Jennifer Dawn Carlson ’04, Doctor of Science

Jennifer Carlson

(Photo by Herb Swanson)


JENNIFER DAWN CARLSON, as an outstanding scholar and distinguished professor of sociology and government and public policy, your pathbreaking research has significantly enhanced our understanding of American gun culture and the consequences of gun violence on people’s social and political lives.

You arrived on the Dartmouth campus in the fall of 2000 to pursue a degree in math. But for you, a single major wasn’t enough. With an innate desire to ask interesting questions about the social world, you graduated summa cum laude in 2004 with a double major in mathematics and sociology, a combination you’ve brilliantly applied to your life’s work.

A senior thesis on the death penalty under the mentorship of professor Kathryn Lively inspired you to earn your Ph.D. in sociology at University of California, Berkeley, where you began to explore American gun politics.

You continued that intensive investigation – first as an assistant professor at the University of Toronto and then at the University of Arizona – fearlessly and exhaustively combining participant observation, in-depth interviews, and ethnography to better understand the motivations, assumptions, and complex social forces that drive gun ownership and shape gun culture in the U.S. 

As the author of three books on the subject and the recipient of a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, your deliberate choice not to align yourself with either side of the gun debate has enabled you to move the public conversation about guns forward. At the same time, your rigorous and balanced approach has helped you teach students how to talk about politically controversial subjects productively, a much-needed skill in our highly politicized and polarized society.

For your contributions to our collective understanding of gun culture in our country and to elevating public discourse in hopes of facilitating a way forward, Dartmouth is proud to award you the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science.

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