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LSU Professor of African and African American Studies Named Ogden Honors College Sternberg Professor for 2020-21

The Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College has named Professor Lori Martin of LSU’s Department of Sociology and African and African American Studies (AAAS) program as the 2020-21 Erich and Lea Sternberg Honors Professor. Established in 1996, the professorship is the highest award conferred to faculty by the Ogden Honors College. 

“Dr. Martin has been teaching in the college for several years, and currently serves as one of the first classes of Ogden Faculty Fellows. She is a tireless advocate for our students and is one of the real faculty leaders on our campus,” said Dean Jonathan Earle. “This type of recognition of her work as a scholar and teacher is clearly overdue.”

Martin has taught the popular freshman seminar Honors 2000 several times. “I am very proud to be associated with the Ogden Honors College,” she said. “Long before it was popular for colleges and departments, the leadership of the Honors College has been committed to diversity. I'm so proud to be associated with a college that's really concerned about the student experience and student success.”

According to the 1996 gift by Mrs. Lea Sternberg made in honor of her husband Erich, Sternberg Professors are required to possess outstanding academic qualifications and credentials; a preeminent teaching record; and honorable moral and ethical character. These professors are expected to promote intellectual and social progress, trustworthiness, leadership, and patriotism. “I don’t know anyone embodying all of these criteria as much as Professor Martin,” Earle said.

“Lori is one of the most significant scholars at the university, and she makes everyone better where she offers her talent,” said Dr. Stephen C. Finley, Director of LSU’s African & African American Studies program. “The same is true of her teaching and mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students. She simply has no weaknesses as a professional. She can do it all, and, ironically, she has done it all, from holding administrative positions to being a prolifically publishing scholar.” 

A native of New York state, Dr. Martin came to LSU from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2013. She has since then entrenched herself in LSU’s culture and established herself as a ubiquitous entity on LSU’s campus.

Dr. Martin’s scholarly expertise is in race and ethnicity in various contexts. She’s researched race in sports, education, and religion. More recently, her research looks at African Americans and adaptive leadership. At the same time, she has used her scholarship to help LSU make progress towards greater diversity and inclusion. For example, Dr. Martin has taken a leadership role in the push for AAAS to become its own department, a matter that the Board of Supervisors will vote on in their January 2021 meeting. She authored and  submitted the proposal that will allow students to earn their BA in African and African-American studies rather than a BA in liberal arts with only a concentration in African and African-American studies, a desire of the program for nearly 25 years. She attributes this success for the program to the persistence of directors past and present and the recent demands of the students.

As the Faculty Athletic Representative for LSU athletics, Dr. Martin helps athletics maintain the academic integrity of the institution, monitor the overall well being of student athletes, and to make sure that LSU is in compliance with the SEC and with the NCAA. 

As the 2020-21 Sternberg Professor, Dr. Martin will deliver a formal lecture on April 15, 2021 on the subject of her new book, America in Denial: How Race-Fair Policies Reinforce Racial Inequality in America, which investigates the challenges of claiming to address ongoing racial disparities with race-neutral solutions. 

“I wanted to write this book because early on in the 2020 presidential election cycle, Senator Cory Booker [D-NJ], who along with others, was promoting a policy concerning “baby bonds” where every child born in the U.S. would get, let's say a thousand dollars. And then they would be able to access it at the age of 18 and use it to go to school or buy a house or start a business, which is not a problem. However, it was being touted as a way to address the black-white wealth gap, which is huge and has been growing over time. And so for me, I think that makes no sense to say that you're going to have a policy that's race neutral,” she notes. 

“We claim that we're going to address racial disparities, but we're too afraid to say that everyone hasn't been treated fairly over time and that we need to consider race when we address these policies. The lecture will focus on wealth, education, the criminal justice system, and health.”