Columbia Sociology Welcomes New Professors

The Department of Sociology is delighted to welcome new faculty members in 2022, whose expertise in Urban Poverty, Racial and Socioeconomic Inequality, and Race, Ethnicity and Politics (REP) will introduce new courses and workshops to the curriculum. Mario L. Small is the newly appointed Quetelet Professor of Social Science as of January 2022. Marissa Thompson and David Knight will join the faculty as Assistant Professors in July 2022.

This cluster of scholars’ research focuses on race and ethnicity, with strong connections to existing subfields within the department in the areas of social networks, organizations, and stratification. “From a sociological perspective, race actively constructs social difference, imposes hierarchies of superiority and inferiority, creates distinctive forms of resistance and protest, and has profoundly shaped the American story,” said Bruce Western, Chair of the Sociology Department.  “At a time when American society is mobilized by racial injustice, the discipline of sociology can and should be a critical venue for greater understanding through research, and greater engagement through teaching and public outreach.”

Meet the newest professors:

Mario L. Small has made numerous contributions to research on urban neighborhoods, personal networks, qualitative and mixed methods, and many other topics.  He has demonstrated that people's social capital—including how many people they know and how much they trust others—depends on the organizations in which they are embedded. He is recipient of the C. Wright Mills Best Book Award (2005 and 2010), the Robert Park Best Book Award (2005), a Best Book on Culture Award (now Mary Douglas Prize) Honorable Mention (2004), and a Best Article on Culture Award (now Clifford Geertz Award) Honorable Mention (2003), among other honors.  His articles have been published in the American Journal of SociologyTheory and SocietySocial NetworksAnnual Review of SociologySocial Forces, and Social Science Research, among other journals; his work has been featured by the New York Times, the Washington PostPublic Radio International, the Huffington PostPacific StandardGreater Good, the Chronicle ReviewCommonwealth, and Spotlight on Poverty, among other outlets.

Marissa E. Thompson is a postdoctoral fellow with the Education Policy Initiative at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on the causes and consequences of racial and socioeconomic inequality, with an emphasis on understanding the role of education in shaping disparate outcomes over the life-course.  Methodologically, she employs descriptive and quasi-experimental quantitative methods using large national datasets, administrative data, survey data, and novel survey experiments. She earned a Ph.D. from Stanford University, an M.A. from Stanford University, and a B.S.E. from the University of Pennsylvania.

David J. Knight is a PhD candidate in the Political Science Department at The University of Chicago, where he is an IES Fellow and expects to receive his degree in June 2022. His research focuses on the politics surrounding mass incarceration, with broad interests in the fields of American politics; race, ethnicity, and politics (REP); Black political thought; criminal justice; critical prison studies; law and society; education; and social movements. His research agenda investigates the institutional structures and conditions that threaten Black freedom and the bottom-up movements and coalitional efforts that people engage in to change law, policy, and their general lived conditions. He holds fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Institute for Education Sciences, and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. He has also received a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant in Law and Social Sciences, a Russell Sage Foundation Small Grant in Behavioral Economics, and a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Dartmouth College, trained as a teacher at Stanford University, and began his research career as a master’s student at Harvard University. Before going to Chicago, David was a certified public high school teacher in San Francisco and Boston.