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Kelli Ferrell

UH Sociologist Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

April 23, 2009 - Houston - University of Houston sociology department chairman Joe Kotarba is the recipient of the George Herbert Mead Award, the lifetime achievement award presented annually by the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction.

Kotarba will be presented the award at the SSSI/American Sociological Association meeting in San Francisco this August.

"I was surprised when I heard I won this award because I really don't feel like I've achieved everything I want to in my work," Kotarba says. "I still have two more books coming out, and I'm in the middle of research projects. I am just honored they feel my career to date has justified this award."

The Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction (SSSI) is an international professional organization of scholars interested in the study of a wide range of social issues with an emphasis on identity, everyday practice and language. Symbolic interaction, the society's theoretical foundation, is derived from American pragmatism and particularly from the work of George Herbert Mead. Mead was an American philosopher prominent in both social psychology and the development of pragmatism.

"This is the top award for symbolic interactionists, who form an important component of sociology in general," Kotarba says. "Our research is based upon qualitative methods, is very theoretical and has great policy implications. We study ‘everyday life,' the ways people act in natural, everyday social settings and situations.

"This award is the highest in the organization, and I'm honored to be placed among the who's who in the list of past winners."

Kotarba's research is mainly in two areas, the first being health and illness, in which he is working on a project about health and injury issues among professional athletes. The second area is the sociology of culture, in which he recently published a book on the use of popular music to help understand the dynamics of social life. He also has written a forthcoming book on baby boomer rock ‘n' roll fans. But he doesn't do his research alone - he likes to include his students.

"I like to have my students involved in my work and my projects," he says. "My basic modus operandi is to establish teams of students to go with me into the field to conduct this research. My work thrives on their energy and insights."

Kotarba, who is a past president of the University of Houston Faculty Senate, is the chairman of SSSI's publications committee and will hold that title until 2011.

"The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences is proud of Dr. Kotarba's lifetime achievements in symbolic interaction," says Dr. Joseph Pratt, interim dean of CLASS. "The Mead Award signifies superior intellectual leadership in one of the major scholarly areas in sociology."

For more information from the University of Houston sociology department, visit:

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