Assistant Professor of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology
Keene State College
How did you become interested in the field of women and/or gender and crime?
My B.S. and MA were in sociology with emphasis on gender, race, and culture. I knew that whatever I chose for my graduate work would be with an intersectional focus, but had not found my specific path. I was privileged to complete my Ph.D. at Virginia Tech, which offered a truly unique program that included Gender Studies, Africana Studies, the Center for Race and Social Policy, and the Center for Peace Studies and Violence prevention, all under the Sociology Department umbrella. During my first semester at Tech, I was surprised to learn that criminology focused on all of my topics of interest; it would become the nexus for exploring inequality through an intersectional lens in my studies. My mentors helped me tailor a unique program that allowed me to build a strong foundation for research and teaching, incorporating criminology, gender, race, deviance, and culture in the mix.
How do you define yourself as a scholar/activist/educator?
I like how this question is worded with forward slashes between the three categories. It leaves the question open to interpretation. Those who focus primarily on research may choose to speak only of research, or a respondent may choose to incorporate two of the three categories. I choose to view this as one broad category: the scholar-activist-educator.
There is no specific category or label that can adequately define my work as a scholar-activist-educator. In some ways I envy those who can say definitely what they do, such as those who claim, “I am a critical ethnomethodologist.” This allows them to focus on a topic and potentially, wring it dry, producing numerous publications within a narrow area of inquiry. For me, it’s much more messy. At first, I thought this meant I wasn’t a real scholar, or that I lacked a theoretical home. I feared not having an easily defined niche would prevent me from making a name for myself as a scholar. I quickly learned that doing what I love on a daily basis is much more rewarding for me than trying to compete with other’s scholarly publication records.
Doing what I love means engaging students with my research, focusing on the process of mutual discovery. Incorporating student researchers into my work has been highly rewarding and, although this slows down the timeframe of projects, it allows students to have first-hand research experience, and bring unique perspectives (often less biased than some researchers) to the table. Finally, these types of experiences force all those involved to grapple with the consequences of criminal justice policy. The experience can spawn an interest in political activism and seeking social change through critically evaluating policy. I believe it’s a highly valuable approach and an excellent example of the scholar-activist-educator trifecta.
What are your current projects or interests?
My interdisciplinary education has allowed me to explore several varied but related topics of research. My interest in culture and deviance resulted in research focusing on workplace deviance within the hair salon industry, and on organizational factors related to the production of culture in the beauty industry.
I am in the process of publishing my dissertation research, which is an empirical test of Donald Black’s theory of Moral Time. In this study I present vignettes depicting sexualized interactions between coworkers to measure the perceived level of conflict resulting from the interaction. I then vary the characteristics of people depicted in the vignettes based on gender and sexual orientation, and measure changes in perceived levels of conflict.
My most recent area of research, which incorporates student researchers, involves a mixed-methods study with women inmates at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute (MCI Framingham). This research allows me to incorporate my interest in criminology with culture, investigating women’s use of beauty products while incarcerated as coping mechanisms and as forms of resistance.
Who is your favorite person (or animal!) to spend time with, and what are your favorite things to do when you are with them?
My best friend for the last 8 years was one of my professors in undergrad! I know, it’s odd, but we were close to the same age and become great friends after I moved on to graduate school. Any time there is snow on the ground, you’ll find us listening to some hideous 80’s tunes and traveling the country in search of fresh powder with skis in tow.
How do you wind down after a stressful day?
Occasionally I “wine” down with a couple new faculty friends at a local wine bar. We have found it’s so important to compare perspectives on the new faculty experience; it keeps us from falling into the dark pit of pre-tenure worry.
What obstacles do you feel you have overcome to be where you are today?
The greatest obstacle I have overcome is simply completing graduate school. I was a hair stylist in my first career with only a high school education. Now, I am the only member of my working-class family to have graduated from college, much less earned a doctorate. I was a non-traditional student in my early thirties when I began my education, and was a single mother during the entire 12-year process. I worked the entire time I was in school and had tremendous financial difficulties. I also lost both of my parents during that time. It has been a very long road.
So many people have asked me if it was worth it. The answer for me is absolutely. I love my work and am happier than I have ever been.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Unlike a lot of people I don’t really have a desire to “be remembered.” I want to focus on the NOW—feeling good about who I am and what I do; helping students discover their potential; ridding the world of some debilitating criminal justice policies; planting a seed of hope where there is none. That seems like enough.
What is one of your lifelong goals?
In my twenties I dreamed of going to college but had no clue it was an attainable goal. I had a couple clients who saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself. They forced me to sign up for classes and gave me emotional support and encouragement. I have achieved the lifelong goal of getting a college education. Now, my goal is to continue to learn—because one of the things I discovered in grad school is how little I still actually know 😉
What are one or two of your publications that you feel best represent your work?
Barlow, Angela and James Hawdon. 2015. “Sex, Drugs, and Deception: Deviance in the Hair Salon Industry,” Forthcoming in Deviant Behavior.