UMass Boston

Awards and Recognitions

There are multiple ways for undergraduates, MA students, and PhD students to earn academic honors and receive departmental recognition.

Graduate Student Awards

The Graduate Program in Applied Sociology presents one Book Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement at Graduate Convocation every year. The award is given to the graduate with the highest GPA in the program.

The James E. Blackwell Prize is awarded each year by the Graduate Program in Applied Sociology in honor of Professor Emeritus James E. Blackwell, former President of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, founder of the Association of Black Sociologists, and author of leading books and articles about the African American community. The award is given to a student who has completed a graduate degree in Sociology and whose academic work exemplifies the spirit of Dr. Blackwell’s combination of rigorous research and scholarship about concerns of minority group members.

The Xiaogang Deng Graduate Paper Award recognizes the best empirical paper written by graduate student(s), and honors former faculty member, Xiaogang Deng, whose generosity made this award possible. It is selected from self-nominated papers by a committee of faculty members. Professor Deng was a vital and highly valued member of the Department of Sociology. He was also a significant contributor to Sociology’s graduate programs, regularly teaching well-received seminars on research methods, crime, and criminal justice.

The Teaching Assistant Award is given to a teaching assistant, nominated by faculty, whose work was of exceptional quality, and who showed an outstanding work ethic during their time as a TA.

Undergraduate Student Awards

The T. Scott Miyakawa Memorial Prize, named after a founding member of the department, is awarded to a graduating Sociology major with an outstanding record of academic achievement and community engagement. The Miyakawa Prize is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a Sociology major. The award includes a cash prize, recognition at the Sociology Department Honors Convocation and the College of Liberal Arts Honors Convocation, and a biographical blurb in the University Commencement program.

The Xiaogang Deng Award in Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCJ) recognizes an undergraduate CCJ major who has shown scholarly excellence within the major and who has interests in or experience with criminological research. Professor Deng, whose generosity made this award possible, was a vital and highly valued member of the Department of Sociology. He was a committed instructor of many well-received courses on research methods, crime, and criminal justice. The award includes a cash prize and recognition at the Sociology Department Honors Convocation.

Departmental Distinction is conferred upon students majoring in Sociology and Criminology & Criminal Justice. The faculty selects recipients based on academic merit and usually gives out between 9 and 13 awards each year. These awards are presented at the Sociology Department Honors Convocation, which is held at the end of Spring semester. Awardees are invited to attend the College of Liberal Arts Honors Convocation and are listed in the University Commencement program.

The Sociology in Practice Award recognizes an outstanding junior or senior who demonstrates the application of sociological ideas and insights to a social problem or issue of importance. Students write essays reflecting upon their involvement with community-based organizations, social movements, public and nonprofit agencies, social policy, and practice activities. The winner of the award receives a cash prize and recognition at the Sociology Department Honors Convocation.

The Emerging Scholar Award is given to a first or second-year student. Students write essays in which they apply a sociological theory to help interpret a social issue or personal experiences using C. Wright Mills’ concept of "social imagination." The winner of the award receives a cash prize and recognition at the Sociology Department Honors Convocation.

Criminal Justice and Sociology Honor Societies

Membership in an honor society provides a wonderful springboard for professional growth. Honor society members have expanded opportunities for promoting their research, applying for conference funding, receiving national recognition, and interacting with leaders in their field. Active participation enables students to develop stronger professional and social networks among the Sociology Department’s faculty, students, and alumni. An annual Honor Society induction ceremony is held at the end of each spring semester.

Alpha Kappa Delta - The Sociology Honor Society

Alpha Kappa Delta was founded in 1920. The UMass Boston chapter is one of 490 worldwide chapters. Eligible undergraduates are sociology majors and minors who rank in the top 35% of their class, have an overall GPA of 3.3 or higher, and have a GPA of 3.2 or higher in the major or minor. Eligible graduate students have completed 12 or more credits with an overall GPA of 3.2 or higher. The $50 fee pays for lifetime membership and a year’s subscription to the journal Sociological Inquiry. For information about the history, benefits and programs of AKD, please visit its home page. For recruitment questions, contact the AKD faculty advisor, Professor Heather Zaykowski.

Alpha Phi Sigma - The Criminal Justice Honor Society

Alpha Phi Sigma was founded in 1942. It is proudly associated with the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. The purposes of APS are to promote critical thinking, rigorous scholarship and lifelong learning; to keep abreast of the advances in scientific research; to elevate the ethical standards of the criminal justice professions; and to sustain in the public mind the benefit and necessity of education and professional training. Members must maintain a minimum 3.2 GPA in Criminal Justice courses and overall. The $70 fee pays for lifetime membership. For information about the history, benefits and programs of APS, please visit its home page. For recruitment questions, contact the APS faculty advisor, Professor Heather Zaykowski.

Departmental Honors Major

The Departmental Honors Major provides Sociology and Criminology & Criminal Justice majors the chance to explore an intellectual passion by conducting independent hands-on research. Students pursuing an Honors Major write a Senior Honors Thesis under the supervision of a faculty member. Eligible students are those who have met the following criteria:

  • 3.5 GPA in the major: Sociology or Criminology & Criminal Justice 
  • 3.0 GPA overall
  • Completion of:
    • Methods of Sociological Research (SOCIOL 202)
    • Elements of Social Theory (SOCIOL 201) or Criminology (SOCIOL 262)
    • Statistics (SOCIOL 350 or SOCIOL 352 or PSYCH 370)
    • 75+ credits

The proposal guidelines and paperwork can be downloaded here. Send the completed form and your brief proposal to the Sociology Department's Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Heather Zaykowski.

To be recognized as an Honors Major, the final grade for SOCIOL 478 must be B+ or higher, the student's major GPA must be 3.5 or higher, and the student's overall GPA must be 3.0 or higher. Additionally, the completed research project must be presented in an open forum to interested faculty and students, ideally during CLA Undergraduate Research Week.

Completion of an Honors Major is noted on the student's transcript. Students are recognized at the Sociology Department Honors Convocation, the College of Liberal Arts Honors Convocation, and in the University Commencement program.

University Honors College

The University Honors College degree is a curriculum that can be added to your major. Honors College students complete a minimum of 18 credits in honors courses, and meet special requirements in mathematics and foreign language. Students engage in active inquiry and rigorous analysis as they delve into interdisciplinary topics.