Florida State University

College of Social Sciences & Public Policy

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Sociologist Awarded Career Enhancement Fellowship

Assistant Professor of Sociology Shantel Buggs has been awarded a 2020 Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty and, in the process, earned herself more time to do what she loves to do: research.

The fellowship is awarded by The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This prestigious and competitive program “seeks to increase the presence of minority junior faculty members and other faculty members committed to eradicating racial disparities in core fields in the arts and humanities.”

The award provides a six-month sabbatical grant, a stipend for research and travel or publication, and participation in an annual conference/retreat. A total of 30 Fellowships are awarded each year.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity and the chance to represent FSU,” Buggs said. “This is coming at a great time for me.”

Buggs, who has a joint appointment in the African American Studies program and is affiliated with the Women’s Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies programs, plans to spend the time the fellowship affords her by working on data collection for multiple projects and expanding upon research she completed as part of her doctoral dissertation.

That research included studying the online dating experiences of self-identified multiracial women.

“The data from the dissertation was in-depth interviews with women who were using online dating apps,” she said. “I spent many hours talking with them about past relationships and how race was shaping their experience.”

Her initial round of research, conducted in Austin, San Antonio and Houston, Texas, revealed that people were using the apps for purposes beyond what they were designed for.

“I think there is this idea of what happens on dating apps,” she said. “But the thing I’ve learned in my research is that a lot of young people are using apps in ways that weren’t intended, like people using Tinder to find friends.”

The fellowship will allow Buggs to revisit some of that research, expand it and answer new questions in the form of a book, she said.

“There was just a lot that I didn’t get to cover when I did the dissertation,” she said. “Now I’ll have the opportunity to do that.”

She earned her B.A. in sociology from Duke University (2009), M.A. in sociology from the University of Houston (2011), and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin (2017), with doctoral portfolios in African and African Diaspora Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies. She joined the FSU faculty in 2017.

Her research interests center on culture, race, gender and intimacy.

“Much of my work explores how race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality shape the ways that people build and negotiate intimate relationships,” Buggs said. “Through this work, I illustrate how interpersonal relationships structure and reify identities and social inequalities. In particular, this branch of my research focuses on multiracial populations and interracial couplings as people move through life course processes like dating, cohabitation, marriage and parenthood.”

In addition to studying multiracial people and their families, she also writes about the representation of race, gender and sexuality in popular culture; racial inequality and space; and how online platforms like Twitter and OkCupid can create community.

She has published in the journals Ethnic and Racial Studies, Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, and Sociology Compass, and co-edited a special issue of Information, Communication, and Society.

Aside from research, Buggs is very involved in service both at the university level and to several national organizations. She has won several awards for mentorship, teaching and service.

Among her responsibilities beyond teaching and research, she serves as faculty advisor for FSU’s undergraduate feminist organization, Empowering Women Globally, and for the campus chapter of the College Democrats; an elected council member for the Section on Sexualities and the Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities for the American Sociological Association (ASA); an appointed member of the Committee on the Status of LGBTQ Persons in Sociology, also for the ASA; and an elected member of that organization’s Nominations Committee for the Section on Communication, Information Technologies and Media Sociology.

In August 2019, she received the Association of Black Sociologists A. Wade Smith Award for Teaching, Mentorship and Service, awarded to members of the organization who have been dedicated and innovative teachers and those who have nurtured future scholars in the field.

She was recognized by the FSU Pride Student Union as its 2018-2019 Faculty of the Year. Additionally, Buggs and colleague April Williams received the Sociologists for Women in Society’s Natalie Allon Research Award to support their project on women of color and non-binary people of color in the academic job market.

Mark Blackwell Thomas of University Communications contributed to this article.