Jovonne Juanita Bickerstaff

Jovonne Juanita Bickerstaff

(Sociology, May 2015)
Thesis Title: Together, Close, Resilient: Essays on Emotion Work Among Black Couples
Committee: Orlando Patterson (Chair), Mary C. Brinton, Christopher Winship, and Jason Beckfield
Initial Placement: Postdoctoral ​Associate for the ​​​African American History, Culture and Digital Humanities ​​(AADHum)​ initiative, Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, University of Maryland-College Park
Current Position: Senior Program Officer for Higher Education Initiatives, American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), Washington, DC


Jovonne Bickerstaff is a Senior Program Officer for Higher Education Initiatives at the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). She designs and implements strategic initiatives that will enhance the ability of ACLS to serve its various constituencies and advance scholarship in new directions, with a focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in the academy.

Jovonne previously served as a Postdoctoral Associate for the African American Digital Humanities (AADHum) Initiative at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she focused on outreach and developing new programming initiatives. A longstanding advocate for first-generation and emerging scholars of color, Bickerstaff has also served as an advisor for Harvard’s Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows (MMUF) and served as editor for the MMUF Undergraduate Journal for five years. She has taught literature and humanities at Howard University and Hostos Community College of The City University of New York, and the sociology of gender at Georgetown University and St Joseph’s College. Her broader experience includes serving as historian for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s first diversity initiative, Project Interphase; editorial assistant with The DuBois Review and Transition Magazine; and development coordinator for the DuBois Institute’s Hiphop Archive, now part of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. 

An interdisciplinary scholar of race, gender and family in African Diaspora experience, Bickerstaff is interested in ecosystems of well-being and the interpersonal impacts of trauma and chronic insecurity.  Her current book project takes couple relationships as a site for revealing how adversity impacts emotional attachment and the crucial role of interpersonal connections in building resilience. She is also co-authoring a book with her AADHum colleagues on how a Black feminist ethic of care and intentionality was essential to developing a leading Black Digital Humanities initiative

Bickerstaff holds PhD in Sociology from Harvard, MPhil in Social Psychology from the University of Cambridge, St John’s College, and a BS in Urban Studies and BS in Writing from MIT. She has been a Fulbright fellow, Cambridge Gates Scholar, and predoctoral NSF and Ford fellow. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation.

Contact Information

Alumni category (for alumni profiles only)

Alumni Position Type

Early Placement (Alumni only)

PhD Degree Program (Grad and Alumni only)

Graduate Degrees Awarded (for alumni profiles only)