Category Archives: Awards

6 Awards Recieved from Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program

The Sociology Department is pleased to announce that we received six awards from the UC San Diego Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program. “The Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program builds the interdisciplinary expertise we will need to address national and global challenges,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “Like the ongoing Frontiers of Innovation seed funding for new research centers on campus, this program is an investment in the university’s leadership role in interdisciplinary research.”

UC San Diego’s Strategic Plan identifies four research themes:

  • Understanding and Protecting the Planet
  • Enriching Human Life and Society
  • Exploring the Basis of Human Knowledge, Learning and Creativity
  • Understanding Cultures and Addressing Disparities in Society


Awardees are:

Lauren Olsen received the FISP award for her dissertation project, “Interdisciplinary Collaboration and Medical Curricular Change: Humanistic and Social Scientific Knowledge in Medical Education,” under supervision by John H. Evans, PhD and with additional mentorship from Charles Goldberg, MD in the School of Medicine.

This project is poised to explain how the medical profession undertakes the inclusion of humanistic and social scientific knowledge into its instruction of new medical students, ultimately addressing how different disciplines come together to improve future patient care.


Erica Bender received the FISP award for her dissertation project tentatively entitled, “The Military-Civilian Transition of Post-9/11 Veterans: Organizational and Individual Perspectives”

Abstract: This dissertation explores the post-military transition process of today’s veterans by addressing how veterans’ support services are coordinated and delivered in a complex organizational environment. In the last decade, the field of veterans’ services has grown tremendously, with over 45,000 nonprofit organizations in the United States identifying veterans as their target population. Consequently, post-9/11 veterans are transitioning toward civilian life in close proximity to a plethora of organizations and a vast array of services. While exciting, this organizational growth has also led to a heightened complexity in service provision. My study addresses this organizational shift and its consequences for veterans in transition. I utilize two cross-disciplinary fields, sociology and history, to examine the organizational landscape of veterans’ services and its effect on the transition experiences of individual veterans. I focus my research on organizations and veterans in San Diego, one of the largest military/veteran cities in the country with an exceptionally dense veteran-oriented organizational environment. My research approaches this organizational environment as the object of analysis in an effort to understand the broad social forces that act upon veterans as they re-engage in civilian society and build their futures.


Rawan Arar received the FISP award for her dissertation project, “Shouldering the “Refugee Burden:” Jordan and the Global Refugee Crisis”

Abstract: The refugee crisis has garnered unprecedented attention after the tragic drowning of three-year-old Alan Kurdi who died at sea en route from Syria to Europe. His lifeless body on the Turkish shore sparked a conversation about the global responsibility to accept refugees (and ways to keep them out). While some European states have closed their borders to refugees, the United States is engaging in national debates about refugee reception.

As the global refugee crisis becomes more consequential for the West, host countries like Jordan have become central to understanding refugee migration. For 70 years, Jordan has accommodated generations of refugees from Palestine, Iraq, and now Syria. With Jordan’s population increasing more than 10% in five years, social institutions that provide education, healthcare, and basic services are increasingly strained. Jordanians criticize a perceived decline in their standard of living citing overcrowded schools and streets. Governmental ministries are faced with the challenge of balancing competing interests as they address refugees’ needs, Western requests to stymie migration flows, and Jordanians’ worsening conditions.

This refugee dilemma yields the following questions: How do Jordanian ministries navigate the difficulties of changing demographics and overwhelmed social institutions? What happens to Jordanian citizens when a significant proportion of the population is comprised of refugees? And how do refugees navigate the difficulties of displacement?



Natalie Aviles received the FISP award for her dissertation project, “International Tech Entrepreneurs Abroad: The ‘Pull’ of Networks from “Silicon Allee” to “Chilecon Valley””

Abstract: Precis: Governments increasingly aim to attract foreign entrepreneurs to contribute to domestic economic innovation and prosperity. They have successfully used immigration policies and financial incentives to bring entrepreneurs far from home, despite high risks to “startup” abroad. This project examines how today’s increasingly mobile technology entrepreneurs develop and build their networks abroad, and how such networks influence decisions on where to locate. The investigator team will compare how international tech entrepreneurs make their choices, and identify the mechanisms through which they develop their networks and navigate new entrepreneurial cultures. This mixed methods project utilizes a original survey research of international tech expatriates, and also interview data collected from several startup destinations, including Berlin and Santiago. The survey data is analyzed statistically to identify how networks are developed and geographical destinations are chosen. The interview data will be used to further explain the micro-level social processes and patterns that emerge from the quantitative analysis. The project aims to uncover how these tech entrepreneurs navigate an increasingly borderless world, and how they utilize ties from existing networks in foreign environments. The findings speak to a wider literature in economic sociology and immigration studies– and also can inform public policy.


Professor Mary Blair-Loy received a FISP award to support the work of a research assistant to engage in a cluster of projects analyzing gender inequality in professional fields.

This research is important, because these are fields that provide innovation and economic growth and need more skilled professionals.  Leaders in these fields generally believe in meritocracy and objectivity, and are often unaware that they hold gender, learned from the broader culture.  These biases distort fair evaluation, exclude many women, waste talent, and impede innovation.


Professors Akos Rona-Tas , Thad Kousser, Edward Hunter and Zhuowen Tu jointly received a Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program Award to build a virtual lab for computational social science, with applied focus on political tweets during the 2016 presidential contest.

The project will analyze the tweets of presidential candidates as well as those by their affiliated political action committees. They will investigate three types of communication: topic diffusion, political vs. personal speech and negative campaigning.  This project builds on the momentum created by their recent multidisciplinary graduate courses on big data.


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Emma Greeson receives NSF Dissertation Award

Graduate student Emma Greeson has received the NSF Dissertation Award.  The dissertation title is Valuation of Non-Standard Goods in the Global Economy.

Well done  Emma, and congratulations!

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ASA Sociology Career Award given to Professor Bud Mehan

This year’s American Sociological Association Distinguished Career for the Practice of Sociology Award will go to our own Professor Emeritus Bud Mehan. This award recognizes “work that has facilitated or served as a model for the work of others; work that has significantly advanced the utility of one or more specialty areas in sociology and, by so doing, has elevated the professional status or public image of the field as a whole; or work that has been honored or widely recognized outside the discipline for its significant impacts, particularly in advancing human welfare.”

Bud is a natural for this award, given the depth and breadth of his scholarship in the areas of education, culture, qualitative methods, inequality, as well as his tireless application of his sociological work to the fields of educational reform, teacher preparation, and school creation. He has changed the lives of thousands of students—undergraduates and graduates alike—during his years at UCSD.

Congratulations to Bud for this great recognition! The award will be presented at the ASA annual meetings in Seattle. You can read more about the award at

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Yankelovich Center for Social Science Research seeks to point policymakers for improvement in upward mobility

This Way Up by Inga Kiderra

UC San Diego’s Yankelovich Center for the Social Science Research seeks to point policymakers to the most effective strategies for improving upward mobility in the United States.

The American Dream is less real than it used to be. On that, the evidence is clear. Incomes have grown slowly for all but the wealthiest since the late 1970s. And if you were born into a less advantaged family, the chances of making it into the middle class have diminished. But what to do? What will work best to restore the nation’s promise of upward mobility? The Yankelovich Center for Social Science Research at UC San Diego will weigh 25 available options and, in two years, will release a ranking of the most effective.

“There is no shortage of proposed strategies to remedy America’s upward mobility problem,” said sociology professor Lane Kenworthy, director of the Yankelovich Center in the UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences. “What we lack, and what policymakers most need, is information about the relative merits of such strategies.”

Image: Lane Kenworthy    Lane Kenworthy

With the support of a $100,000 gift in start-up funding from Yankelovich Center founder Daniel Yankelovich, Kenworthy is putting together an Upward Mobility Commission to examine the existing research on possible solutions and estimate their probable impact.

The commission will consist of eight experts, with assistance from a postdoc at UC San Diego. The experts will be drawn from around the country and will represent different disciplines. They will also come from several points on the political spectrum.

The project differs from a lot of social science research, Kenworthy said, in that its primary aim is to give useful guidance to policymakers and the public: “If you really want to make a dent in the problem, or solve it, here’s what the science tells us will help—and how much.”

Yankelovich, sometimes dubbed the “dean of American pollsters,” has spent 50 years monitoring social change and public opinion. Founder of several nonpartisan public policy research organizations, including Public Agenda, he is perhaps best known for starting the New York Times/Yankelovich poll, now called the New York Times/CBS News poll.

The Upward Mobility project strikes a personal chord with Yankelovich, aged 90.

“Back when I was a kid, the American Dream was very real for me,” Yankelovich said. “I had a very limited understanding of how to make a living but there were so many sources of opportunity. I want us to try to find practical ways, bipartisan ways, of reversing the current trend—and bringing back equality of opportunity.”

Kenworthy, author of half a dozen books, including the forthcoming “The Good Society,” holds UC San Diego’s Yankelovich Chair in Social Thought, a chair endowed with the explicit aim of transcending traditional academic boundaries.

Kenworthy conceives of the Yankelovich Center’s Upward Mobility Commission as a smaller and country-specific version of the IPCC, or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Much like the IPCC report, he said, the report the commission will produce is meant “to steer the debate in an evidence-based direction.”

“I think the shortfall in upward mobility is America’s most important economic problem,” Kenworthy said. “And for the first time in a generation, it is getting attention on the national stage. It is critical we not only talk about it but also figure out what to do.”

The 25 strategies the commission will examine range from improving infrastructure and reducing economic regulation to expanding access to preschool.

Broadly defined, the strategies are of four interlinked types. Those aimed at:

  • increasing economic growth;
  • enhancing education and training;
  • increasing the degree to which economic growth reaches middle- and lower-income households; and
  • improving opportunity for persons from less advantaged backgrounds.

The impact estimates will be standard cost-benefit estimates, focusing on employment and earnings. They will be based on the number of people likely to be helped, the average magnitude of the benefit, the length of time before the benefit occurs, the duration of the benefit, and the cost. They will also take into account the degree of uncertainty around these estimates.

In ranking each strategy, the commission will, among other factors, consider who it helps and whether or not it is dependent on other strategies.

The commission will not take into account the likelihood of policymakers adopting a given strategy. “That is an important issue, but one that should be addressed separately,” Kenworthy said. “First, let’s see what social science has to say about our best next steps for heading in the right direction.”

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Undergrad Major Shayla Wilson Wins Research Award

Four undergraduate students at the University of California, San Diego have been awarded the 2015 Undergraduate Library Research Prize in recognition of their superior research skills. The annual award, sponsored by the UC San Diego Library, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, and the UCSD Alumni Association, recognizes students who have demonstrated exemplary research skills in mining the Library’s rich and diverse information resources and services. Awards are given in two categories: Social Sciences/Arts/Humanities, and Life and Physical Sciences. The awards also include a cash prize of $1,000 and $500 for first and second place, respectively.

“The purpose of this prize is to encourage and recognize excellent research skills among our undergraduates, which includes the ability to exploit a wide range of digital and physical library resources,” said Brian E. C. Schottlaender, The Audrey Geisel University Librarian. “The Library—with our partners in Student Affairs and Alumni Affairs—is honored to recognize these talented students, who’ve learned that solid academic research doesn’t happen without careful and strategic library research.”

Image: Nelish Ardeshna, Nhat-Dang Do, Tiffany Lee and Shayla WilsonNelish Ardeshna, Life and Physical Sciences Second Prize winner; Nhat-Dang Do, Social Sciences/Arts/Humanities First Prize winner; Tiffany Lee, Life and Physical Sciences First Prize winner; and Shayla Wilson, Social Sciences/Arts/Humanities Second Prize winner.

In the Life and Physical Sciences category, First Prize went to Tiffany Lee, an Eleanor Roosevelt College senior, for her research on the role that syndecan-1 (a heparan sulfate proteoglycan) plays in lipoprotein binding and subsequent uptake in the liver. She was nominated by her mentor, Dr. Jeffrey Esko, a professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, who reflected that her adept use of the UC San Diego Library’s resources has “enhanced Tiffany’s abilities in being efficient and a critical thinker.”

Second Prize in the Life and Physical Sciences category was awarded to Nelish Ardeshna, a second year student at Revelle College who graduated with distinction in June 2015. Nelish’s research explored the newly recognized condition of electrohypersensitivity (EHS). His research investigated the underlying biological mechanisms of EHS, including its possible link to oxidative stress detoxification. Nelish conducted his research at Dr. Beatrice Golomb’s lab at the School of Medicine, who commented, “My appreciation of the value—and scope—of library tools, and the range of settings in which they can profitably be used, has grown through Nelish’s project.”

Image: Associate Professor Michael Provence with Nhat-Dang Do.Associate Professor Michael Provence with Nhat-Dang Do.

First Prize in the Social Sciences/Arts/Humanities category went to Nhat-Dang Do, a fourth year student at Earl Warren College, with a double major in Political Science and History. Dang’s research for his honors thesis focused on the emergence of martial law in Palestine, and the effects of British colonialism in the region. His research garnered the Department of History’s Rapaport Prize for best undergraduate thesis. His advisor, Associate Professor Michael Provence, notes that Dang “mastered the relevant historical material of a complicated historical puzzle” by having “read countless contemporary memoirs, news articles, and hundreds of archival documents to understand and recreate the atmosphere of acute political crisis that enveloped British decision making in the Middle East during the 1930s.”

The Second Prize for Social Sciences/Arts/Humanities was awarded to Shayla Wilson, a fourth year student at Warren College who was nominated by Sociology Professor Christena Turner. Wilson designed and conducted a comparative cross-national analysis of laws and legal practices related to violence against women in three countries: India, Japan, and the United States. A goal of her comparative analysis was to look at the role of law in the perpetuation and prevention of violence against women. It shed light on some of the many reasons why women often do not report sexual assault, and demonstrated the ways the legal process re-victimizes survivors. Turner noted that “persuasively making this kind of sociological argument required Shayla to become a mature researcher able to combine insights from multiple data sets, legal codes, case studies, and secondary sources.”

Image: Social Sciences/Arts/Humanities Second Prize winner, Shayla Wilson with nominating professor Christena TurnerSocial Sciences/Arts/Humanities Second Prize winner, Shayla Wilson with nominating professor Christena Turner.

To be considered for the Undergraduate Library Research Prize, students must be nominated by faculty members and must participate in either the annual UC San Diego Undergraduate Research Conference held in the spring, or in other university programs that foster and recognize student research and scholarship. The Undergraduate Research Conference is one of three major undergraduate scholarly meetings that the Office of Student Affairs Academic Enrichment Program coordinates each year that afford students from all academic disciplines the opportunity to present findings of research conducted under the guidance of UC San Diego faculty members.

According to David Artis, director of Academic Research Programs and Dean of Undergraduate Research Initiatives in the Office of Student Affairs, more than 200 UC San Diego undergraduates reported their research findings at the University’s 2015 conference this year, including the Library Undergraduate Research Prize winners. Artic noted, “We are seeing a dramatic increase in interest in all our undergraduate research programs. The achievements of these particular students and the recognition the Prize conveys upon them will encourage even more students to look for ways to get involved in hands-on research and, with the Library’s resources, make meaningful contributions to the generation of new knowledge at UC San Diego.”

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Queenie Zhu wins ASA Sociology of Education award

The  ASA Sociology of Education David Lee Stevenson Award has been given to UCSD Sociology Alum, Queenie Zhu for her paper titled, “On Common Ground: How Spatial Layout Facilitates Schools’ Power to Segregate Students.” Congratulations!

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Paper by Natalie Aviles wins ASA award

Natalie Aviles’  paper, “The Little Death: Rigoni-Stern and the Problem of Sex and Cancer in Twentieth-Century Biomedical Research,” has been awarded the 2015 Hacker-Mullins Graduate Student Paper Award from the ASA Section on Science, Knowledge and Technology. This paper has been pubished in the journal Social Studies of Science.

Congrats Natalie!

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Professor Bud Mehan awarded Chancellor’s Revelle Medal

It is my great pleasure to announce that Bud Mehan, our eminent emeritus colleague, is this year’s recipient of the Revelle Medal. The Revelle Medal is the highest honor given by the Chancellor to present or past faculty and recognizes sustained, distinguished and extraordinary service to the campus.

Congratulations, Bud!

Akos Rona-Tas
Professor and Chair of Sociology

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Prof. FitzGerald’s book wins best book award

The book award committee of the Migration and Citizenship Section of the American Political Science Association unanimously awarded the best book prize for books on migration and citizenship (published in 2014) to Professor FitzGerald’s book, Culling the Masses:The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas. Congratulations David!

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Professor Martin winner of Sociology Dept. Mentor of the Year award

The UCSD Sociology Graduate Community Committee (GCC) is proud to announce the winner of the first inaugural UCSD Sociology Mentor of the Year Award.

The 2014-15 winner is Dr. Isaac W. Martin!

Please join us in congratulating Isaac on receiving this award and thanking him for his tireless efforts in support of our graduate students. His commitment to his students and the larger graduate community was clear in the glowing nominations he received for this award.

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