MSU University Distinguished Professor of Sociology elected to the National Academy of Sciences

May 1, 2024 - Karessa Weir

Dr. Tom Dietz, who retired last year as a University Distinguished Professor of Sociology, was elected to the esteemed National Academy of Sciences this week.  
University Distinguished Professor Emeritus Tom DietzDietz was one of only 120 members and 24 international members elected to NAS in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. 

“I am profoundly honored by being elected to the National Academies, and humbled when I think of the immense contributions of the members who elected me.  But this honor really is shared with many collaborators across the globe, and especially MSU colleagues and former students, as well as with MSU as a place that values and fosters interdisciplinary work,” Dietz said. 

The NAS is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and—with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine—provides science, engineering, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations. 
Those elected today bring the total number of active members to 2,617 and the total number of international members to 537, the academy announced. 

“Other than a Nobel Prize (which only applies to some disciplines), this is about as highest an honor as one can receive as a scientist.  Lincoln signed the charter for the NAS, and it always has had a membership limit,” said Sociology Professor Aaron McCright in announcing the news to the department. “So, this is a great honor for Tom, who becomes the second member of the College of Social Science to be an NAS member.” 

Dr. Dietz is the 10th faculty member at MSU to be elected to the NAS, and the second from the College of Social Science. Dr. Emilio Moran, John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor of Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences, was elected in 2010.  

“Tom’s monumental achievement arrives on the centennial anniversary of the Department of Sociology here at MSU. Tom’s research, teaching, and service across decades in the department have been key contributions to its longevity and success,” said Sociology Chair and Professor Carla Pfeffer. 

Along with his work in Sociology and Human Ecology at MSU, Dr. Dietz is the founder of the Environmental Science and Policy Program (ESPP). He holds a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of California, Davis, and a bachelor of general studies from Kent State University. Dietz does research on environmental decision making and on the driving forces of environmental change and sustainability. His most recent book is Decisions for Sustainability: Facts and Values (Cambridge University Press, 2023). 

“I am very pleased to have Tom be the second one. This recognition brings considerable prestige to the institution to which the individual is affiliated. He is affiliated with both Sociology and ESPP. Though Tom is now retired, it is a long overdue recognition for his contributions to the human environmental sciences,” Moran wrote. 

At MSU he served as associate dean in the colleges of Social Science, Agriculture and Natural Resources and Natural Science and assistant vice president for environmental research.  

“This is a fantastic acknowledgement of the enormous scientific contributions made by Professor Dietz.  We are thrilled that he has received this recognition,” said Brent Donnellan, College of Social Science Dean. 

Dietz has also served as secretary of Section K (Social, Economic, and Political Sciences) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is the former president of the Society for Human Ecology. He has co-authored or co-edited 11 books and more than 100 papers and book chapters. His current research examines the human driving forces of environmental change, environmental values and the interplay between science and democracy in environmental issues. 

He and his wife, Sociology Professor Emeritus Linda Kalof, joined the MSU Department of Sociology in 2003. Kalof, founder of the Animal Studies Program housed in the Department of Sociology, retired in 2022 and Deitz retired in 2023.