Social Sciences dean wins prestigious research award, visiting fellowship in Germany

Social Sciences dean Katharyne Mitchell
Social Sciences dean Katharyne Mitchell

Social Sciences dean Katharyne Mitchell will be busy packing her bags for the holidays, but not for the reason you may think. She’s heading to Göttingen, Germany, as a visiting scholar for the next six months at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Economic Diversity.

Mitchell received an invitation for a senior visiting fellowship for January-June 2023 for her current work on sanctuary practices in Germany. Her research explores the role of faith-based actors and institutions in providing physical aid to asylum claimants, focusing mainly on the importance of the buildings and spaces connected with church asylum. The focus on space is significant because churches and their surrounding neighborhoods can serve as anchors and repositories of collective memories of resistance and justice through time, which can be reactivated in moments of crisis for immigrants and refugees.

In addition to the Max Planck senior fellowship, Mitchell is the recent recipient of an award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation that will enable her to conduct further research beyond the six-month fellowship and in multiple sites across Germany. She will take a sabbatical from UC Santa Cruz for the 2023 winter and spring quarters and then return to Berlin and other German cities for one month each year through 2028.

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to study abroad in Göttingen and other cities in Germany and to collaborate with international colleagues with the same research interests,” said Mitchell. “This period of fieldwork and academic collaboration is absolutely vital for me to continue with my own intellectual passions but also to stay connected with the research enterprise in the division and with the challenges and needs of our research-active social sciences faculty.”

Mitchell was a faculty member in the geography department at the University of Washington before joining UC Santa Cruz as social sciences dean in 2017. Her previous research explored transnational migration, immigrant integration, multiculturalism, citizenship, and education. Mitchell was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2016, which she used to study the nature of sanctuary and the role of faith-based movements in migration policy and human-rights discourse in Europe. Towards the end of her Guggenheim-funded fieldwork, Mitchell gave a guest lecture at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen, which was one of the catalysts for the current invitation. 

Mitchell also became a distinguished professor in UC Santa Cruz’s Sociology Department in 2022. When she returns to UC Santa Cruz in fall 2023, Mitchell looks forward to working with faculty in the department and throughout the division on migration, sanctuary, asylum, and refugee studies. 

“There is a wealth of migrant studies expertise in the social sciences, and I’m excited to expand our capacity and bring greater recognition to the faculty who are doing work in this area,” she said. “It is a critical area of research, with important implications for the people of our state, as well as in Europe and globally.”