Marysol Asencio has been woven into sociological networks long before she joined our department in 2016. A D.PH in Public Health from Columbia University, Marysol joined UCONN’s School of Family Studies (as it was known then) in 1998. During her time at UCONN, she has held a joint appointment with El Instituto, (formerly known as Puerto Rican and Latino Studies). She served as the Associate Director and Interim Director of the Institute at different times, stepping up to these positions whenever there was a need to carry on the work of the Institute. She was a SSRC fellow (2003-2004), and the first UCONN faculty member to get a Ford Foundation grant in 2005 to develop and solidify interdisciplinary scholarship around Latinx sexualities and queer Latinidad. She has served on numerous university committees with her customary energy and integrity.
Ever-generous with her time, Marysol has not only helped to develop the field of sexualities, especially around Latinx sexualities, she made a commitment to building and deepening equity throughout her career. She has been a mentor and advisor to many students of color over two decades building up a pipeline of underrepresented scholars from UCONN. She mentored numerous Latinx, African American, and Asian American students and faculty. She designed many courses on the intersections of racism, gender, and sexuality. At the national level she worked with many sociologists to build up generations of Latinx and sexuality scholars; our discipline has benefitted from her expertise. She has worked consistently with many Latinx community groups in Connecticut, as well as the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice.
Marysol has always expressed a sense of gratitude to colleagues in the department for welcoming her, while we, collectively, have benefitted from her always-enthusiastic presence.
From power suits to power ballads, Davita is truly a Renaissance woman. Most of us know her list of scholarly accomplishments, which include being the author/co-author/co-editor of a dozen books and more than forty articles/book chapters. Her collaborations with many students led her to be recognized twice with the Sociology Graduate Faculty Mentoring Award. Her 2011 co-edited volume, Human Rights in our Own Back Yard: Injustice and Resistance in the United States, won The American Sociological Association’s Gordon Hirabayashi Human Rights Book Award in 2013. The book was co-edited with William T. Armaline, a former graduate student, and our colleague, Bandana Purkayastha. Davita was among the founding sociologists for the human rights thematic group within the American Sociological Association. She also served as President for Sociologists without Borders. Her tremendous service to UCONN includes seven years as Sociology Department Head, five years as Associate Dean, and two years as Interim Dean. While serving in the Dean’s office, she continued to teach her Introduction to Sociology general education class. She did all of this while being an amazing mother to two wonderful kids and then grandmother to her two beloved grandkids. Her multiple talents don’t end there. Many of us also know her as the lead singer and percussionist for her band, Off Yer Rockers.
Perhaps because she’s always so professionally dressed, I vividly remember a story she told me about the intersections of gender, class, and impression management. Her first teaching position was in New York City, and she biked to work. She arrived to her first lecture wearing cut-off jean shorts and a Wonder Woman t-shirt. Her students took one look at her and asked, “You’re our professor?” Of course, her exceptional teaching quickly turned things around. As a new assistant professor, I found this anecdote helpful: it underscored that while dressing the part may help, no matter your costume, you have to be true to yourself, your politics, and your community and let that launch your success. Davita has modeled humility, community, and connection, always extending a hand to those of us lucky enough to climb the academic ranks after her. I also think the Wonder Woman t-shirt was decidedly apropos. Davita, you’ve continued to save the day more times than I can count, and your presence in the department will be greatly missed. My own story, like those of so many others you’ve mentored over the years, is interwoven with memories of you. Thank you.
David Weakliem has always been something of a legend. In graduate school at Wisconsin, I’d regularly hear about him from professors with whom we had both worked. (He had left a year or two before I had arrived). He was a hotshot graduate student who had published several important papers and got a job in a great department—basically what we all aspired to. When I interviewed here at UConn, the department head at that time, Wayne Villemez, wanted to impress me with what he had done to make the department better. Chief among his accomplishments was hiring David. Getting a top-tier talent like him was quite a coup for a department like Connecticut.
David has published in all the top journals. He’s one of the few sociologists who I know that has published in AJS, ASR, and Social Forces. (The latter two twice each!). David’s legendary status in the field was cemented, however, in 1999. He submitted an article critiquing Bayesian Analysis—then an up-and-coming statistical method in sociology. The editor at Sociological Methods and Research viewed the article as so important that he not only accepted it for publication, but he converted the whole issue into a special topics issue focused solely on David’s article. It starts with David’s article. It then has four more articles from the best social methodologists reacting to David’s article, then it has a final response from David. This is the highest level of recognition for the quality of a scholar’s thinking.
As a department member, David has set the bar for being a good citizen. He’s always been reasonable, fair, and willing to help out. Life is relatively peaceful in the department now, but it hasn’t always been that way. Even in our worst years, David participated in department life with calm and insight. He was also willing to do the jobs that nobody else wanted to do but needed doing anyway (can you say “Associate Head”?). Add to this a wry sense of humor, and you understand why he’s so widely appreciated.
David will soon be forgotten in the department. That’s the way of academics. Do you know anything about the faculty members who retired five years before you arrived in the department? Retirees are the great-grandparents of academics. We know that they were there, but we don’t know much about them. Nonetheless, David has made a lasting mark in the field, the department, and in the lives of the people he worked with. Thank you, so much, David