Sullivan to receive Robinson Equal Opportunity Award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Shannon Sullivan, professor and head of the Department of Philosophy in the College of the Liberal Arts, has been selected to receive the 2012 Dr. James Robinson Equal Opportunity Award.

The award, sponsored by the Penn State Alumni Association, was established in 1988 and renamed in 1998 to honor the late James Robinson, a distinguished alumnus and former member of the Alumni Council. It recognizes a full-time faculty or staff member, with at least two years of active service, who has promoted equal opportunity through affirmative action and/or contributes to enhancing the educational environment of the University through improving cross-cultural understanding.

During her first four years as head, the Department of Philosophy increased diversity among faculty and students. Currently, six of 14 tenure-track faculty are women, and two are African-American. Of 31 graduate students, 11 are African-American, compared with zero four years ago. “This level of diversity is unprecedented in philosophy departments in the United States and perhaps the world,” one nominator said. “It was Shannon’s leadership that made this possible.”

Sullivan was the first director of Philosophy in an Inclusive Key Summer Institute, co-sponsored by the American Philosophical Association, which brings minority students to campus to help them consider and prepare for a career in philosophy, and was instrumental in establishing Penn State as its permanent host. She also co-founded Cultivating Under-represented Students in Philosophy, a program that recruits undergraduate students from under-represented groups in philosophy departments around the country to participate in a workshop on graduate school at Penn State.

“Under her leadership,” a nominator said, “our department has literally been transformed from one in which there were no graduate students of color, no work in the field of philosophy of race and little appreciation of work in feminist philosophy into a department with a national reputation for being the best place to study philosophy or race, the department with the highest number of black graduate students in the nation and one of the best places to do graduate work in the field of feminist philosophy.”

For more than a decade, Sullivan’s research has focused on race and gender. She is the author of "Living Across and Through Skins: Transactional Bodies, Pragmatism and Feminism" and "Revealing Whiteness: The Unconscious Habits of White Privilege" and the editor of "Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance."

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Last Updated April 12, 2012