Susan Ostrander

Professor Emerita

Contact Info:
Tufts University
Department of Sociology
Eaton Hall
Medford, MA 02155

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Ph.D. Case Western Reserve University

Civic and Political Engagement; Social Activism and Community Organizing; Social Inequalities (Class, Gender, Race, Immigration); Nonprofit Organizations; Social Justice Philanthropy and Foundations: Qualitative Research Methods: Community-Based Research.

Biography and Interests
Ostrander's current research focuses on civic and political engagement and expanded notions of governance and social citizenship including new immigrants. She has published widely about social justice philanthropy and the contradictory role of philanthropy and foundations in both reinforcing and challenging social inequalities. She has also published about elite women in leadership positions in charitable organizations, and gender dynamics in women's and in mixed-gender community organizations. Ostrander has been recognized on campus and nationally for her teaching and research on civic engagement and higher education, and founded the Tufts University Civic Engagement Research Group in 2003 which she co-led until 2008.

Ostrander has co-chaired the board of the international Women's Funding Network, served as a board member of the Association for Research on Nonprofits and Voluntary Action, member of the Research Committee of Independent Sector, and in an advisory role to the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. She is also involved in her local community having served as a board member of the Boston Women's Fund from 1997 to 2001 and again from 2007 to 2011, as a Cambridge Human Rights Commissioner from 1997 to 2011, and presently serving on the board and chairing the Fundraising Committee of a Somerville immigrant advocacy organization called The Welcome Project.

Her special pleasures include frequenting local jazz clubs and coffee shops, playing with her amazing grand-daughter Maya, tending in summer her outdoor flower pots, reading the latest novels, and traveling (ideally to warm and sunny climes) as often as possible.

Current Project
Ostrander has recently completed a book-length qualitative study called Citizenship and Governance in a Changing City: Somerville, Massachusetts. Based on a multi-year qualitative study of Somerville, this book explores the question of what facilitates civic and political engagement in public life. A mid-size city adjacent to Boston, Somerville has twice received the national All-America City Award for its high level of local engagement. This book shows how civic and political engagement plays out in this community whose population is divided by class, race-ethnicity, and immigrant diversity, and whose local government is in the eyes of many an entrenched political structure. The book informs current debates about the place of immigrants in the civic and political life of their new communities; and about the role of voluntary associations in local politics and government. At its root, Ostrander's new book is about the practice of local democracy as the foundation for overall democracy. Especially for those who have not previously been engaged, such as new immigrants, local participation is often the starting point for participation at higher levels.


Citizenship and Governance in a Changing City, Somerville, MA, 2013, Philadelphia: Temple University Press

Acting Civically: From Local Neighborhoods to Higher Education. Co-edited with Kent Portney. University of New England/Tufts University Press, 2007.

Money for Change: Social Movement Philanthropy at Haymarket People's Fund, 1995, Temple University Press

Shifting the Debate: Public/Private Relations in the Modern Welfare State, 1987, Transaction Press (Senior Editor with Jon Van Til)

Women of the Upper class, 1984, Temple University. Press

Selected Articles/Book Chapters

Ostrander, Susan A. "Agency and Initiative by Community Associations in Relations of Shared Governance: Between Civil Society and the Local State." Community Development Journal. 2013.Vol 48, No 4 (October): 511–524 (Advanced access November 2012).

"Social Change Organizations." 2009. International Encyclopedia of Civil Society. Edited by Helmut K. Anheier and Stefan Toepler. N.Y.: Springer . 2009.

"Innovation, Accountability, and Independence at Three Private Foundations Funding Higher Education Civic Engagement, 1995 to 2005." Nonprofit Management and Leadership (18, 2) Winter 2007.

"The Growth of Donor Control: Revisiting the Social Relations of Philanthropy." Special Forum, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. (36, 2) June 2007.

"The Inner Philanthropist." Stanford Social Innovation Review. Fall 2006.

"Legacy and Promise for Social Justice Funding: Charitable Foundations and Progressive Social Movements." In Foundations for Social Change,edited by Daniel Faber and Deborah McCarthy. Rowman and Littlefield. 2005.

"Mobilizing Money Strategically: Opportunities for Grantees to Be Active Agents in Social Movement Philanthropy," (co-authored with Ira Silver and Deborah McCarthy). In Foundations for Social Change,edited by Daniel Faber and Deborah McCarthy. Rowman and Littletfield. 2005

"Philanthropy and Social Movements: Advocacy, Organizing, and Democracy." In Philanthropy in the U.S.: An Encyclopedia,edited by Dwight Burlingame. ABC-CLIO, publisher for Indiana University Center on Philanthropy. 2004.

"Democracy, Civic Participation, and the University: A Comparative Study of Civic Engagement on Five Campuses," Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (33, 1): 74-92. March 2004. (*Cited in fall 2007 as one of most frequently accessed articles.)

"Moderating Contradictions in Feminist Philanthropy: Women's Community Organizations and the Boston Women's Fund, 1995-2000," Gender & Society (18, 1): 29-46.February 2004.

"Working Out Class."In Our Studies/Our Selves, edited by Rosanna Hertz and Barry Glassner.
New York: Oxford University Press. 2003.

"Gender and Race in a Pro-Feminist, Progressive, Mixed-Gender, Mixed-Race Organization." Gender & Society vol. 13, no. 5, October 1999, 628-642.

"Surely You're Not In This Just To Be Helpful: Access, Rapport and Interviews in Three Studies of Elites", Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 22, No. 1, April 1993.

"Giving and Getting: Philanthropy as Social Relation," (with Paul G. Schervish), Critical Issues in American Philanthropy, edited by Jon Van Til, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1990.

"Elite Dominance in Private Social Service Agencies: How It Happens and How It's Challenged," in Power Elites and Organizations, edited by Thomas R. Dye and G. William Domhoff, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Press, 1987.