Photo of Prof. Debra Minkoff wearing a black top with the Milbank garden behind her

Debra Minkoff

Miriam Scharfman Zadek Family Professor of Sociology, Department Chair, Dean for Faculty Diversity and Development




332D Milbank Hall
Wednesday 2:30 am - 4:30 pm or by appointment



Debra Minkoff joined the faculty of Barnard in 2005, where she has served as chair of the Barnard sociology department for more than a decade (2006-18, 2022-24), as well as Dean for Faculty Diversity and Development (2013-2018, 2022-24). Professor Minkoff started her career teaching at Yale University and the University of Washington, Seattle and has held visiting positions at the University of Munich and the Humboldt University of Berlin while on a Fulbright Fellowship.

Professor Minkoff’s work focuses on the organizational dimensions of social movements and political activism in the U.S. Her earlier research traces the civil rights and feminist movements, developing a new approach that emphasizes the ecology of national political and civic organizations. She has written on such topics as the structure of protest cycles in the U.S., organizational change and failure among national political organizations, and the role of national social movements in American civil society. More recently her research has investigated such questions as how participation in civic and political associations influences involvement in protest, the ways that funding by elite foundations shapes the field of organizations seeking to consolidate the gains of the feminist and civil rights movements, and how much variety exists in the organizational models available for citizen advocacy at the national level in the U.S. She has also contributed to a study of local immigrant associations in Amsterdam.

Professor Minkoff's 2016 article with Floris Vermeulen and Tom van der Meer on “The Local Embedding of Community-Based Organizations” received the 2017 Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly Best Article Award. Her paper on "Conceptualizing Political Opportunity" (with David S. Meyer) received the 2005 Best Published Article Award from the American Sociological Association Section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements. 

At Barnard, Professor Minkoff has been active in promoting the college's mission to become a more diverse, inclusive and equitable community. In addition to serving as Dean for Faculty Diversity and Development, she co-chaired the President's Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, which was active between November 2015 and May 2017.  She also chaired the inaugural year of the Council for Diversity and Inclusion in 2017-18, which was established as a standing committee on the recommendation of the task force.

  • B.A., Brandeis University
  • M.A., Ph.D., Harvard University

  • Contemporary social movements
  • Organizational theory
  • Nonprofit advocacy

"The Payoffs of Organizational Membership for Political Activism in Established Democracies.” American Journal of Sociology, 122, 2 (2016).

"Structure and Strategy: Organizational Diversity in the U.S. Advocacy Sector" (with S. Aisenbrey and J. Agnone), Social Problems (2008).

"Conceptualizing Political Opportunity" (with D. S. Meyer), Social Forces 82 (June 2004)

"Bending with the Wind: Organizational Change in American Women's and Minority Organizations." American Journal of Sociology 104 (May 1999) pdf

"The Sequencing of Social Movements," American Sociological Review 62 (October 1997) pdf

Organizing for Equality: The Evolution of Women's and Racial-Ethnic Organizations in America, 1955-1985(Rutgers University Press, ASA Rose Book Series, 1995)

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