists for their outstanding publications, achievements in the scholarship, teaching, and practice of sociology, as well as for their overall advancement of the discipline. Below are the profiles of all of the awardees.
W.E.B. DuBois Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award
Glen H. Elder Jr. was selected as the recipient for the 2016 W.E.B. DuBois Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award for his outstanding career, which spans five decades. After receiving his Ph.D from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC) in 1961, Elder completed a postdoctoral fellowship, funded by the NIMH. From there he served on the faculties of University of California-Berkeley and Cornell Universities before returning, in 1984, to UNC, where he remains the Howard W. Odum Distinguished Professor of Sociology. Elder is also a Fellow at the Carolina Population Center. His areas of research interests are broadly defined as the sociology of education, political sociology, world society, and organizations.
Elder has published a dozen books and more than 200 scholarly articles. His work has substantially reoriented sociology to examine how changing environments shape individuals and groups. Like DuBois, he has also impacted disciplines outside of sociology. His development of the life course perspective, which includes a methodological approach that situates people in relation to their social contexts, histories, and places, has served as a critical platform for multiple lines of interdisciplinary inquiry. His studies of human development within a social context have integrated psychological and sociological perspectives in ways that reflect C. Wright Mill’s challenge to make sociology “the study of biography, of history, and of the problems of their intersection within social structure.” For example, his farm crisis studies reveal how economic adversity reverberates through our “linked lives.” Through the use of longitudinal surveys and cohort analysis, he challenges the taken-for-granted use of the individual as the key unit of analysis, and he is eloquent in his ability to link individuals to the impact of changing environment like the Great Depression or WWII. Elder’s magnum opus—Children of the Great Depression— was published in 1974 and republished in 1999 in honor of its 25th anniversary. The work shows how the impact of the Great Depression on individual well-being depended on class position, social ties, and social context. His work has paved the way for a generation of scholars who made increasingly complicated arguments about the way historical change impacts human behavior. As one letter writer reported, “From his classic Children of the Great Depression (1974) to his more recent work, Elder has changed the way we think about the life course.”
Elder received the William J Goode Award for his book Children of the Land from the section on Family (2002), as well as numerous other prestigious awards from professional organizations. Awards from ASA include the Cooley-Mead Award for a Distinguished Career in Social Psychology (1993), the section on Family’s Distinguished Career Award (1998), the Distinguished Scholar Award of Life Course and Aging Studies (1998), and the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Scholarship, Teaching, and Service from the section on Peace, War and Social Conflict (2001).
Elder has also impacted generations with his leadership. He has served as dissertation chair, mentor, or preceptor to a total of 63 predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows. Many of his mentees—including William Corsaro, Robert Crosnoe, Steven Hitlin, Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson, Valerie King, Eliza Pavalko, Stephen Russell, Michael Shanahan, and Andrea Wilson—have gone on to very successful academic careers of their own.
The award committee is honored to congratulate Glen H. Elder Jr. for his outstanding career as a scholar and sociologist.
Distinguished Scholarly Book Award
Combining surveys and fieldwork in rural Kenya, Mojola shows why young African women are so susceptible to HIV-AIDS in a region where the epidemic is at its worst. Her research uncovers several paradoxes, and she answers them with sociological explanations.
The sexual causes of the disease are well known, through official warnings and educational programs. Deaths are frequent among young women, and they typically experience funerals for those who died. Nevertheless, neither official information nor personal experience affects young Kenyan wommen’s risky sexual behavior.
Another paradox is that young women with more schooling have higher HIV risk. The explanation is that school is where they learn to be modern, especially the Western culture of consumption in female adornment and cosmetics. Education increases their demand for money. But the rapid expansion of secondary education has generated “qualification escalation” (also known as credential inflation) and “certificate devaluation.” The result is that educated young women combine higher demands for consumption with weak income prospects; thus they turn to the sexual market.
It is well known among the local population that migrant workers and sojourners along the truck routes of this part of Africa are the main carriers of HIV/AIDS, with their multiple sexual partners and far-flung networks. But young women prefer them to the young men their own age, who carry less risk of HIV, because they have more money. Informants also say that older men are better sexual partners because they are more experienced in the techniques of sex. The emphasis on sexual pleasure denigrates the use of condoms, regarded as un-erotic. Preference for older men is reinforced by the custom of men giving gifts to their girlfriends. Traditional tribal culture blends with modern consumer culture here, since older men with multiple sexual partners traditionally had prestige, while young and monogamous men did not.
Even attending funerals for other young women like themselves is not a deterrent for these sexual practices. Funerals display the omnipresence of death, and thus individuals who attend a lot of them become inured to the risk. In the tribal culture, funerals are festive rituals, colorful and exciting gatherings; and even places to meet new sexual partners. (In the U.S. in the 1960s, the lore among hippies was that V.D. [venereal disease] clinics were good places to meet new sex partners.) What an outsider might think would be a deterrent to risky sex can be an incentive and opportunity for an insider.
Mojola’s analysis is the most advanced yet done on the sociology of HIV/AIDS. Her work makes several key points with wider application. Education is not a panacea, especially as seen through the eyes of officials, who miss the unintended effects on youth culture. Many of the aspects of informal culture in Kenya that provide an aura of excitement—”where the action is,” in Goffman’s term—are paralleled elsewhere, such as the attraction of hanging around the “narco-cartels” in Mexico to many young women. The theoretical assumption that everyone wants to minimize risk is inaccurate; we need more sociological analyses like Mojola’s to show under what social and cultural circumstances individuals do extremely risky things, in clear consciousness of what they are doing.
Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award
Helen Anne Moore, the Aaron Douglass Professor of Sociology and Teaching Excellence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is the 2016 recipient of the ASA Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award. Moore earned her BS, MA, and PhD degrees in sociology at the University of California–Riverside.
At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) since 1979, Moore has been a dedicated advocate of teaching within her department and institution as well as the discipline. Her institution honored her with a Distinguished Teaching Award in 1985, followed by several additional awards for teaching and service to students, including a Nebraska System Outstanding Teaching and Creativity Award in 2000. Her mentorship of graduate students and McNair scholars has won additional recognition. She was one of the co-sponsors of the initial National Science Foundation grant enabling UNL to establish its Preparing Future Faculty program. She has remained involved with that program, while also teaching graduate courses in pedagogy. She has a long history of providing support, both in terms of mentoring and institutional advocacy, for students from diverse backgrounds. In the 1980s and 1990s, Moore authored a series of reports on experiences of women and people of color at UNL and in Nebraska generally. In 2013, Moore presented to the NSF ADVANCE program on how diversity may skew assessment.
On the disciplinary level, Moore has been a frequent participant in workshops and conferences on pedagogical topics and has contributed to the interdisciplinary scholarship of teaching and learning community. Her service to the Midwest Sociological Society (MSS) includes terms as chair of the Women in the Professions Committee, chair of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Committee, and President of MSS. Moore’s most notable service to ASA is her term as editor of Teaching Sociology (1999-2004).
Moore has published widely on gender in academe, graduate student training, and race in education, with a particular focus on Native American experiences. Her three books, Schooling Girls/Queuing Women (2011), The Sociology of Women (1998, with Jane Ollenburger), and Feminist Ethics in Social Science Research (1988, with a team of co-authors), demonstrate her deep commitment to the scholarship of gender inequality. In addition, she has published pedagogical pieces on multimedia in the large lecture classroom, responding to student resistance in the sociology classroom, strategies for instructors of color, and emotional labor.
Moore’s nominators praise her continued commitment to innovative developments in teaching and learning. For example, she spearheaded a program in which graduate students had extended involvement at an HBCU so as to improve future faculty members’ understanding of diversity in education. She also organized (with John Stanfield II) a special issue of Teaching Sociology on teaching sociology at HBCUs, the first of its kind. Nominators also praise her mentoring and training of the next generation of sociologists.
As her nominator Julia McQuillan wrote, “When it was difficult, unpopular, unappreciated, and hard, Helen Moore pushed herself and others to create better courses, mentoring, opportunities, and environments for students and instructors in sociology learning settings. She has also consistently institutionalized her efforts so that she personally did not need to be present to make a difference.”
The Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award is not just an award for good teaching, it is an award for contributions to the teaching of sociology that go beyond the individual institution, and Moore exemplifies exactly these sorts of contributions. What is particularly notable about Moore’s career is her dedication not only to developing mentorship and support for teacher training within her department but institutionalizing these practices on a university-wide level and contributing to their diffusion across the discipline and beyond.
Distinguished Career Award for the Practice of Sociology
Hugh “Bud” Mehan has focused his 40-year career on linking sociological research and educational practice. From the time he received his PhD in sociology from UC-Santa Barbara in 1971 until 1995, he studied challenges to educational equity manifested in classroom interaction, educational testing encounters, tracking practices, and the distribution of access to computers in schools. For the past 20 years, he has turned his attention more toward building equitable educational environments for low-income students of color.
Mehan was instrumental in establishing the Preuss School on the UC-San Diego campus. Preuss, a grade 6-12 charter school, accepts (by lottery) low-income students who would be first generation college students. Mehan worked with the school’s inaugural faculty and administration to install the school’s signature detracking program augmented by extended learning time. The mission of the school is to prepare its graduates to attend four-year colleges and universities. More than 95 percent of the school’s graduates have been accepted at 4-year colleges; an average of 82 percent enroll. This commendable record has contributed to the designation of Preuss as the “most transformative high school in the U.S.” for three years.
Mehan also directed the Center for Research on Educational Equity, Access, and Teaching Excellence (CREATE) at UCSD for 10 years. During his tenure as director, he guided participatory action research on the progress of Preuss students and a range of equity-minded projects.
Mehan also helped construct Gompers Preparatory Academy in Southeastern San Diego modeled after The Preuss School. The development of a college-prep school for low-income students of color in this impoverished neighborhood was contentious. He guided a coalition of university colleagues, community members, and educators to convince the San Diego school board to approve this innovative charter school. In his letter of support for this award, the director of Gompers Prep stated that Mehan was “instrumental in getting the GPA charter written, supported by our community, and approved by the San Diego Unified School District in March 2005.” His work at Gompers directly impacted many low-income students, one of whom wrote a letter to support his nomination for the Practice of Sociology Award. Several other students were quoted in his letters of support, citing his service as a mentor for many low-income and first-generation high school and university students. He has served on the school’s Board of Directors since its opening in September 1995.
Professor Mehan has authored seven books, and written more than 100 journal articles and book chapters that have greatly influenced the Sociology of Education. His most recent book, In the Front Door: Constructing a College Going Culture, describes his research on the political struggles, culture, and organization of The Preuss School and Gompers Preparatory Academy in their efforts to provide an excellent and equitable education to underrepresented youth.
In addition to the Practice of Sociology Award, Mehan has been elected to the National Academy of Education, awarded the George and Louise Spindler commendation for outstanding contributions to Anthropology and Education by the American Anthropological Association, a Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Educational Research Association, and the Roger Revelle Medal for a Lifetime of Achievement to the University by UC San Diego.
Excellence in Reporting on Social Issues Award
It is not often that a consensus develops around an award recipient. But for the ASA Award for the Reporting of Social Issues such a tidal wave developed supporting our 2016 awardee. Literally hundreds of ASA members urged our committee to select Ta-Nehisi Coates, and the committee heartily agreed.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a young (born 1975) writer, journalist, memoirist, and public intellectual. He is national correspondent for The Atlantic. His many contributions to that magazine include the 2014 article, “The Case for Reparations,” which earned him great attention and set a high standard for a fair and passionate understanding of cross-generational justice.
Coates is the author of two books. The first, The Beautiful Struggle (2008), is a memoir of his growing up and coming of age in West Baltimore. It is both personal and a report in which he sees himself as experiencing distinctively African-American challenges, dangers, hurdles, and opportunities, a kind of sociological history. In it, Coates writes of his young, high school-age self, “I was, still am, a scientist at heart,” and there was, still is, a truth to that about his work. He writes in the vein of a memoir, with great passion, and in a rich and evocative style. The Beautiful Struggle is tough on others around him but on no one more than on his own adolescent self. He can see and say hard things. He can also decide he was wrong in past opinions and positions; he can change his mind.
Between the World and Me, winner of the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction, is again a reflection on race in America, written as a letter to his son, with powerful passages on raising young black men in a world of violence where they are all too likely to become themselves the victims of violence. Impassioned and informed, the writings of Coates bring to life what race means in contemporary American life in a way that is sociologically sensitive, bold, and beautifully crafted.
In reviewing Between the World and Me for the New York Times, African-American lawyer, civil rights litigator, law professor, and author of The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander, spoke of the book with great admiration, including her appreciation that the book is written specifically to and for an African-American audience. But she also acknowledged that she wanted more from it, that she wanted it not to conclude simply that African-Americans can expect little to change in the institutional and cultural racism so centrally and deeply located in the American heritage, but that the struggle against this must go beyond consciousness-raising to political action. The work of Ta-Nehisi Coates does not evoke only admiration, awe, and assent, but also discomfort and objection and conversation—often all from the same reader.
Coates has received important honors for his work. In 2015 Coates received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” His blog and other writings for The Atlantic and contributions to other magazines and newspapers brought him the Sidney Hillman Prize for opinion and analysis journalism (2012); a National Magazine Award for essays and criticism in 2013 for “Fear of a Black President” (The Atlantic); and the George Polk Award for commentary in 2014 for “The Case for Reparations.”
Coates attended, but did not graduate from, Howard University. He has gone on to teach in the writing program at MIT as a visiting professor 2012-14 and to serve as a journalist-in-residence in 2014 at the City University of New York.
Thomas “Tom” Pettigrew is the 2016 recipient of the ASA Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award. Pettigrew continues the legacy of Oliver Cromwell Cox, Charles S. Johnson and E. Franklin Frazier in the relentless use of academic scholarship in the service of social justice. Through his research, teaching, and service to the profession and the world, Thomas Pettigrew embodies the tradition of critical analysis of inequality, segregation, and race. As one of the first public sociologists, he brings rigorous analysis and theory to bear on the problems gripping modern society. He communicates the insights of his analysis through both his work and actions to professional and lay audiences.
Thomas Pettigrew earned his PhD and MA in social psychology from Harvard University in 1956, after receiving his BA from the University of Virginia in 1952. He is also the recipient of two honorary doctorates—Governors State University in 1979 and Germany’s Philipps University in 2008. For more than 60 years, Thomas Pettigrew has crafted a career that demonstrates the ability of sociology to influence and impact changes in policy, science, and social consciousness.
Pettigrew’s contributions to the study of racial inequality have been transformational both within and outside of sociology. His pioneering research often combined media with traditional sociological methods to provide new insights into the madness and consequences of racial segregation. As a child of the American South, he represents the rare sociologist who knew in the words of Atlanta’s hip-hop group Outkast, “The South has got something to say.” And say things he did. Take for example his television series in the 1960s: Epitaph for Jim Crow, where he combined his personal and sociological knowledge of the American South to make public the racial realities and practices many dared not mention, much less publicly broadcast. Among his many contributions, including his use and development of the concept “relative deprivation,” are ”Racially Separate or Together,” “Racial Discrimination in the United States” and “The Sociology of Race Relations: Reflections and Reform”.
Professor Pettigrew is indeed a change agent, who time and again risked his own privilege and career to emphasize that black lives matter and racial inequality stagnates and damages American progress. Pettigrew’s work has fundamentally shaped our understanding of the political, social, and economic ramifications of racial segregation and prejudice, and he has relentlessly pursued a progressive agenda that aims to make racial inequality visible while aiding in its amelioration.
The Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award Committee enthusiastically and unanimously commends Professor Pettigrew for his groundbreaking intellectual agenda and uncompromising commitment to racial and social justice and public sociology. World-renowned, Pettigrew and his work are a national and disciplinary treasure of the highest order. His commitment to scholarship, mentorship, and activism continues the legacy of this award’s namesakes and serves as an example to us all.
Award for Public Understanding of Sociology Award
Joel Best is the recipient of the 2016 Public Understanding of Sociology award for his accomplishments and commitment to promoting public awareness of sociological ideas and scholarship. He is Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware. He has published extensively, including 25 books and over 80 articles and book chapters. His work demonstrates analytical rigor but is also accessible for audiences beyond the field and academia. It covers a wide range of issues that are both fascinating and important, for example on moral panics, fads, the student loan crisis, statistical claims, and the study of social problems. He has breached the confines of the academy, contributing to the broader public discussion through venues like NPR, Showtime, MTV, Fox News, NBC, and others and in so doing has enhanced the quality of the debate around the varied topics, that have been the focus of his research and attention.
Best’s work is relevant, well-written, and consistently has popular appeal. As one of his recommenders put it, he has been doing public sociology long before the term came into use. His series of books on statistics, Damn Lies and Statistics, More Damn Lies and Statistics, and Stat Spotting, which addresses the misuse of quantitative data in media and politics, have been quite popular. The books are widely used within academia but have also been of interest to general readers. They have been reviewed in major periodicals such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and he has discussed his findings in interviews with ABC News and made appearances on local public radio shows. He has also been invited to talk about statistics and critical thinking for statisticians, statistical software users, educators concerned with quantitative literacy-numeracy, legislators, judges, and journalists.
Best’s approach to studying moral panics and social problems has ensured his ongoing access to audiences beyond sociology while contributing to his becoming a leading figure in this area of the field. While the constructionist approach was once on the margins of the discipline, it is now recognized as a major framework, and his work in this area has made him one of the paradigm’s pioneers and leading practitioners. With the publication of “The Razor Blade in the Apple” in the journal, Social Problems in 1985, he showed that there was little evidence that trick-or-treaters were at risk due to contaminated treats, but rather such persistent concerns represented an urban legend reflecting growing fears about crime and child safety. In the same year, he summarized his findings in Psychology Today and they were reported in major news periodicals. For each of the 30 years since, he has given interviews based on updated research for televised venues from NBC’s Today Show to Bill O’Reilly’s show, on radio shows like NPR’s All Things Considered, for magazine articles, and for hundreds of newspapers articles. His book, Threatened Children, which was the recipient of the Charles Horton Cooley Award, offered a reasoned discussion of moral panics and media framing of violence and danger. His numerous empirical studies of social problems and his edited collection, Images of Issues are mainstays in constructionist work. Best has also been active in professional organizations within the discipline. On the list of positions in this capacity, he has served as President of the Society for the Study of Social Problems and as editor of the journal Social Problems.
The topics Best’s work covers are interesting and his research and scholarship are meaningful and accessible. He has been widely influential, having left an indelible mark on students, scholars, sociologists, and, more generally, on the larger public discourse.
Jessie Bernard Award
The Jessie Bernard Award is given in recognition of scholarly work that has enlarged the horizons of sociology to encompass fully the role of women in society. It is presented for significant cumulative work done throughout a professional career. The winner of the 2016 Jessie Bernard Award is Ronnie Steinberg, Professor Emerita of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Vanderbilt University.
Steinberg is a distinguished scholar who devoted her career to promoting the status of women in society. A pioneer in the study of comparable worth, she developed innovative theoretical and methodological approaches to understanding the economic impact of job segregation on women. She then provided expert testimony to lawmakers throughout the United States and Canada, resulting in pay raises for thousands of women. This work continues to benefit workers in race- and gender-segregated jobs. Her indefatigable advocacy—expert testimony, consulting, speechmaking, report-writing—has kept the cause alive, laying the groundwork for the current resurgence of equal pay and pay equity initiatives, including in Seattle, where she received this Award.
Steinberg was not only at the forefront of pay equity. Throughout her career she’s shown a penchant for anticipating and leading the field, as witnessed by her early studies of emotional labor, care work, and work and family. She recently investigated the systems of eldercare in this country, a topic that disproportionately affects women because they retire with limited income and generally outlive men.
Steinberg began her professional career in 1977 as Research Director of the Center for Women in Government at SUNY Albany. In that capacity, she organized a conference on existing equal pay and equal opportunity policies for the European Economic Community’s member states that were required to pass such laws. This project culminated in her first edited book, Equal Employment Policy for Women. Starting in 1985, she worked at Temple University for 10 years, where she was a popular professor and a strong advocate for women’s studies. Later at Vanderbilt she directed the women’s studies program and introduced a major in women’s studies and a graduate certification program. In 2001, as chair of the Tennessee Economic Council on Women, she founded and directed the Women’s Social Policy and Research Center at Vanderbilt University. During her tenure as director, she oversaw the publication of reports on the impact of the state’s income tax law and housing policies on women. Although officially retired, she continues to engage in international discussions with feminist scholar-activists in Europe and Japan, and in local campaigns on topics including health care restructuring and immigrant incorporation.
Steinberg played an instrumental role in building the field of feminist sociology, and with it, a community of scholars. She initiated and edited the first book series on gender, titled Women in the Political Economy, with Temple University Press. In the 1970s and early 1980s, many publishing companies were uncertain about navigating this new scholarship on women, and most reviewers were not familiar with feminist research questions and methods. The field needed an advocate, which it found in Professor Steinberg, an academic insider with knowledge of the emerging field. Her book series published dozens of canonical texts in the sociology of gender, while promoting the careers of a generation of feminist scholars. In this series, as in her own research, Steinberg promoted an intersectional approach, focusing on gender in the context of class and racial/ethnic inequality.
The Jessie Bernard Award committee expresses our deepest appreciation for Steinberg and her many lasting contributions to improving the lives of working women, both inside and outside the academy.
Employing mixed methods (qualitative interviews, media content analysis, and participant observation), Rodriguez-Muñiz’s dissertation focuses on five national Latino civil rights organizations and their leaders. In doing so, he reveals how demographic “facts” about Latina/o population growth are constructed, the classificatory wars waged around this process, and how Latinas/os attempt to translate this demographic knowledge into political influence. His field work covers approximately five significant years in the recent political history of Latina/o advocacy and mobilization, beginning with the planning for the 2010 census and ending in the post-2012 election period.
The first empirical chapter of Rodriguez-Muñiz’s dissertation focuses on the politics of consent, driven in large part by Latina/o advocates surrounding the conceptualization of the “Latino demographic” used in the 2010 census. Recognizing that census data represent the potential for political recognition, Rodriguez-Muñiz astutely frames this process as consent building bracketed by the politics of desire. The second empirical chapter examines the framing of the results from the 2010 census by mainstream media, both in terms of “present” demographic change and future predictions of the same. The chapter convincingly argues that media outlets, without employing explicitly racist or xenophobic language nonetheless contributed to what Rodriguez-Muñiz terms “demographobia”, or racialized fear of demographic change. In response, Latina/o advocacy groups attempted to reframe the seemingly explosive growth of the Latina/o population as a benefit to the U.S. as opposed to a threat, engaging in “Latino spin” to portray the group in the most palatable, non-threatening manner. The third and final empirical chapter focuses on the 2012 presidential election and how Latina/o advocates, armed with census data, used specific statistics to demonstrate the political power of the group as a voting bloc in that election and future elections. While the claims behind the power of the Latina/o vote in deciding the 2012 election were eventually somewhat undermined by post-election statistics, demographic projections of Latina/o population growth continue to exert a strong influence on ideas surrounding the political influence of the group.
This dissertation is timely given both the current, racially charged presidential election of 2016 and the fact that the U.S. Census Bureau is considering changes to how Latinas/os will be counted in 2020. It also provides two important theoretical contributions to the discipline. First is the articulation of “temporal politics” – Rodriguez-Muñiz’s original concept of political action driven by changing demographics. Second is the advancement of the analytical tool, “racial projects.” This work, solidly situated in the tradition of the sociology of knowledge, is likely to influence how sociologists and political scientists alike understand processes of racial and ethnic identity formation, Latina/o social movements, and Latina/o political action.
Rodriguez-Muñiz completed this work at Brown University under the supervision of Gianpaolo Baiocchi, José Itzigsohn, Michael Kennedy, and Anne Morning. He currently joins the sociology faculty of Northwestern University.