Gatepost Interview: Kaitlyn Selman, sociology professor

Corey McFeeley / THE GATEPOST

What is your educational and professional background?

I have a bachelor’s of sociology from the University of Michigan, a master’s of sociology from the University of South Florida, and then a Ph.D. in criminology from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.  

Are you currently working on any projects?

I am – too many, for sure. I finished my dissertation in May, so now I am kind of piecing that apart and submitting some articles from that. I’m in the process of imagining writing a book from that. When you work on something for three years, you tend to want to be done with it and never see it again, but I’ve been convinced by some people I really respect to revisit it and write a book. I’m also working on a new project with youth justice organizations that are fighting for abolition and fighting against prisons and police, so I’m in the midst of the early stages of that project.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

I got an article published last year in “Youth Justice,” and that was my first solo article. I had help, obviously, but it was a really big accomplishment because it had gotten rejected at two places before it got published, which is very standard. Most articles get rejected a couple of times before they get accepted. I think people should know about that. This was last year, spring of 2017. Since then, graduating was also an accomplishment, but it doesn’t stand out as much.

What was your favorite undergraduate experience?

When I was an undergrad, I did something similar to the Inside-Out program and went to a minimum-security prison and led a debate club. So, we got to come in and facilitate it. We didn’t get to choose what they talked about, but it was a really great experience. I don’t think U of M did it very well, but I got a lot out of it because I got introduced to a lot of the horrific conditions of prisons – particularly the corrections officers telling us that the people we were interacting with were really violent, horrible people, and they were not. They were just people. So, it was a really good foray into that, I think. 

What has your experience at Framingham State been like so far?

It’s been really great! We only live two miles away from campus, so that’s pretty cool. My husband works in this department, too – he’s new, too. It’s been very nice. The faculty is very welcoming and fun, and they love to do stuff together, which is actually not very common. The faculty – particularly the crim faculty – here are very critical and very social justice-oriented, and they really take a structural approach to understanding crime and punishment. There are people who take one approach, and there are people who take another approach, and the approach that’s taken here really aligned with my approach. So, I felt like I would really fit, and I have, so far. … I was really shocked by the number of students here who work almost full-time. I had to reorient my teaching, because classes are not always number one. Working is a very important component of life here that I did not have at my previous institution. That makes me sad, because I wish we lived in a world where students didn’t have to work and just had to focus on classes. It makes me mad that students have to do that, but I’m trying to see the positives of that as well. So many students have different perspectives and different life experiences, and that’s really cool to have in sociology and criminology classes. I was privileged enough that I did not have to work while I was in undergrad – my mom fully supported me. So, I had to quickly reorient away from my experience from when I was in school and try to connect more with how my students go to school right now, which requires me to be very flexible and understanding and empathetic – and you should be, anyway. 

What is one interesting fact about yourself?

I have a full sleeve of tattoos – they’re flowers and birds and butterflies. I have roses for my grandma. I have three hummingbirds for my mom, my grandma, and myself. My grandma’s obsessed withhummingbirds. I have a sunflower for my mom. I have a butterfly with a skull face for my husband. I have an “Alice in Wonderland” quote – it’s where the Mad Hatter is talking to Alice, saying, “Have I gone mad?” And Alice says, “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret – all the best people are.”

Do you have any advice for FSU students?

Communicate with your professors. Most of the time, we are far more flexible than we let on. We need to know if you’re struggling – we need to know so we can help. Also, just keep an open mind because you might think that you want to be on one path, and then you might branch out and take another class and realize that you’re actually really passionate about something else. You might think that you want to be pre-med, and then actually fall in love with sociology.