Director named at UTA’s Center for African American Studies

Jason Shelton, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Arlington, has been appointed the director of the university’s Center for African American Studies, effective Jan. 1.

He succeeds interim director W. Marvin Dulaney, former chariman of the history department and associate professor emeritus.

Shelton joined UT Arlington in 2008 as an assistant professor and has been a faculty affiliate of the center since its founding in 2012. He frequently speaks to groups and is a media commentator on black middle class culture and ideology, racial and ethnic attitudes, the sociology of religion, and the debate over race versus class.

Previously, he was on the faculty of Miami-Dade College, the College of Wooster and Rice University. Shelton earned his undergraduate degree in sociology from Kent State University. He completed his master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology at the University of Miami.

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“Dr. Shelton distinguished himself early on as a very strong candidate to lead UTA’s Center for African American Studies,” said Ron Elsenbaumer, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. “He has visionary leadership as demonstrated by his teaching, research activity, mentoring and engagement with students, faculty, staff and others within and outside of the African-American community.”

“I am honored to accept this role for a number of reasons,” Shelton said. “First, it provides a major opportunity to impact people’s lives in a way that takes the classroom beyond the traditional boundaries and into the community. Second, it serves as a platform for conducting and sharing research that furthers our understanding of the contemporary African-American experience as well as our nation’s past, present and future.”

Shelton has written several articles and the book Blacks and Whites in Christian America: How Racial Discrimination Shapes Religious Convictions (2012), which was honored by the Southern Conference on African American Studies with the C. Calvin Smith Award. The book also earned honorable mention from the American Sociological Association’s Section on the Sociology of Religion.

The Center for African American Studies was established in August 2012. It is the only center of its kind in North Texas and one of only three in the state. Its mission is to enlighten, inspire and empower students, faculty and the community to create progressive, collaborative solutions that drive social change within the African-American community and the broader society.

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Among its signature events and initiatives are its CAAS Opening Lecture, Evening of Arts and Letters, and annual CAAS Conference.

Shelton said his vision for the center includes three major goals: increasing the number of students in the African American studies minor program, ensuring that the center has a meaningful impact on campus and establishing a department of diversity studies.