ANN ARBOR—This past June, the Program for Research on Black Americans (PRBA) celebrated four productive decades with a reunion and the announcement of the James S. Jackson Emerging Scholars Fund, named after one of its founders. Established in 1976, PRBA was among the first university-based research and training programs in the country to focus on issues specific to the Black community. PRBA has witnessed and studied the unique and ever-changing experience of African Americans through the National Survey of Black Americans, which has launched more than 400 scholarly articles.
PRBA was founded, in part, thanks to Jackson, University of Michigan’s (U-M) first full-time African-American faculty member in the department of Psychology and a former director of the Institute of Social Research. The fund in his honor will provide support for promising U-M graduates and postdoctoral candidates and junior faculty members affiliated with PRBA.
Jackson and many of his former students attended the reunion. Among them was M. Belinda Tucker, a social psychologist and professor at UCLA, who was Jackson’s first dissertation student at U-M. “I am more appreciative than ever of the great fortune I had to land in the Psychology Department at U-M and to have been mentored by James Jackson, ” said Tucker. “I’m also incredibly grateful to have been a part of launching the program that has become the greatest single training vehicle for social science researchers focused on populations of color. I could not have asked or wished for a better training experience.”
This year’s reunion theme focused on research from young scholars and studies on everyday discrimination. Major highlights from the three-day event included the award ceremony, which recognized scholars for Excellence in Community Involvement (Carl Bell, Susan Frazier-Kouassi and Janice Johnson Dias), Early Career Excellence in Research (Ann Nguyen, Mosi Adesina Ifatunji and Julia Hasting), and the Award for Excellence in Governmental Service (Anna Riley, Nicholas Jones and Rashid Njai). Tucker received an award for her Outstanding and Enduring Contributions in Research, Mentoring and Academic Service. Other event highlights included presentations on the National Survey of American Life, which provides data about the physical, emotional, mental, structural and economic conditions of Black Americans based on the results of more than 7,000 interviews.
“This event is a great opportunity to establish some connections and think a little bit about how we can work together,” said Carl Hill, director of the National Institute on Aging Office of Special Populations, who wrote his dissertation about the influence of ethnicity, stress and coping on black men’s health while at the PRBA. “We have such a great network around the country.”
Indeed, the feelings of camaraderie among the program’s alumni were evident at the reunion and perhaps are a contributing factor to why so many return to these gatherings long after they move on from U-M. This was the second reunion PRBA has hosted in its 40 years.
“We are thrilled to have had this opportunity to gather our members together and reflect on this important milestone in PRBA’s history,” said Robert Joseph Taylor, director of PBRA and U-M professor of Social Work. “We celebrated the incredible work that’s been accomplished during the past four decades and the individuals who made this organization possible. And from our young scholars, impressive research is coming forward, and we are thrilled to support them through the scholar fund and we look forward to their future leadership.”