UC sociology professor honored with national mentor award

Society for Family Planning recognizes sociologist Danielle Bessett

By Bryn Dippold

UC associate professor of sociology Danielle Bessett has received the 2021 Society of Family Planning Mentor Award.

The award recognizes scholars who have dedicated their work to helping lead the next generation of researchers in the field of family planning.

“What she cares about is making sure that this next generation is equipped and ready to continue to fight the fight for reproductive justice,” says Tamika Odum, associate professor of sociology at UC Blue Ash who nominated Bessett for the award. “She has a commitment to making the world a better place.”

Bessett was chosen as one of three recipients of the 2021 mentor award. The award was created in 2013 to recognize individuals or teams who have dedicated their work to advancing the next generation of academic clinicians or scholars in family planning. Bessett was honored with the award on Oct. 1 during a Zoom ceremony.

A&S associate professor of Sociology Danielle Bessett

A&S associate professor of Sociology Danielle Bessett

Bessett has spent her career studying the field of reproductive health. She joined UC’s College of Arts & Sciences sociology department in 2010. Since 2016, she has served as associate sociology professor, board member and co-director of the Ohio Policy Evaluation Network, a network of scholars and researchers studying reproductive health care in Ohio.

Before being recognized for her mentorship, Bessett received some mentoring of her own on her path. A New Hampshire native, Bessett shares that she had the benefit of many teachers inspiring her to get her bachelor’s degree at Mount Holyoke College and master’s and doctoral degrees at New York University in sociology.

“A lot of people have invested a lot of time and energy into my success, sometimes even when it wasn’t necessarily obvious that it was going to pay off,” Bessett says. “I sort of always try to keep that in mind.”

Bessett has authored more than 30 credited articles, book chapters, reports and book reviews, received 17 grants and fellowships for research, and has been recognized with seven awards for her teaching and writing. She is also the co-principal investigator for the Ohio Policy Evaluation Network, a collaborative effort of more than 50 scholars from around Ohio who conduct social-science research on reproductive health, in an effort to improve reproductive health outcomes for Ohioans.

I take seriously the trust that mentees put in me.

Danielle Bessett, UC sociologist and recipient of 2021 National Mentor Award

Bessett has also worked on many dissertation committees, including Odum's. Odum, who nominated Bessett for the mentor award twice, graduated from UC in sociology in 2017, and benefited from Bessett’s guidance during her academic career.

“[Bessett] is a prolific writer,” Odum says. “She’s wicked smart, and not just in reproductive health and medical sociology, but she is just a bucket of resources.”

When Bessett first joined the UC sociology staff, Odum was nearing the end of her PhD program studying reproductive health. She was worried that Bessett, a budding new faculty member, wouldn’t have time to speak with her. Bessett ended up reaching out to Odum by email before Odum got the chance to reach out to her.

“She offered herself as a resource,” Odum says. Odum and Bessett’s relationship grew through Bessett’s work on Odum’s dissertation committee.

“Sometimes when you are working on a dissertation, the process is so grueling that you want nothing else to do with your committee,” Odum says. “This was not one of those situations.”

When Odum nominated Bessett in 2020 for the 2021 award, she gathered a group of graduate students to write about Bessett and her impact. The group of contributors to the nomination ranged from 20-30, each writing about Bessett’s unique impact on their education.

In Bessett's acceptance speech, she called out the importance of her mentees. "I'm consistently inspired by the mentees who put their trust in me, especially when it requires them to be vulnerable and where they have to teach me to do better," Bessett said. "There is no mentoring without that trust."

Featured image at top: People working at a computer. Photo/John Schnobrich for Unsplash.