You are here: American University School of Public Affairs News Rita Simon: University Professor’s Work has Changed our Understanding of Justice & Resulted in 68 Books and Over 275 Articles

Contact Us

Kerwin Hall on a map

AU School of Public Affairs 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20016 United States

Back to top


Rita Simon: University Professor’s Work has Changed our Understanding of Justice & Resulted in 68 Books and Over 275 Articles

By  | 

Rita Simon

Research and Work to Eradicate Injustice That Crosses Boundaries
Why do people think only of courts, prisons, and mean streets when they think of justice? How can our understanding be broadened, and how can we bring scholarship and academic rigor to other areas of injustice?

Rita Simon, University Professor with joint appointments in the School of Public Affairs Department of Justice, Law and Society and the Washington College of Law is dedicated to answering these questions and bringing light to bear on areas as seemingly different from each other as adoption, women’s rights, abortion, civil rights and liberties in Israel, rabbis and lawyers, euthanasia, capital punishment, pornography, immigration, insanity, juvenile justice, prisons, citizenship, and gay and lesbian communities. She also researches issues pertaining to women in science, women and careers, age, anti-Semitism, the impact of mass media on public opinion, and children’s heroes.

She has received Guggenheim and Ford Foundation Fellowships, edits Gender Issues and is the former editor of American Sociological Review and Justice Quarterly.

The University Library is celebrating her scholarship, with an exhibit of her books and listings of her journal articles on the main level of the Library opposite the Reference Desk, from December 1 through March 18. In addition, the library’s website will provide links to all her scholarship and writings, to highlight all that she is doing and celebrate such engagement with scholarship and commitment to justice.

Research on Adoption Issues
Simon was one of the first scholars to look closely at trans-racial adoption and question the dominant assumptions. She looks also at the issues American Indian/Alaska Native peoples are dealing with now in the wake of revelations about Anglo adoption of AI/AN children arguably forcibly removed from their Indian families. One of her recent books, co-authored with American Indian doctoral student Sarah Hernandez, Native American Trans-racial Adoptees Tell Their Stories, is based on wide-ranging interviews with children adopted as infants or in early childhood by Anglo families and raised away from Indian Country. But for more than 30 years Simon has been at the forefront of scholars investigating the issues of justice that adoption raises.

Research on Immigration
Simon has long been concerned with Soviet Jewish immigrants’ experiences in the U.S. and in Israel and has done multiple studies of socioeconomic adjustments and the effects of immigration on religious identities. She looks also at immigration from Latin America.

Research and Teaching in Israel
Before coming to AU, Simon taught for three different periods at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. First, she served from 1967-68 as a Visiting Lecturer at the Communications Institute there. She returned in academic years 1970-71 and 1974-75 as a Visiting Professor of Law and Sociology. And, she continues to go back yearly, lately taking grandchildren with her. Her research in Israel has resulted in key works on immigration and on civil liberties.

Academic Career
Simon came to AU in 1983 from the University of Illinois where she was a tenured Professor of Sociology, Law and Communications Research. She has served as Professor of Law at the Washington College of Law since 1983 and as Dean of the School of Justice (1983-1987), Acting Dean of the School of Public Affairs (1987-1988). Since 1988 she has served as professor of Justice, Law and Society, and in 1989, she was named University Professor of American University in recognition of her rigorous scholarship and teaching in two schools across the university.

She has also served as head of the Sociology Department at the University of Illinois (1968-1970), Annie W. Goodrich visiting Professor at the Yale School of Nursing and Research Associate at Columbia University in the Mobilization for Youth Program (1962-63) and assistant professor in the Sociology Department at research associate at the law school of the University of Chicago.

She is an outstanding teacher. Students have long known that she is available to them to talk about research, for encouragement, for help inside or outside of class. And, as is evidenced from a study of her books, she regularly includes students in her research and gives them full credit as co-authors of her work.

She is also a leader in Hillel. Drawing on her fond memories of Hillel as a student, Rita has headed American University Hillel for over a decade. She has spent a lifetime spreading her commitment to Jewish pluralism from her home to campus, to Israel and around the world. Students, faculty, and staff involved in Hillel, who know and love Rita, are grateful that she is making our world a wiser, more spiritual and more just place to live.

Professional Service, Honors and Awards
In addition to her 68 books, Simon has taken her place at the top of her profession with professional service, honors and awards. She is Editor of Gender Issues; an editorial board member of the Rose Monograph Series; Editor of the Georgetown Series on Public Policy; consulting Editor, Women and Criminal Justice and also the Social Science Journal. She served as Editor of the Justice Quarterly from 1983-1986, and Editor of the American Sociological Review from 1978-1980. She also serves the federal government. The Secretary of Education appointed her in 2002 and 2003 to serve on the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics: Title IX. And, among many other awards and honors, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1966-67 and a Ford Foundation Fellowship in 1970-71, and she continues to serve the profession and receive honors.

Continuing Research
While continuing her other areas of research, Simon is now also looking at the use of child soldiers and the issues of justice they face, the almost insurmountable difficulties they have in reconnecting to civil society. She is at work on a book delving into these issues.