Can you please describe your resume and educational background?
Before I came here to FSU, I was at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, and I was finishing up my Ph.D. there in sociology. And while I was there, I specialized primarily in intimate partner violence, or domestic violence. And within that area, I primarily focused on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. So, I focused primarily on same-sex IPV, or intimate partner violence. I was there for three years, so I did most of my graduate work there, but I also did my master’s in sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. I also did a gender violence intervention post-graduate certification process there. And I also did my undergraduate work at Virginia Commonwealth, also in sociology.
What classes do you teach at FSU?
In the fall, I taught intimate partner violence, which I was very excited to do since it’s my primary area of research, and I taught two sections of Social Problems. This semester is a little different. I am teaching a victimization and justice course, so we cover IPV, but we cover a lot of other forms of victimization as well – criminal victimization – and I also teach the criminology intro course, which is the sociological perspectives on criminology.
What was your favorite course in college and why?
I had so many favorite courses. I’m stuck between two. I think one that has to be one of my favorites is Class Status and Power. It was an upper-level sociology elective. I was not a sociology major when I came into VCU. I was a biology pre-med major for two years. And I love the sciences. I was very much persuaded by my father in particular, who went to medical school, to be pre-med. And I had an OK time in bio, chem and math or whatever, but I needed an upper- level 300-level course that was open to whatever I needed or I wanted … and that changed my entire life, I think. It was challenging in the way the hard sciences and the physical sciences were not. It just gave me a new world outlook, and the professor was just really engaging and dynamic. She really had a way to just change the way you see the world. You just start to see the world a little bit differently. And it was exciting to me, and empowering as well. So I’d say that one and then Violence Against Women, which then fueled my interest in what I do now, which is research intimate partner violence.
What course do you think students should take before they graduate?
I think Social Problems. Of course, I know it’s sociology and I have that bias, but I think Social Problems is just fundamental for any major, because it’s a great overview of some of the monumental tasks ahead of us in terms of what’s really happening in our society in terms of injustices and inequalities and how these problems impact not only the affected groups, but they impact all of us, really. And no matter what field you end up going into, whatever you end up doing, you’re always going to come into contact with diverse groups and you’re going to face these problems, whether you face them as you are experiencing them yourself, or those around you. So having that knowledge as to knowing the source of the problems, what’s not helpful, and what is helpful, really kind of broadens people’s perspectives, and I think it’s an invaluable course.
Are you currently working on any projects?
Yes, quite a few projects. Right now, I am looking at transgender victims of intimate partner violence, and I’m particularly focusing on looking at their victim identity and help-seeking processes. Those are two separate projects. One is looking at how transgender survivors come to grips with their victimization, and the other is more specifically looking at how did they get out of this situation – what unique barriers and challenges are facing transgender survivors. They’re very under-researched, and the resources available for these victims are scarce or nonexistent in most places. Additionally, I’m looking at perceptions of law enforcement in lesbian, gay and bisexual populations, in particular how they perceive police reactions to same-sex IPV. So this looks at both victims and non-victims and does a kind of comparison of what factors influence accessibility to the criminal justice system. So those three are at the forefront right now.
How would students describe you?
Hopefully in good ways. So I love teaching – it’s one of the things that drove me to an institution like this. It kind of had a balance of your own personal research and also you can get really engaged with the students. The classes are much smaller. … I think my students would address me or describe me as a dynamic and engaged professor. I think that’s one of the key elements of the courses that I teach is making sure that everyone is on board and communicating and expressing themselves. I make a point of reaching individuals. I’m very personable in the classroom. And one of the things I really strive for is connecting our materials to real world outcomes. I think that’s something that student, I actually hear them vocalize, that they really enjoy, kind of seeing some abstract concepts and theories that normally would have just been on paper and in books or something, and in classroom discussion, really come to life in application – how does this look like when it manifests itself to victims of crime? It develops a sort of critical eye into looking at the world, looking at crime and victimization.
Do you have any advice for students?
I think I would say, besides what people typically say, “Focus on your studies and get out of here on time,” I would think the social aspect of college is incredibly important. And being engaged on campus and engaging and fostering community is really important. Sometimes you may just come here for class and that’s it. Or be kind of removed from the community, but really being engaged with others. And honestly, college is one of those times where you can make life-long friends. I know people say high school is like that, but I question that. I think college is really fundamental in terms of your social network, social maturity, developing who you are and who you’re going to be.