Safiya Umoja Noble Receives Top Honor from Fresno State

“Top Dog” Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes noted educator and researcher for scholarship, leadership and service to the University.

Fresno State’s mascot is the Bulldog.  It’s an image often linked to the the concept of tenacity, as in the phrase “the tenacity of a bulldog,” meaning they don’t ever give up. At the central valley university, it is an image they take seriously and a trait they point to with great pride.

This year, Fresno State will recognize educator and academic researcher Safiya Umoja Noble as one of its “Top Dogs,” honoring her with the Distinguished Alumni Award for her efforts in social justice, professional accomplishments as an educational leader and success with research on the impact of technologies on society. Based on scholarship, leadership and service to the University, the Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest alumni honor given.

Noble graduated from Fresno State in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences before earning her master’s degree in information science and her doctorate in philosophy (information science) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

From her start in Fresno, Noble has gone on to do important work as an educator and researcher examining the intersection of culture, gender, and technology and how these factors play into the design and use of applications on the Internetand their impact on society

Here at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, where Noble served as an assistant professor, there is also great appreciation for her work and contributions.  She may be a Bulldog, but she will always also be considered a Bruin.

As a researcher Noble has dug deeply into the realm of social media, contending that digital platforms such as Google and Facebook can have tremendous and disturbing social affects.  In a 2017 article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education she noted that while digital platforms may disavow responsibility for their algorithms, “Racist and sexist bias, misinformation and profiling are frequently unnoticed byproducts of those algorithms.”

In a review of her latest book, Algorithms of Oppression, NYU Press writes that “Noble challenges the idea that search engines like Google offer an equal playing field for all forms of ideas, identities, and activities. Data discrimination is a real social problem; Noble argues that the combination of private interests in promoting certain sites, along with the monopoly status of a relatively small number of Internet search engines, leads to a biased set of search algorithms that privilege whiteness and discriminate against people of color, specifically women of color.” The book, they conclude contributes to our understanding of how racism is created, maintained, and disseminated in the 21st century.”

“Safiya’s research and work provides critical insight into the emerging significance of social media and its unseen implications, particularly for women and minorities,” says Anne Gilliland, Associate Dean for Information Studies at UCLA.  “She is indeed a groundbreaking scholar and Fresno State has chosen well in recognizing her with their top award.”

Noble’s research has led to numerous peer-reviewed articles and published books, including “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism” and “The Intersectional Internet: Race, Sex, and Culture Online.”

She is currently an assistant professor at the University of Southern California.  She served as assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles from 2014-2017, as well as at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Noble will be honored by Fresno State along with 14 other Fresno State alumni on Friday, Oct. 26, at the Fresno State Alumni Top Dog Alumni Awards Gala at the Save Mart Center.