Sociology Professor Honored by Community Development Society

Anne Cafer receives national recognition for contributions to her field

Anne Cafer

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi professor is being recognized for her contributions to the field of community development.

Anne Cafer, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, received the Donald W. Littrell New Professional Award from the Community Development Society during its 50th anniversary conference at the University of Missouri.

The honor, named after a leader in the field as a scholar, teacher and practitioner, is presented to a CDS member in recognition of a superior contribution to the field of community development and the society. Recipients exemplify the principles of good practice as adopted by the society.

“It is such an honor to receive such an award named after a scholar and practitioner with a legacy like Donald Littrell,” Cafer said. “It was particularly poignant to receive the award on the 50th anniversary of the organization and at the institution where I earned my Ph.D.”

Cafer, coordinator of the Applied Policy and Community Research Laboratory at the UM Center for Population Studies; Kimberly Kaiser, assistant professor of legal studies; and Georgianna Mann, assistant professor of nutrition and hospitality management, received funding to conduct research in the Marks community from May to August 2018.

She and Mann, who have worked on a number of different initiatives related to health and nutrition in Marks, identified a need for more concrete data on how people are navigating their food environment, which has led to this particular project. All three faculty supervise students who routinely sign up for classes to work on real-world problems.

“The Littrell Award not only recognizes Dr. Cafer’s achievements and potential for the future; it also shines a spotlight on the groundbreaking work taking place through the University of Mississippi Center for Population Studies and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in the areas of community development and rural sociology,” said John Green, professor of sociology and anthropology and CPS director.

“I can think of no better symbolism than for her to receive the award at the conference held in Columbia, Missouri, on the occasion of the CDS 50th anniversary.”

An emerging leader in the community development field, Cafer combines research, teaching and on-the-ground practitioner work in both the Mississippi Delta and in several African countries. She is thereby able to build, test and elaborate theories of social change and development using multiple methods and approaches.

“Through this work, she is at the forefront of scholars addressing the concept of community resilience,” Green said. “Dr. Cafer is also advancing connections between community practice and development policy through community-based and applied research.”

As part of an ongoing relationship with the Marks community, the Ole Miss team worked with a local food pantry to recruit participants to share information about the major barriers to individual and community well-being. The group used an innovative combination of methods to investigate these barriers and worked with 34 adults and children,

“We walked students through the research questions and design components, then worked with them to collect data in the Mississippi Delta,” said Cafer, principal investigator for the project. Kaiser and Mann are both co-principal investigators.

“This involved mentoring students in qualitative interviewing and an innovative method, fuzzy cognitive mapping.”

Founded in 1969 at the University of Missouri, the Community Development Society works to create a national and international network of community development researchers, practitioners and policy makers with an interest in community development. For more information, visit