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Last modified: Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bernice Pescosolido

Distinguished Professor -- Founders Day 2007

Distinguished Professor; Chancellor's Professor of Sociology
Department of Sociology
Indiana University Bloomington
Appointed to IU faculty, 1981
B.A., University of Rhode Island, 1974
Ph.D., Yale University, 1982

Bernice Pescosolido

Bernice Pescosolido

Print-Quality Photo

Last October Chancellor's Professor Bernice Pescosolido was honored with a 2006 Distinguished Faculty Award at the annual College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Association banquet on the Bloomington campus. That she made it there at all that night was impressive. Earlier that week, Pescosolido contracted a severe ear infection on a long flight home from Istanbul, where she and her colleagues had delivered agenda-setting papers at a world conference about the effects of stigma on the recovery of people with mental illness. The ear problem rendered her temporarily deaf.

"Bernice made it to the event because she did not want to let down so many people," says Thomas F. Gieryn, Rudy Professor and chair of the Department of Sociology at IU Bloomington. "Throughout her glorious career of distinguished scholarly and scientific accomplishments, Bernice Pescosolido's first consideration has always been the well-being of others—whether collaborators, students, research subjects, or just friends."

While most sociologists work at the micro level, analyzing how people's individual attributes shape their behavior, or the macro level, looking at how large-scale structures and institutions shape social change, Pescosolido's niche is the "meso" level in between. Her research encompasses three basic areas: health care services, stigma associated with people who have mental illnesses, and suicide research. Across her studies, she focuses on how social networks bind humans to one another, influence their lives, and create the institutions that connect them to the places and times in which they live.

In the early 1990s, Pescosolido developed the Network-Episode Model, designed to focus on how individuals come to recognize and respond to health problems and how they use health care services.

"I knew Dr. Pescosolido would be a star in the field of sociology, possibly the greatest of our time," says Margarita Alegrķa, director of the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research at Cambridge Health Alliance—Harvard Medical School. "Her Network-Episode Model has had a tremendous impact in the field. It has become the standard framework in mental health services because it offers a completely different way of understanding help-seeking for mental health care. Her work in stigma has been groundbreaking."

Pescosolido is the founder and director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research, a regional community of researchers, practitioners, and policy makers interested in social networks and mental health issues. She also directs IU's Strategic Directions Initiative's CONCEPT I Program in Health and Medicine and is a national authority on mentoring and teaching. In 2002, she received the Graduate Student Association's Outstanding Mentor Award, and in 2003 she was honored with the Wilbert Hites Mentoring Award.

In 2005, Pescosolido and her colleagues J. Scott Long (Chancellor's Professor of Sociology and Statistics) and J. K. Martin (director, Schuessler Institute for Social Research) were awarded a $3.5 million grant by the National Institutes of Health to study attitudes toward mental illness in 16 countries. She received the 2005 Leo G. Reeder Award for Distinguished Contributions to Medical Sociology, and has served as vice president of the American Sociological Association (ASA) and the chair of the ASA Sections on Sociology of Mental Health and on Medical Sociology.

Her work has appeared in the discipline's two leading journals, American Sociological Review and American Journal of Sociology, as well as in publications including Journal of Health and Social Behavior, the American Journal of Public Health, Medical Care, and Society.

"Dr. Pescosolido's role as a leader in the field cannot be overstated," says Carol S. Aneshensel, a professor in the Department of Community Health Services at the University of California, Los Angeles. "She is a wonderful facilitator of collaboration, often bringing together scholars of diverse backgrounds to serve a common purpose."

At the end of the fall event at which she received the Distinguished Faculty Award, Pescosolido talked about her decision to stay at IU despite persistent entreaties and attractive offers from other universities.

"Bernice asked all faculty members from the Department of Sociology to rise and take a bow," says Gieryn. "Characteristically, Bernice deflected her glory back onto her colleagues, telling the audience how important it was for her to be part of this community of scholarly excellence, where she could find world-class expertise on almost any sociological subject simply by walking down the hall."