Plenary Lecture

Plenary Lecture

Ideas That Changed the World

2022 Honors College 
Plenary Lecture

Black Souls or Black Labor? A Du Boisian Vision for the U.S. Labor Movement

Cedric De Leon, UMass Amherst Labor Center

Thursday, October 6, 2022, 5 p.m.

Student Union Ballroom

W.E.B. Du Bois is often credited with being a foundational thinker of race relations. He is less well-known as a scholar of labor and labor movements. In this talk, De Leon will emphasize that Du Bois’s work cannot — and should not — be separated from his analysis of class inequality and capitalism. Specifically, he will argue that his vision for the U.S. labor movement entailed a simultaneous struggle against racial and economic injustice, led by Black Labor.

Cedric de Leon sits in his office at the University of Massachusetts

Cedric de Leon is a professor of sociology and labor studies, and received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Michigan. He also has a Master’s degree in Social and Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge and a B.A. in Sociology from Yale University.

De Leon got his start in the labor movement as a researcher for the Connecticut School Bus Drivers Alliance Local 76 SEIU in 1994. His research focuses on labor, race, and party politics in the United States, India, and Turkey. He is the author of Crisis! When Political Parties Lose the Consent to Rule (Stanford 2019), The Origins of Right to Work (Cornell 2015), and Party and Society (Polity 2014) and co-editor of The New Handbook of Political Sociology (Cambridge 2020) and Building Blocs (Stanford 2015). His work has appeared in a variety of journals including Labor Studies JournalGlobal LabourSociological TheoryPolitical Power and Social Theory, and Studies in American Political Development.

He teaches courses in social theory, the American labor movement, race, gender and labor, and political sociology.

2021 Honors College 
Plenary Lecture

Celebrated poet of social justice Martín Espada read his work and engaged students in discussion of poetry as a form of persuasion that stirs the emotions, awakens the senses, and acts as a force to convey the ideas that change the world. Floaters, his newest collection, has been listed as a finalist for the National Book Award.


Martín Espada has published more than twenty books as a poet, editor, essayist, and translator. His new book of poems from Norton is called Floaters. Other books of poems include Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (2016), The Trouble Ball (2011), The Republic of Poetry (2006), and Alabanza (2003). He is the editor of What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump (2019). He has received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Creeley Award, an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the PEN/Revson Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. The Republic of Poetry was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The title poem of his collection Alabanza, about 9/11, has been widely anthologized and performed. His book of essays and poems, Zapata’s Disciple (1998), was banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona, and reissued by Northwestern. A former tenant lawyer in Greater Boston, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. 


2020 Virtual Plenary Lecture

Explore evidence supporting the notion that racism is indeed a science problem in at least four different ways. Auerbach will begin by discussing early scientific interpretations of data on race and genetics that have contributed to and supported racist ideas. He will then speak about the impact of racism on the diversity (or lack thereof) of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce, which limits the ability of STEM fields to solve complex problems. Another way to explore this question is to see science as a possible source of solutions to racism. In this way, Auerbach will highlight the work of W.E.B. Du Bois as a groundbreaking social scientist who pioneered the gathering of empirical data to studying racism in Philadelphia in 1897. Finally, Auerbach will address the question, “Can the hard sciences contribute to solving the problems of racism?” Professor Auerbach's talk will also include a discussion with special guest Roderick Anderson, co-founder and CEO of Elateq Inc.


Recommended Reading

Diversity in STEM: What It Is and Why It Mattersby Kenneth Gibbs, Jr.Innovations resulting from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields have positively touched nearly every aspect of human life.



Scott Auerbach, PhD

Professor, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

Executive Director, UMass Integrated Concentration in Science program (UMass iCons)

Professor Auerbach’s chemistry research focuses on modeling nanostructured materials, such as zeolites, which is important to renewable energy technologies including biofuels and fuel cells. He has published two books and 120 peer-reviewed articles on zeolites and their applications.

Professor Auerbach’s interest in the link between science and human diversity stems from his role as the founding director of the UMass iCons program, which teaches STEM-field undergraduates to use human diversity as a problem-solving tool by honing advanced communication and collaboration skills. Auerbach’s interest in the connection between science and racism is relatively new, and is intensified by the May 25th death of George Floyd and the militarized responses to Black Lives Matter demonstrations.



Roderick Anderson, MA

In addition to being the CEO of Elateq, Anderson is a president of the Pioneer Valley Coral & Natural Science Institute (PVCNSI), where he offers the planning and diagnostic skills of a social worker together with the analytics and stratagems learned while he was in the military. Roderick forwent completing his PhD at UMass Amherst in the Department of Anthropology, in order to launch PVCNSI. His dissertation research as a socio-cultural anthropologist focuses on Afro-American civic leadership, civil society, social movement theory, critical theory, political economy and the African Diaspora. These research interests emerged out of his experiences of attending high school in New Britain, Conn.; his time in the US Air Force Reserves (Westover Air Force BaseSgt. Security Police); ten years as a social worker for the State of Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families; and eleven years of teaching in higher ed. He utilizes these varied experiences to engage the intersections of institutional and structural power relations of race, gender, and class. This unique background brings together firsthand knowledge and practical experiences that engage complex issues at regional and international levels.

This plenary lecture is a special opportunity to launch a personal journey of reflection and activism to fight racism anywhere we can. I hope that putting myself out there in this way sends the message to our students that racism is an important topic for each and every person, regardless of what you look like and what you study.

Scott Auerbach, PhD