Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve, Faculty

Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Brown University and an affiliated faculty with the American Bar Foundation in Chicago, IL. 

Van Cleve received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Northwestern University where she was a legal studies fellow. She received her B.A. (political science) and M.A. (sociology) from Northwestern University where she was awarded the Farrel Grant for Public Policy and the Badesch Fellowship from the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice. Prior to receiving her Ph.D., Van Cleve served in The Office of the Chief of Staff at the White House during the Clinton Administration and subsequently worked for five years as a Consumer Brand Planner for Leo Burnett, USA.  She is the former Research Director for Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice - a policy/nonprofit organization that specialized in legal advocacy. Van Cleve is a prolific public scholar. She has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, NBC News, Crain’s Chicago Business, and CNN.  Her legal commentary has been featured on NPR, NBC News, CNN, and MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show. 

Professor Gonzalez Van Cleve’s research is motivated by a central concern: theoretically challenging conventional paradigms driving the study of race and racism and placing these concerns squarely in the mainstream of sociology as well as the subfields of law, organizations and cultural sociology. Overall, she imports a cultural theoretical perspective (rooted in cultural sociology) to the study of discretion and bias in organizations and show how these dynamics affect the law. Substantively, her research addresses the equitability of laws, the creation of racial meaning, and the “consumer experience” of criminal justice institutions. She applies a range of methodological and analytic approaches, which include traditional ethnography, comparative ethnography, content analysis, historical/archival work, and innovative large-scale, semi-structured fieldwork.



  • Wellness Statement
  • Letter to Students March 2020