Robert Sellers, the Charles D. Moody Collegiate Professor of Psychology, has been named the recipient of the 2023 James S. Jackson Distinguished Career Award for Diversity Scholarship.
The award, jointly administered by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the National Center for Institutional Diversity, is given biennially to a senior faculty member who has made significant contributions to understanding diversity, equity and inclusion while addressing disparities in contemporary society.
“Through the James S. Jackson award, the Office of the Provost and university recognizes and honors contributions of knowledge production and scholarly innovation from our campus community, a part of our core commitments to advancing diversity and excellence,” said Laurie McCauley, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.
“Dr. Sellers’ body of work on the life experiences of African Americans has offered new theoretical lenses and cutting-edge empirical research methods on race and identity processes across multiple fields and disciplines.
“He also exemplifies the spirit of the award through his mentoring and creation of research training structures for generations of students and early career scholars who have gone on to be faculty and academic and intellectual leaders across the country.”
Sellers is a professor of psychology in LSA and professor of education in the Marsal Family School of Education. His research has focused on the role of race in African Americans’ psychological lives. He and his students have developed a conceptual and empirical model of African American racial identity.
He also has investigated the processes by which African American parents transmit messages about race to their children, as well as how African Americans suffer from, and often cope with, racial discrimination. Sellers co-founded the Center for the Study of Black Youth in Context.
“Having been a former student and knowing the enormity of James Jackson’s tremendous legacy as a scholar, teacher, administrator, innovator and person, I am beyond humbled to receive this award in his name,” Sellers said.
Sellers graduated cum laude from Howard University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and All-American honors in football. He earned his Ph.D. in personality psychology from U-M in 1990.
Following his graduate work, Sellers was an assistant professor and then associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. He returned to U-M in 1997. He chaired the Department of Psychology from 2011-14, and previously was associate chair for four years.
In 2015, he was named the university’s first vice provost for equity and inclusion, and chief diversity officer, a position he held throughout U-M’s first diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan, known as DEI 1.0, from 2016-22.
This year’s award celebration also includes the James Jackson art and design competition. The competition was introduced as a way to engage students, asking them to create works of art in the spirit of the James Jackson award and write a statement about the significance of DEI in their artwork and what it means to them.
The James S. Jackson Student Art & Design Exhibition runs Oct. 11-27 on the third floor of Shapiro Library. There will be an artist reception from 5-6 p.m. Oct. 19.
“In awarding the James S. Jackson Distinguished Career Award to Dr. Robert Sellers, we recognize an individual whose work embodies an unwavering commitment to addressing issues facing underrepresented communities,” said NCID Director Elizabeth R. Cole, University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor, and professor of psychology, of women’s and gender studies, and of Afroamerican and African studies in LSA.
“Social psychologists have studied race and racism for a long time, but most of that work has focused on prejudice, so it necessarily looked at the experiences of majority group members. Dr. Sellers’ research opened the door to understanding the experiences of people who experience racial prejudice, and his mentoring guided a generation of young scholars to continue that work.
“His body of work underscores the vital importance of diverse perspectives within our institution and broader society.”
A symposium honoring Sellers is planned for March 25, 2024. It will include panelists whom he has professionally influenced and who have gone on to have impactful careers of their own in their fields.
Sellers will present his lecture after the symposium, and he will be presented with the winning design from the James Jackson art and design competition.
(Correction: This article has been edited from its original version to correct the year Sellers received his Ph.D.)