A black woman sits on limestone steps

Sadé Lindsay has been a Buckeye all her life and has earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Ohio State and will soon graduate with a Ph.D. Credit: Christian Harsa | Asst. Photo Editor

Sadé Lindsay has been a Buckeye all of her life.

A Columbus native, Lindsay has Ohio State roots. Her mom graduated from the university in 1982.

“I just grew up like a Buckeye, essentially, I grew up in this culture in Columbus. And so that was pretty much ingrained in me,” Lindsay said.

Though she kept her options open for other schools outside of Ohio State when she was applying for college, Lindsay said it was the school’s resources that set it apart from the rest and she began her undergraduate career in 2011.

Ten years later, Lindsay said she couldn’t have imagined the position she would be in today, wrapping up her final months as a Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology Department, after earning her bachelor’s degree in criminology and master’s degree in sociology from Ohio State, and heading to Cornell University in August to complete a postdoctoral fellowship in their department of Policy Analysis and Management that transitions into an assistant professor position.

During her time at Ohio State, Lindsay said finding her own community of friends and mentors played a pivotal role.

“To be able to have that community, that tight-knit community, everyone understands, like why we all love Ohio State so much,” Lindsay said. “I can’t say if I would have found that somewhere else, but it just feels very distinct to Ohio State and the community, especially Black community at Ohio State, and how close knit and tight we all were.”

When she was an undergraduate, Lindsay first majored in journalism with plans of going to law school. Her sophomore year, she decided to switch to criminology.

Upon taking her first criminal justice course, Lindsay said she realized that was an area she could study and get involved in with research, which could lead to a living making an impact.

Lindsay said the neighborhoods she grew up in, which dealt with over-policing and incarceration, also drew her to criminal justice.

“I quickly developed a sense of what is just and what is not, at least according to my mom, she tells me this all the time,” Lindsay said. “Apparently, I would run in to her when I would see something, like police hassling my friends, or something like that, in the neighborhood. And I would run in to her and just tell her like how it’s so wrong.”

Lindsay focuses her research around criminal justice inequalities and racial inequality. During her undergraduate career, she worked on a project researching the effects of gun laws on outcomes such as homicides, suicides and accidental death rates, which is now publicly available for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to use.

While in graduate school, Lindsay said she conducted research on incarceration and how it impacts people’s ability to find employment and how race shapes media perceptions and public perceptions of people who have committed crime or deviant acts.

Her mixed-methods dissertation on the role of prison credentialing programs and racial discrimination in men’s post-prison employment outcomes and job search strategies earned her awards from the National Institute of Justice, the National Science Foundation, the American Society of Criminology, the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the Center for Engaged Scholarship.

“I really try to, when I do work, think of things that are not just interesting to my field, but also things that have a real impact,” Lindsay said. “I try to think of how might the results that I’ve shown or produced, how can that be translated into some policy solutions, be they small or large, that can improve people who are going through the criminal justice system, their lives, as well.”

Finding organizations and participating in signature events within the Black community such as the African American Heritage Festival helped Lindsay build relationships throughout her studies and were central to her college experience, she said.

“While I was in school, they were sources of support whenever I was encountering anything from relationships to issues maybe in the classroom, if I had any, people if they were in my major, we would try to take courses together to study together,” Lindsay said.

Being in spaces as sometimes the only Black woman or student of color, Lindsay said she also made it a priority to build community in her field of academia.

“I’ve come to accept I’m going to be in a lot of spaces that, when, I may not see another person of color, or I may not see another Black woman, or I may not see a Black man. So I’ve accepted that I’m likely to be in those spaces, more than I’m not,” Lindsay said. “Once I got past that, sort of that mental hurdle, I think I’ve learned to try to when possible surround myself and build that community with other scholars of color.”

As Lindsay progressed at Ohio State, she said she always remembered her motto: “to lift as I climb.” Her efforts to make a difference in the diversity and inclusivity of the field itself exemplify themselves in her mentorship of undergraduate students.

Inspired by her own experience being mentored by a faculty mentor, Lindsay said she often hires undergrads to work along with her on research projects and makes an effort to create racially diverse research teams. 

Lindsay said she also spends time reading over their applications for grad school, sending them different opportunities to apply for and even being a reference listed on their applications.

“If I can help any students, especially Black students, with getting to where they think they want to be, or getting to the next step of that process, then that is what I’m willing to do,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay added, “If you have that goal in mind, like I do, where you lift as you climb, slowly, but surely, we’ll start to see sort of those fields in academia shift to be more diverse and inclusive.”

Though she’s leaving Ohio State soon, she hopes the university and other institutions will invest in the spaces that helped shape her and other Black students.

“I know a lot of students, Black students, where those spaces — those Black communal spaces — are so vital to their lives at predominately white institutions,” Lindsay said. “I think that is worth really funneling resources to keep those signature events, those special community building events going. So that’s like one thing, because those spaces are so vital to Black students’ experiences, we need to keep those spaces going and keep them sacred so students of color or Black students can seek out those spaces and maintain those spaces.”

As she continues to climb, Lindsay also hopes to continue to lift those at Ohio State.

“I will be happy to be in a position to strategically give back in ways that I find most productive and helpful for most marginalized groups at the university,” Lindsay said.

View more stories from The Lantern’s Black Voices project here.

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