Academics and Research / News

Sterett earns appointment to NSF

Susan Sterett recalls that as an undergraduate at the University of California-San Diego, she became “enchanted with knowledge.”  

“Yes, it’s about as naïve as it sounds,” Sterett says with a laugh. “But I felt like I wanted to build knowledge to find out how the world worked.”

So it makes perfect sense that she’s now ended up at one of the world’s most renowned institutions for knowledge: the National Science Foundation (NSF), the federal agency in Arlington, Va., that promotes the progress of science with a budget of about $6.9 billion in fiscal year 2010. It’s also the funding source for about 20 percent of all federally supported research done at universities.  

Sterett, DU’s associate dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, learned this spring that she’s been named a program officer in the law and social science division of the NSF. She’ll help oversee the administration of grants there.

Sterett will be on leave from DU for two years (the length of the NSF assignment); she’ll begin her new position July 31.

“I’m looking forward to working with colleagues to develop the strengths in law and social sciences in the United States, and to encourage colleagues to work together across disciplines to address significant issues and problems, which is a focus at NSF.”

She says some of the issues she expects to tackle include looking at research proposals related to climate change, immigration and criminal justice. 

“NSF funds workshops and research, both of which allow scholars to collaborate in thinking through how to move forward on intellectual problems,” she says. “I look forward to facilitating those developments.”

Sterett, who’s been at DU since 1993, has taught law, politics and social welfare. Her writing has covered the history of social welfare and citizenship in the United States, and she’s researched the legal regulation of family life, in particular adoption. She’s spent the last two years as associate dean.

She says she’s particularly pleased with a program she helped start called “Learning in Liberal Arts,” which features workshops that allow DU faculty to meet and to discuss career development issues.

“It’s been rewarding to see how much faculty can offer to each other,” she says.

Sterett also helped create a new major that began in fall 2010 called socio-legal studies. She says a number of students have shown an interest in it and are declaring it as a second major.

“It’s a really good liberal arts major and gets students thinking about how to solve problems, and it gives them an opportunity to see how law translates into organizations and people’s lives,” she says.

Before starting her new job this summer, she’ll conduct a workshop in Spain on disaster and sociolegal studies at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law.  

“We’ll have an opportunity to gain cross-national perspectives on particular disasters and look at concerns about risk and its management in law and social welfare assistance after disaster,” Sterett says.


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