Joe Soss

Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Joe Soss, with dark hair and beard and glasses, at his desk.

An acclaimed scholar of politics and society focusing on power, public policy, inequality and inequity, Joe Soss won awards from the American Political Science Association and the American Sociological Association for his 2011 book, Disciplining the Poor.

He brings that expertise to his students, who regard him as an exemplary teacher, adviser and mentor, as well as an active promoter of student research, scholarship, and professional development. Colleagues of Soss cite his innovative contributions to curriculum development.

I’ve developed a teaching style that leads with questions and emphasizes dialogue … This style places a premium on students’ responsibility for their own learning, without abdicating my responsibility to teach …—Joe Soss

One student remarks on Soss’s willingness to mine his own professional stature to his students’ advantage. Noting this student’s comments in class about material by the prominent political scientist Frances Fox Piven, Soss sent the student extra material by Piven, on which the student also commented. A few days later, she was astonished to receive a response from Piven herself.

“Professor Soss [had] forwarded my comments to her,” the student recalls. “It certainly made the material feel real to me to have the opportunity to engage with the author herself!”

To enhance the learning experience for both professional master’s degree and academic Ph.D. students, Soss continually looks for ways to improve curriculum across multiple units, as with his complete redesign of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ core political science course. A former student in that course writes that Soss “inspires his students to see politics as a fundamental opportunity to come together to define our values and to build the common good.”

Meet all Graduate and Professional Award winners