Announcing the 2023 Beth B. Hess Memorial Scholarship Winner and Honorable Mention Awardee!

2023 Beth B. Hess Memorial Scholarship
Award Winners Announced

Torisha Khonach is the 2023 Beth B. Hess Memorial Scholarship Award Recipient.

Tia M. Dickerson is the 2023 Beth B. Hess Memorial Scholarship Honorable
Mention Awardee.

The Beth B. Hess Memorial Scholarship Award was established in 2005 to support first generation college students who began their academic careers in a community college, have faced significant obstacles, are committed to teaching, and mentoring other less privileged students, and exemplify Beth’s commitment to professional service and social justice work through activism. Beth B. Hess was a President of SWS and one of our mentoring award winners; she was also the President of the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) and Secretary Treasurer of the American Sociological Association (ASA). These organizations join SWS in supporting the Beth B. Hess Scholar each year. Advanced graduate students in sociology at the dissertation writing stage are invited to apply. In 2023, the subcommittee, Mairead Moloney (chair), Myra Marx Ferree, Nancy Naples, Gul Aldikacti Marshall, and Sarah Bruch faced the challenge of selecting the winner. When there is more than one exceptionally strong candidate, an Honorable Mention Awardee is also selected. 

Photo of Torisha Khonach
Photo of Torisha Khonach

Learning is truly a communal experience, and Torisha has found the most encouraging and dedicated academic community. She would like to recognize her mentors, especially Drs. Dana Maher, Elizabeth Lawrence, Cassaundra Rodriguez, Barb Brents, and Fatima Suarez who have shown such earnest and passionate support. 

Torisha Khonach is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with an expected defense date in Spring 2024. Her research highlights the importance of body and embodiment in sociological analysis, which is too often overlooked, focusing on how bodies are expected to present and perform in various institutions. Torisha began her academic journey as a first-generation college student at College of the Redwoods, where she earned her A.A. in Behavioral and Social Sciences. Torisha, like many it seems, thought she was going to be a psychologist, but after taking (every) sociology course taught by Dr. Dana Maher, her trajectory in academia changed forever. 

Through her work at College of Redwoods, where she organized and coordinated safe sex workshops and sexualized violence prevention dialogues with fellow students, she was awarded the Student Leadership Award. She took her passion for social justice with her as she transferred to Cal Poly Humboldt, where she would earn her B.A. and M.A. in Sociology. She became a peer health educator focusing on consent education, a bystander intervention trainer, and a student Title IX advocate. She was also active in local queer and feminist organizations, Humboldt Pride and Humboldt Roller Derby. Her campus and community work at Cal Poly Humboldt was recognized by her department, where she earned the Sarah and James Turner award which is awarded to exemplary public sociology students. 

Torisha did not slow down after relocating to Las Vegas for graduate school at UNLV. She quickly began teaching courses and becoming involved on campus, earning various teaching and research awards and fellowships, including first place for the UNLV Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award and the UNLV Graduate Finishing Fellowship. Her teaching hinges on ensuring students feel “seen” in the classroom, where she carefully constructs her syllabus to have not only diverse content, but also diverse authors. She wants all students to feel like they belong in academia, that their voices and experiences matter. Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, she once again began spending her time in the community, volunteering in the health clinic for the LGBTQ Center of Southern Nevada, where they offer STI testing, safe sex supplies, and supplies for safer drug use. 

Torisha’s work and activism has always centered on bodies, examining the ways bodies are central sites for technologies of power and control. Topics included sexualized violence and sports, and she now focuses on the embodiment of parenthood. 

Her dissertation examines contemporary parents’ experiences with their bodies through 40 in-depth interviews. Her participants encapsulate a range of experiences, including biological and adoptive parents, parents of all genders, and have purposefully recruited parents of diverse body sizes. Torisha argues that parents provide a unique view into how our bodies are shaped in a health-centric society through her theorization of liminal embodiment, where the identity of “parent” allows for a relaxation of body ideals for some parents and only for brief periods of time. Torisha’s goal is to emphasize how the body is an often overlooked but important axis of social control and inequality. 

Photo of Tia M. Dickerson
Photo of Tia M. Dickerson

The subcommittee is delighted to recognize Tia M. Dickerson as the 2023 Honorable Mention Awardee. Tia is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at Howard University. Tia has balanced many personal challenges while also working on behalf of her peers at Howard University and while providing service to the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP). The subcommittee was impressed by her important research on Black families and social inequality that is grounded and informed by her own experiences.

Tia’s dissertation research is on “mental health declines in Black people during the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest of 2020.” It draws on the theory of “vicarious racism” and “explores whether marital status provided a protective advantage for mental health declines in Black people during the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest of 2020.” 

Tia has benefited from numerous opportunities to develop her research skills outside of the university as is evident in her Internship at the Marriage Strengthening and Research Dissemination Center and training at the Columbia Population Research Center. It is especially noteworthy that she was invited to review conference proposals on minority families for the National Council on Family Relations (NCRF) and to contribute to the National Women’s Month Series for The Today Show. She has also presented her research at diverse conferences including the annual meetings of NCRF, the American Sociological Association, SSSP, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, Law Enforcement and Public Health, and the Eastern Sociological Society. In addition to these significant accomplishments, she has also been invited to speak by the National Association of Counsel for Children, the National Institute of Health, Randolph-Macon College, and Alpha Kappa Delta, Beta Chapter of D.C.

One of her presentations, posted on The Sociologist’s website, featured Howard University’s “Panels of Race Relations,” and described her talk for the first colloquium entitled “Race, Pandemics and Social Response.” Her panel addressed the key questions: “How has racism affected current and prior responses to pandemics?” “What are the particular psychological as well as physical effects of the current Covid-19 crisis on people of color?” “What cultural factors affect treatment and recovery?” “What new approaches might be tried?” 

In her co-authored article on “When Crises Collide – Policing a Pandemic During Social Unrest,” she finds that differences in race, gender, and marital status impact attitudes towards “policing during periods of social unrest” offer “meaningful insights to the current discourse on police legitimacy in America.” In other papers, she addresses the important relationship between incarcerated Black mothers and the child welfare system and the ways in which race contributes to the termination of parental rights. 

The subcommittee is very excited to celebrate Torisha and Tia and look forward to following their work. 

The scholarship carries a stipend of $18,000 from SWS with travel assistance, $500 from SWS and $300 from SSSP, to be used to support future academic meeting travel, as well as one-year memberships in SWS and SSSP. SSSP will celebrate the awardees at their Annual Meeting. Recognizing Beth B. Hess’s significant contributions to the ASA, ASA joins SWS and SSSP in supporting and celebrating the awardee. ASA provides an annual membership, complimentary meeting registration and a $500 travel award to travel to the 2023 ASA Annual Meeting. As our Honorable Mention Awardee, Tia will receive a $3,500 scholarship from SWS in addition to a complimentary one-year membership and registration for the SSSP Annual Meeting. 

SWS will honor Torisha Khonach and Tia M. Dickerson and all our 2023 Summer Award recipients during our Awards Banquet which is scheduled to take place on Sunday, August 20 from 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. 

If you are interested in making a gift to support the Beth B. Hess Memorial Scholarship, please contact Barret Katuna, Executive Officer, at, or make a gift via this form:

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