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Roy L. Austin Appointed as Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago

by Johanna Ebner, Public Information Program Assistant

President George W. Bush nominated sociologist Roy L. Austin, Pennsylvania State University (PSU), to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. On September 25, the Senate approved the nomination and Austin expects to begin his position in November.

“Roy Austin has extensive knowledge of the histories and cultures of Caribbean nations,” said President Bush. “His longstanding ties to this region will serve him well as the next U.S. Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago.”

Austin’s primary mission is to promote the interests of the United States and protect American citizens. Other responsibilities include promoting trade between the U.S. and Trinidad and Tobago; encouraging them to maintain their strong democratic tradition and help other countries in the region to develop and/ or maintain the same; promoting American investment; and assisting the countries in controlling the spread of AIDS, protecting its natural resources, and preventing the degradation of its environment.

In reference to how sociology will help him in his new position Austin said, “The knowledge I have accumulated will help me to develop and maintain a relationship of friendship and respect with the government and people of the host country.”

Austin was recently appointed Director of the University’s Africana Research Center and is associate professor of Justice, Sociology, and African-American Studies. For a number of years, he served as Director of the Crime, Law and Justice Program at Penn State.

“A soft-spoken man who does not seek the spotlight, Roy combines integrity and compassion with a sort of pragmatic clear-headedness that makes his counsel highly valued by students, faculty, and administrators alike,” said Glenn Firebaugh, Head of the PSU Department of Sociology. “It is no secret that he is a gifted administrator himself.”

A member of the sociology faculty at PSU since 1972, Austin teaches areas of crime, juvenile delinquency, and race, ethnicity, gender, and crime/justice. He also specializes in Caribbean social structures. His areas of research include the relationship between family structure and crime, racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, the death penalty as a deterrent, and sentencing guidelines and racial disparity. He has published extensively in sociology and criminal justice journals on juvenile delinquency, deviance, and race and the criminal justice system.

During his years at Penn State, Austin has served as advisor to the Black Caucus, the Black Graduate Student Association, and the Caribbean Students Association.

“Our loss is the State Department’s gain, and those who know Roy know that he will serve our nation superbly in his new role,” said Firebaugh.

Austin grew up in St. Vincent, West Indies. He received his BA from Yale University and his masters and PhD in sociology from the University of Washington.

Austin is looking forward to his job and believes that the excellent relationship between the U.S. and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago will make his job somewhat easier than that of ambassadors in some other countries.