VCU Sociology Student and Faculty Honored With 2020 Black History in the Making Awards

February 25, 2020

Award recipient Sasha Pierre-Louis (right) and Sociology Department Chair Dr. Jennifer Johnson (left) pose at the 2020 ceremony.

On Monday, February 24th two members of the VCU Sociology family were honored with recognition at this year's Black History in the Making award ceremony. The ceremony is put on by the VCU Department of African American Studies each year. This year, master’s candidate Sasha Pierre-Louis and faculty member Dr. Travis Williams were recognized for their outstanding academic work and commitment to community-engaged work. We are immensely proud of Sasha and Travis! We know that their work and contributions will continue to stand-out into the future. Read more about the Black History in the Making Award and Sasha and Travis’ work, below.

The Black History in the Making Awards were founded in 1983 by Dr. Daryl Dance, the distinguished scholar of African American and Caribbean literature, who served as program coordinator during the 1983-84 academic year. Dr. Dance established the Black History in the Making Awards to recognize the achievements of African American students. In 1983, Dr. Dance invited academic units and organizations to “recognize a student who has made an important contribution.” The nominating units established criteria for selecting recipients. Since 1983, more than 550 students have been recognized by more than 50 departments and organizations. Nominees generally have stellar academic records, a history of community service and intern, professional or work experiences that place them at the forefront of their careers. Finally, in 2019, the department introduced a separate award for junior faculty (particularly term faculty), staff and university and academic professionals.

Sasha Pierre-Louis

Sasha Pierre-Louis

The Department of Sociology states: "Sasha excels academically and at so much more. She has been a tireless student-leader in the Department and the University community. She has more initiative than any student that I have worked with in a very long time. She responds to every call for proposals and participation that I put on the listserv. She has represented the Department well in initiatives like the Three Minute Thesis competition. And, she regularly presents at the Association of Black Sociology, Eastern Sociological Society, and Southern Sociology conferences. Her work on race, gender, and networks on social media platforms is a solid analysis to our understanding of how marginalized workers in professional services access job opportunities. She is a joy to be around and very deserving of the Black History in the Making recognition.

On top of this, she has convincingly demonstrated her outstanding leadership among students. Speaking as the faculty advisor to AKD@VCU, Sasha served as the student president in the term of 2019–2020. She has been a very responsible and responsive leader with innovative visions and executive power to transform ideas into practice. Months before the fall semester of 2019, she met with me to talk about the new strategies that she planned to implement to the AKD operation. In the following months, she used democratic techniques to lead her team of the student leaders to decide their dream speaker in the induction ceremony and generated a work plan with shared labor. During our meetings, many team members praised Sasha: "I love her [leadership]!"

Eventually, Sasha managed to secure the time of Dr. Amaka Okechukwu (George Mason University) to visit VCU in April 2020 and built collaboration with the Institute of Contemporary Arts and the Race, Place, and Space Initiative to make the event as widely accessible as possible. With the efforts of her team and collaborators, Sasha is successfully leading the project for the purpose of increasing the visibility and awareness of racial inequalities intersected with gender, community, educational disparity, and the policy of affirmative action on the VCU campus. Sasha Pierre-Louis is an ideal candidate for the Black History in Making Award."

Travis Williams, Ph.D.

Travis Williams, Ph.D.

Dr. Travis Williams, Ph.D. serves as an Instructor in the Department of Sociology in the College of Humanities and Sciences. Dr. Williams is a passionate and dedicated teacher who strives to educate students on vital issues related to inequality, race, and the environment. He teaches and is engaged in community action related to environmental racism and environmental justice. He organizes and leads a public lecture series titled “Racial Ecologies” which aims to bring attention to state and local community efforts to resist environmental racism and build environmental justice particularly for indigenous people across Virginia. VCU is a more equitable and inclusive space because of the work of Dr. Travis Williams.

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