James Vela-McConnell received his Bachelor's degree, majoring in sociology and minoring in psychology, from Loyola University in New Orleans, graduating at the top of his class. At Loyola, he received the Dux Sociologicus Award—“Leader in Sociology.” James received his Master’s and Doctorate degrees at Boston College, where he also won the Donald J. White Teaching Excellence Award for Sociology. The Ford Foundation awarded him a Fellowship through the Doctoral Program for Minorities, administered by the National Research Council.
By making sociology directly relevant to the lives of my students, by encouraging them to be critical of their own lives, and by impressing upon them the importance of active participation in society, I aim to validate and empower my students ….
He presents his research both regionally and nationally at conferences for the American Sociological Association, The Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction, The Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the Midwest Sociological Society. Throughout his research endeavors, James makes a point of including students in the process, typically with the support of the URGO (Undergraduate Research and Graduate Opportunities) and McNair Scholars Programs at Augsburg College. The College recognized his efforts in 2012 , awarding him the Distinguished Contributions for Excellence and Mentoring—the first and only time the College has granted a dual award.
James shares his research and expertise outside of the academy as well. He was an invited speaker for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Shelter From Hate Conference, and the Tough Faith for Tough Times Conference on Justice, Peace, & Reconciliation. Professor Vela-McConnell has taught a number of seminars on Computerized Qualitative Data Analysis for audiences at the Heller School at Brandeis University, START Clinical Services, the Divorce Research Team at the University of Massachusetts, the Graduate School of Education at Boston College, and the Psychology Department at Harvard University.
Professor Vela-McConnell currently serves on the Academic Affairs Committee. In the past, he was elected to the role of Chair for the Division of Natural and Social Sciences and served on the the Senate Subcommittee on Faculty Personnel Policies for 12 years, co-chairing it for three years and chairing for an additional four years. He chaired the Department of Sociology for six years and has served on numerous search committees as well as the Benefits Advisory Committee. In the larger community, Professor Vela-McConnell served as the Diversity Colloquium Facilitator for The Collaboration, volunteered for the AIDS Action Committee in Boston for six years, and has been delivering meals for Open Arms of Minnesota since 1999. Most recently, he established The Bridgewater Salon, for which he acts as curator.
Professor Vela-McConnell’s areas of specialization include social psychology, social inequality, and qualitative research methodology & feminist epistemology. Additional areas of interest include violence, social problems, social cohesion, sociology of friendships, and mental illness.
James currently resides in the Mill District of downtown Minneapolis with his spouse, Matthew McCright. When he’s not teaching, he enjoys traveling, reading fiction, recreational cycling, and flying kites.