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ASU professor begins National Science Foundation post

Marjorie Zatz
July 06, 2012

ASU’s Marjorie Zatz is headed to Washington, D.C., to begin a two-year appointment with the National Science Foundation (NSF) on July 16 as director of the Law and Social Sciences program in NSF’s Division of Social and Economic Sciences. In her new role Zatz will influence the direction of research into the ways that law, legal institutions, and legal processes and decision-making impact people and communities.

Zatz, a professor of justice and social inquiry in the School of Social Transformation in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has served as a principal investigator on several NSF research grants – supporting basic research, a workshop, and to support her students’ dissertation research. She most recently served as co-principal investigator for a 2009-2011 study of immigration and immigrant communities. (An edited book resulting from that work is in production at New York University Press, “Punishing Immigrants: Policy, Politics and Injustice.”)

“I’m excited by this opportunity to contribute to cutting edge research on law and the social sciences,” says Zatz, who combines strong disciplinary training in sociology with three decades of interdisciplinary research and teaching in justice studies. “The National Science Foundation has always been a strong supporter of disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, and in the past few years it has taken additional steps to actively encourage transdisciplinary knowledge and capacity building. I’m honored to be a part of that effort and look forward to helping to shape the research agenda in my field.”

Many projects funded by NSF’s Law and Social Sciences program take into account the growing interdependence and interconnections of the world and so extend beyond national boundaries, looking at how national legal systems and cultures affect or are affected by transnational or international phenomena. The program also encourages diverse theoretical perspectives and contexts for study. For example, research on social control, crime causation, violence, victimization, legal and social change, patterns of discretion, procedural justice, compliance and deterrence, and regulatory enforcement are areas that have received recent support. 

Zatz brings to her new challenges a range of administrative skills and international perspectives gained over a 30-year career that was launched at ASU. She earned a doctorate in sociology at Indiana University with a minor in Latin American Studies and came to Arizona State University in 1982 as an assistant professor in what was then the School of Justice Studies. Zatz helped establish one of the first interdisciplinary law and social sciences doctoral programs in the country at ASU in 1986. Over the last 11 years her leadership assignments have included work as University Vice Provost for Academic Personnel, Associate Dean in the Graduate College, Director of the School of Justice and Social Inquiry, and most recently as director of Justice and Social Inquiry and of strategic initiatives in the School of Social Transformation.

Zatz, who is fluent in Spanish, conducted ethnographic research in Cuba and Nicaragua early in her career and was a visiting researcher in the Faculty of Law at the University of Havana, Cuba, in 1989. She is active in sustaining international scholarly networks with ASU and the Czech Academy of Science and the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy. In spring 2012 she served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Melbourne, Australia, working with colleagues at the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University and the School of Graduate Research at RMIT. She has been one of the leaders in developing ASU Study Abroad’s Sustainability and Social Justice in the Middle East partnership program with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Her breadth of scholarship related to analyses of immigration policy, juvenile justice, race, gender and juvenile and criminal court processing and sanctioning, feminist criminology, and Chicano gangs and their communities has garnered national and regional awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Criminology Division on People of Color and Crime, and several awards from the Western Society of Criminology.

Two of the key scientific communities for the law and social sciences program at NSF are the American Society of Criminology and the Law and Society Association, and Zatz has served on the executive boards of both associations. 

“In Marjorie ASU has a terrific representative on the national stage,” says School of Social Transformation director Mary Margaret Fonow. “A strategic thinker and experienced collaborator across disciplines and world geographies, she will provide forward-thinking leadership to scholars developing basic NSF research so vital to our understanding of human and societal problems.”

While serving as director for the Law and Social Sciences program at NSF, Zatz will continue to be involved with the School of Social Transformation’s John P. Frank Memorial Lecture. One of ASU’s signature annual events, it honors the memory and remarkable career of longtime Arizona lawyer John P. Frank; in 2013 the series will feature New York Times columnist Gail Collins on Feb. 25.