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Kenneth Sherrill Prize

Through APSA's Centennial Center for Political Science and Public Affairs, the Kenneth Sherrill Prize recognizes the best doctoral dissertation proposal for an empirical study of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) topics in political science. The purpose of this prize is to encourage and enable empirical work on LGBT topics by graduate students, and to broaden the recognition of this work within political science.

In 2017, the Prize will award $200 to a selected PhD candidate, who will also be recognized at the APSA Awards ceremony at the Annual Meeting in San Francisco, CA.

About the 2016 Winner

David Jones, University at Albany, State University of New York
"While Marriage Was Won: How Focused Litigation Campaigns Affect the Legal Advocacy Industry"

Legal advocacy organizations (LAOs) are important to social movements for a number of reasons: they are structural resources (Epp 1998), they create opportunities (Andersen 2006), and they can influence the agenda of non-legal organizations (Levitsky 2006; Leachman 2014). Yet, for all that we know about how LAOs can affect social change, we do not know as much about their priority-setting process and tactical choices (e.g. litigation, lobbying, public education, training, etc.). Further, certain tactics may feedback into the priority-setting of these organizations. For instance, critics of same-sex marriage litigation (SSM litigation) within the LGBTQ movement contend this focus has drawn attention and resources away from other important issues. This project first asks: how are priorities and tactics are chosen and how have those processes have changed over the last two decades? Second, it asks: how do different tactics, including the focused litigation campaign (FLC) on marriage equality, feed back into organizations, effecting their development and priorities?

Based upon both social movement and legal mobilization scholarship, the project theorizes that that the same-sex marriage FLC caused a change in three key components in organizational development of LAOs as well as the broader legal advocacy industry (LAI): an increase in the collection and spending of resources, an increase in networking and collaboration between organizations, and shifts in framing and legal strategies. While these changes may reflect a growing focus on marriage equality, the investigator hypothesizes that those shifts enabled new issue-areas to be developed. This project uses the method of process tracing to test this theory and utilizes a variety of data sources including annual reports, annual budgets, in-depth interviews, in-take data, memos, secondary sources, and newsletters.

Prize Requirements

Applicants must have successfully defended the prospectus for their dissertation, or intend to defend their prospectus by July 31, 2017. To qualify, an applicant’s dissertation prospectus must be an empirical study of LBGT topics; a prospectus in political theory is not eligible for the Kenneth Sherrill Prize. 

Each year after receiving the Prize, the Prize committee must receive a report from prior recipients stating if the dissertation has been completed and if so, receive an abstract of the completed dissertation, and if not, a timetable detailing expected trajectory to completion.

2017 Kenneth Sherrill Prize Committee

Patrick Egan (Chair)
New York University
Wilf Family Department of Politics
19 West 4th Street, Second Floor
New York, NY 10012-1119

Ravi Kumar Perry
Virginia Commonwealth University
Department of Political Science
PO Box 842542
827 W. Franklin Street
Richmond, VA 23284

Andrew S. Reynolds
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Political Science
3265 Hamilton Hall
Chapel Hill, NC 27599

Prize Requirements

Applicants must have successfully defended the prospectus for their dissertation, or intend to defend their prospectus by July 31, 2017. To qualify, an applicant’s dissertation prospectus must be an empirical study of LBGT topics; a prospectus in political theory is not eligible for the Kenneth Sherrill Prize. 

How to Apply

Applications for the program should include:

  • A curriculum vitae.
  • An abstract of the dissertation proposal.
  • A copy of the applicant’s dissertation proposal.
  • A letter of recommendation from the chair of the applicant’s dissertation committee. The letter must attest that the prospectus will be defended by July 31, 2017.
Applications for the 2017 Sherrill Prize are now closed.

Contact Us
For questions or concerns about the Kenneth Sherrill Prize or the application process, please contact the Centennial Center for Political Science and Public Affairs at [email protected].

Donate now to Kenneth Sherrill Fund

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