Renata Forste: Mormon Sociologist

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Renata Forste Mormon Sociologist

Renata A. Tonks Forste is an American sociologist and professor of sociology. Her research focuses on child health and patterns of family formation and interaction that influence child health. She also focuses on the health and well being of women and children in Latin America.

Forste was born in New Mexico and has lived in Virginia, Oregon, Washington, Missouri, Illinois, and Utah. She received her BS and MS degrees in sociology from Brigham Young University and her PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago.

Forste joined the faculty of BYU in July 1995. She has served in a number of leadership positions including coordinator of Women’s Studies in 2010; chair of the sociology department from July 2006 to January 2012; associate dean of the College of Family, Home, and Social Science from July 2002 to July 2005; and director of Latin American Studies at the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies from September 1998 to September 2001. From July 1997 to September 1998 she served as associate director of research for the Center for Studies of the Family. She received a John A. Widtsoe Fellowship from 2003 to 2005 and worked to improve child survival and nutritional status in Bolivia. She was also distinguished as a Martin B. Hickman Scholar, an Alcuin Fellow, and was awarded an FHSS Achievement in Teaching.

She has done studies on the relationship between breast-feeding and women's educational levels in the United States. Her most widely cited article is “The Decision to Breastfeed in the United States: Does Race Matter” published in the Journal Pediatrics (with Jessica Weiss and Emily Lippincott August 2001).

She was an assistant professor at Western Washington University from September 1992 to June 1995.

Forste is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She and her husband, Michael, are the parents of three daughters.