William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology
The director of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Research and its Center for the Study of Religion and Society, Christian Smith is one of the top sociologists of religion in this country, due in large part to the enormous amounts of data-rich research he has conducted and continues to produce.
Among other projects, Smith is the principal investigator for the Science of Generosity initiative and the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) —both major national data-collection efforts. Established in 2009 with a $5-million grant from the John Templeton Foundation, Science of Generosity is designed to stimulate scientific research on the practices of philanthropy, volunteerism, and altruism in human life and society.
The NSYR is a longitudinal project, in collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, that investigates the religious and spiritual practices of adolescents in the United States. The project, which has followed a nationally representative sample of youth from early adolescence into young adulthood, formed the basis for Smith’s recent book, Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood, which he co-authored with Kari Christoffersen, Hilary Davidson, and Patricia Snell Herzog. His other books from this project, Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Young Adults and Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, have won Christianity Today's 2010 and 2005 Distinguished Book Awards in the Christianity and Culture category. Souls in Transition has also won the Lilly Fellows Book Award for 2010-2011.
Gifts from William R. Kenan Jr., a chemist, industrialist, and chemical and mechanical engineering consultant, were used to create two professorships at Notre Dame: one in English and another in Sociology. Kenan, who died in 1965, devoted considerable resources during his lifetime to educational institutions and community organizations.