Sara Shostak named inaugural director of the Vic and Bobbi '63 Samuels Center for Community Partnerships and Civic Transformation

square headshot of Sara Shostak
Photo/Mike Lovett

Sara Shostak

Brandeis has named Sara Shostak as the inaugural director of the Vic and Bobbi '63 Samuels Center for Community Partnerships and Civic Transformation. Shostak is a professor in the Department of Sociology and Health: Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP) Program at the university.

Endowed by Bobbi Samuels ’63 and the Samuels Family Foundation, the Vic and Bobbi '63 Samuels Center for Community Partnerships and Civic Transformation represents a collaborative initiative between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs that was developed in response to one of the key priorities identified in the Framework for the Future: a re-engagement of Brandeis’ founding ethos, which includes honoring the millennia-old Jewish values of learning, engaging in critical analysis, committing oneself to the pursuit of justice and using one's gifts to help repair the world.

The Center will bring together students, faculty and staff from across the university with professionals from the nonprofit sector in an interdisciplinary environment. One goal of the center is to make community-engaged teaching, research and direct service accessible as a central aspect of the Brandeis experience for all students. While celebrating and supporting the rich tradition of service at the university, the Center will also elevate legislative advocacy and policy-oriented research as important practices of civic transformation. “It is an extraordinary honor to serve as the inaugural director of the Samuels Center,” commented Shostak, “I look forward to working with all members of the Brandeis community and with our community partners to build a center that will meet the profound challenges of this historic moment and help us move together towards a future of greater equity, justice and love.”As a medical sociologist, Shostak studies how people perceive and experience the material conditions that shape health inequities in the United States. Community engagement has been central to her research and teaching. Shostak has written extensively on a diverse range of topics, often co-authoring with students. Her most recent book, Back to the Roots: Memory, Inequality, and Urban Agriculture, describes how urban farmers and gardeners in Massachusetts reckon with the cultural meanings and material legacies of the past as they seek to create more just and equitable futures.
Her previous book, which was awarded the Eliot Freidson Outstanding Publication Award from the Medical Sociology Section and the Robert K. Merton Book Award from the Section on Science, Knowledge and Technology of the American Sociological Association, analyzed the rise of gene-environment interaction in the environmental health sciences and examined its consequences for how we understand and seek to protect population health.

The excellence of Shostak’s teaching has been recognized with the Michael L.Walzer '56 Award for Teaching by Brandeis, and she has received numerous grants in support of her scholarship, including from the Merck Family Fund, the Ruderman Family Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation. She served as the chair of the Social Justice Curriculum Committee (2018-2019) and the Community Engaged Scholars Committee (2019-2021) and is actively involved with the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program (MKTYP), the Posse Scholars Program and the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Student Life.

“Professor Shostak will bring to the Center her remarkable commitment to Brandeis’ dual teaching and research mission combined with her depth of experience in community-engaged scholarship. Together, these qualities will be invaluable to the university’s ability to deliver upon the Center’s mission to advance civic transformation. I am pleased to know that the leadership of the Center is in her capable hands,” said Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz.

The Center is expected to launch in Fall 2022.

Categories: Research, Student Life

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