James A Vela-McConnell


Memorial Hall 433
CB 40

James A. Vela-McConnell


James Vela-McConnell is a Fellow of the Ford Foundation and has been teaching at Augsburg College since the fall of 1997. He received his bachelor’s degree, majoring in sociology and minoring in psychology, from Loyola University in New Orleans, graduating at the top of his class in 1990. At Loyola, he received the Dux Sociologicus Award—“Leader in Sociology.” James received his master’s (1993) and Doctorate (1997) degrees at Boston College, where he also won the Donald J. White Teaching Excellence Award for Sociology in 1996. His areas of specialization are social psychology, social inequality, and qualitative research methodology & feminist epistemology.

James just completed writing and publishing his latest book, Unlikely Friends: Bridging Ties and Diverse Friendships (New York: Lexington Books, 2011). In this research monograph, he examines those rare friendships that cross the socially constructed boundaries of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, and ability.

When researching this book, James collaborated with eight sociology majors and minors, including Lori Cain, Melissa Gaulke, Mandy Froiland, Natalie Schai, Tracey Lange, Melissa Marano, Xia Xiong, and Jenny Nacey.

This was not the first time James collaborated with sociology students. Together with professor Bev Stratton (Department of Religion), he worked with sociology major Ann Mathews and religion major Ross Murray to collect and analyze data that resulted in a paper titled “The Word on Sex: Biblical Interpretation (On the Web) and Socially Constructed Realities,” which examines religiously affiliated websites and their portrayals of sexual orientation. This paper appears as a chapter in the book Sex, Religion, Media (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2002).

James’s first book is titled Who Is My Neighbor? Social Affinity in a Modern World (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999). This book was nominated for the C. Wright Mills Award, the highest honor for a sociology book published in the field of social problems. Finally, his master’s thesis, “Reflections on the ‘Death of Marxism,’” appears in the book What’s Left: Radical Politics in the Postcommunist Era (by Charles Derber, et al., Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995).

James currently resides in downtown Minneapolis with his partner, Matthew McCright. When he’s not teaching, he enjoys reading fiction, traveling, recreational cycling, and flying kites.


  • B.A. Loyola University
  • M.A. Boston College
  • Ph.D. Boston College

Areas of Concentration

Introduction to Human Society (SOC 121)

Race, Class, and Gender (SOC 265)

Cultures of Violence (SOC 290)

Social Psychology (SOC 375)

Social Problems Analysis (SOC 390)

Senior Seminar: Keystone in Sociology (SOC 490)