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Updated 2:00 PM February 11, 2005




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Institute for Social Research names new chief

The Institute for Social Research (ISR) has named James S. Jackson as its new director, effective July 1. Provost Paul N. Courant announced the appointment Feb. 3.
Jackson (Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)

"James Jackson is a distinguished scholar and academic leader. He is an articulate national and international spokesperson, researcher and scholar, and he has great experience as a University administrator," Courant said. "Professor Jackson is eminently qualified to lead the Institute for Social Research, which is a central element of the University of Michigan's international leadership in the social sciences and one of the largest and oldest social research and academic survey organizations in the world.

"I am grateful to Professor Jackson for his willingness to assume this new role," Courant added.

A social psychologist, Jackson is the Daniel Katz Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and directs the ISR Research Center for Group Dynamics and the Program for Research on Black Americans, which he helped to establish in 1976. In addition, Jackson is a professor of health behavior and health education at the School of Public Health and directs the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies.

"I look forward to the opportunities and challenges in leading a world-class institution, a distinguished group of social scientists, and an outstanding professional support staff," Jackson said. "I feel fortunate to follow in the footsteps of so many illustrious social scientists that have preceded me, and I am especially grateful for the foundation provided me by David Featherman's commitment and excellent stewardship over the last 10 years."

A prolific and respected scholar, Jackson has published numerous books, chapters and scientific articles on international, comparative studies of immigration, race and ethnic relations, physical and mental health, adult development and aging, attitudes and attitude change, and African American politics.

In 1980, he directed the National Survey of Black Americans, the first survey of a nationally representative sample of Black Americans. Designed to elucidate the heterogeneity and strengths of the U.S. Black population, rather than to compare Black Americans as a group with whites and interpret any differences as deficits, the study broke new ground in the social sciences.

Conducting the survey required Jackson and colleagues to develop new sampling methods, as well. Locating Blacks in the rural South and urban areas was simple, but a sample that truly was nationally representative needed to include Blacks in mainly white, sparsely populated areas of the country, such as Montana and Wyoming.

Knocking on doors would have taken too long and cost too much money. The solution Jackson hit upon simply was to ask whites in the area, who knew exactly where the Black families lived. Jackson named the procedure the Wide Area Sampling Procedure—WASP.

The principal investigator of more than two dozen grants funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation (NSF), Jackson currently directs the most extensive social, political, behavioral and health surveys on the American and Caribbean populations ever conducted. Two of these surveys—the National Survey of American Life and the Family Survey Across Generations and Nations—are funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. A third—the National Study of Ethnic Pluralism and Politics—is funded by NSF.

Jackson also is a co-principal investigator with Wayne State University professor Peter Lichtenberg, of the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research, funded by the National Institute on Aging. The center works to improve the health of older adults living in the Detroit area and to mentor new researchers interested in minority aging.

Jackson received a bachelor of science in psychology from Michigan State University in 1966, a master of arts in psychology from the University of Toledo in 1970, and a doctorate in social psychology from Wayne State University in 1972.

A native of Inkster, Mich., he worked in the Ford Motor Co. Rouge plant while putting himself through school. Jackson is married to Toni Antonucci, a developmental psychologist in the Department of Psychology and director of the Life-Course Development Program at ISR.

In 2002, Jackson was elected a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science. Jackson is immediate past chairman of the Section on Social, Economic, and Political Sciences (K) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is a former chair of the Section on Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the Task Force on Minority Issues of the Gerontological Society of America, Committee on International Relations, and Association for the Advancement of Psychology, American Psychological Association. He was a recipient of a Fogarty Senior Postdoctoral International Fellowship, 1993-94, for study in France and Western Europe. He is former national president of the Black Students Psychological Association and the Association of Black Psychologists.

"I am very pleased that James will guide the institute through what could be a challenging period for the Institute's scientific leadership because of tighter federal funding," said David L. Featherman, ISR director since 1995. "He will be a strong advocate for the importance of social science in national conversations about important policies like Social Security and Medicare.

"ISR's research faculty has many nationally prominent leaders in social science, and James stands out among them. His appointment as director acknowledges decades of scientific contributions toward understanding the health and family lives of Black Americans and his long-standing service to ISR, the University community, and national efforts to address racial health disparities."

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