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Reuben A. Buford May

Profile picture for Reuben A. Buford May

Contact Information

702 S Wright Street
3084 Lincoln Hall
Urbana, IL 61801
M/C 454

Office Hours

Fall 2020 Wednesday 10:00am-11:00am by appointment
Florian Znaniecki Professorial Scholar
Department Head


Professor Reuben A. Buford May, Ph.D. is the Florian Znaniecki Professorial Scholar, Professor of Sociology, and Department Head. He is also a Center for Social and Behavioral Science affiliate. He has been a fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University and a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visiting professor at MIT. May received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago, and works in the areas of Community and Urban Sociology, Racial and Ethnic Minorities, and Race Gender and Class. May is the winner of numerous Undergraduate teaching awards and was most recently named a Finalist for the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching—a national teaching award that honors outstanding professors with proven records as extraordinary teachers with positive, inspiring, and long-lasting effects on students, along with records of distinguished scholarship. In addition to his awards, books and other scholarly publications, May has been featured on radio and television and in print media for sociological insights in his music under the performance name Reginald S. Stuckey.


Research Interests

Community and Urban Sociology; Racial and Ethnic Minorities; Race Gender and Class; Sociology of Sport

Research Description

My research is at the intersections of community and urban sociology and race, gender, and class. I focus on problems that manifest in urban contexts, specifically as they relate to the use of public and private space by racial and ethnic groups. My current project is a study of the ways in which nightclub owners limit access to nightclubs through exclusionary practices. I utilize ethnographic methods, interviews, media reports and audit pairs to collect data and uncover these practices. My analysis uses racial social systems theory and critical race theory perspectives to draw connections between law, institutional practices and interactional dynamics at the thresholds of nightclubs. Given that this research has legal implications, I have served as an expert witness in several civil rights lawsuits.

In addition to this main line of research, I also conduct research on mentor and protégé relationships in college and university, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs as well as conduct research examining the social consequences of youth participation in sport. I have appeared in several media outlets discussing various aspects of the sociology of sport.



Aurora University, BA, Criminal Justice

DePaul University, MA, Sociology

University of Chicago, Ph. D., Sociology


2019    Louis Stokes STEM Pathways and Research Alliance: (Texas A&M University System Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation [TAMUS LSAMP]) $4,000,000. National Science Foundation. Co-PI: Reuben May. Funded.

2016    Funded April, 2016. Dress codes and Discrimination in Urban Nightlife: African American, Hispanic, and White Men’s Access to Urban Nightclubs. $15,454. Texas A&M University, College of Liberal Arts, Seed Grants Program. PI: Reuben May


Awards and Honors

2018    Recipient of the Minnie Stevens Piper Professor Award in recognition of teaching excellence in the State of Texas. University and college presidents from across the state nominate a professor from their home institution and ten professors are recognized annually (awardee receives $5,000 award, certificate, and gold pin).

2017    Recipient of the Texas A&M University, Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Award, the most prestigious faculty honor bestowed at Texas A&M University (awardee receives $25,000 award, a plaque and the title designation of Presidential Professor for the remainder of their career.

2017    Recipient of the Texas A&M University Chapter of the NAACP, “Best Professor Award” for excellence in undergraduate education and outstanding contributions to the educational goals of Texas A&M University.

2015    Recipient of the Glasscock University Professorship in Undergraduate Teaching Excellence (awardee receives $5,000 additional salary each year for three years along with $5000 to support teaching and related professional development

2013    Recipient of the Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award in the area of Teaching, Texas A & M University (one of the highest university honors, awardee receives $4,000 and a distinctive watch).

2010    Recipient of a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professorship, School of the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

2009    Recipient of a Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellowship, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University.

2003    Recipient of the General Sandy Beaver Teaching Professorship, University of Georgia (only 1 given; awardee receives $7,800 additional salary each year for three years).

2001    Recipient of the Richard B. Russell Undergraduate Teaching Award, University of Georgia (one of 3 given annually University-wide; $5,000 cash award).

2000    Recipient of the Special Sandy Beaver Excellence in Teaching Award, Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Teaching Award, University of Georgia (one of 4 given annually College-wide; $2,800 cash award).



Courses Taught

Soc 225 Race and Ethnicity

Soc 396 Sociology of Sport

Soc 583 Qualitative Methods

Additional Campus Affiliations

Head, Sociology
Professor, Sociology
Affiliate, Center for Social and Behavioral Science

Highlighted Publications

Urban Nightlife: Entertaining Race, Class, and Culture in Public SpaceRutgers University Press, 2014

Living Through the Hoop: High School Basketball, Race, and the American Dream, New York University Press, 2008 

Talking at Trena’s: Everyday Conversations at an African American Tavern, New York University Press, 2001 

May, R. A. B., & Pattillo-Mccoy, M. (2000). Do You See What I See? Examining a Collaborative Ethnography. Qualitative Inquiry, 6(1), 65-87.

May, R. A. Buford (2009). The Good and Bad of It All: Professional Black Male Basketball Players as Role Models for Young Black Male Basketball Players. Sociology of Sport Journal, 26(3), 443-461.


Recent Publications

May, R. A. B. (2022). Exploring the Use of Exclusionary Practices Against African American Participation in Urban Nightlife. Sociological Forum, 37(1), 91-110.

Jin, S., Rabinowitz, A. R., Weiss, J., Deshpande, S., Gupta, N., Buford May, R. A., & Small, D. S. (2021). Retrospective survey of youth sports participation: Development and assessment of reliability using school records. PloS one, 16(9 September 2021), Article e0257487.

May, R. A. B. (2020). "Me Versus Them": An African American Male Professor's Approach to Teaching Race at a Predominately White Institution. In J. L. Conyers Jr, C. L. Edwards, & K. B. Thompson (Eds.), African Americans in Higher Education: A Critical Study of Social and Philosophical Foundations of Africana Culture (pp. 15-40). (Critical Race Issues in Education). Myers Education Press.

May, R. A. B., & Goldsmith, P. R. (2018). Dress Codes and Racial Discrimination in Urban Nightclubs. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 4(4), 555-566.

May, R. A. B. (2018). Velvet Rope Racism, Racial Paranoia, and Cultural Scripts: Alleged Dress Code Discrimination in Urban Nightlife, 2000–2014. City and Community, 17(1), 44-64.

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