The University of Minnesota’s annual Sociology Research Institute conference is a special time for all of us; in it, we celebrate our department and our discipline, providing a forum for our students, faculty, staff, and affiliates to discuss their research and debate current sociological issues. We also take the time to celebrate others who’ve done important, field-shaping work in the past year. In 2011, we were overwhelmed with the outpouring of support for the winner of our annual Public Sociology Award: Gwen Sharp and Lisa Wade, co-founders of The Society Pages’ Community Page Sociological Images.

In many ways, the type of public outreach Gwen and Lisa do with their immensely popular website is overlooked within the academy, but how many of us can claim that over half a million people see—and engage with—our work every month? I’d venture none. Gwen and Lisa, however, can not only claim, but proclaim this accomplishment. They are the embodiment of TSP’s ideal: they talk about society with society. Their site encourages both academic and non-academic readers to exercise and develop their sociological imagination by presenting brief sociological discussions of compelling and timely imagery that spans the breadth of our society. Their site is described, at least within the nominations we received, as a “relatable, interesting way to draw both students and the public into sociology” and as “vibrant and refreshing work” that lies “at the intersection of teaching and scholarship.”

Lisa Wade earned her PhD at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and is currently in the department of sociology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Gwen Sharp also earned her PhD at Madison and is at Nevada State College in Henderson, where she teaches courses in gender, race and ethnicity, sexuality, stratification, and popular culture. Both are exemplary scholars, engaged citizens, and public sociologists of the first degree. We are so proud to host Sociological Images and to honor them today with the 2012 Public Sociology Award.

Please join us—all of you!—tomorrow night (Saturday, April 21st) from 6-8pm at the Town Hall Brewery at Seven Corners in Minneapolis to meet and mingle with Gwen, Lisa, and the rest of the TSP team.