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Member Profiles- Summer 2015

Allison Cotton, Ph.D.
Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Metropolitan State University of Denver

How did you become interested in the field of women and/or gender and crime?

As an African-American woman, I heard the word “no” a lot when I was growing up.  Only from friends, teachers, coaches, and other authorities but never from my family.  I was told that I was “expected” to get married and that I was “expected” to have children from everyone EXCEPT my family, for example.  My family encouraged me to be who I wanted to be, so by the time I got to college, I was already defying expectations and I was used to people being “surprised” at my choices and my level of confidence in being different – the only real difference being that I was Black and from an upper middle class background.  When I entered college, I took a Women’s Studies course from a White woman who talked about the various barriers that White women and Black and Brown women faced.  I don’t remember her name, but she really inspired me to remain different and I wanted to learn more about why women were channeled into such limiting and underpaid/undervalued statuses in society.  Meanwhile, all of the women in my family were successful, independent, well-traveled, well-read human beings who did not inhabit the second-class citizenship that was discussed in my classes.  I decided to major in Sociology.  From there, I became interested in why people commit crimes and decided to focus on Criminology and to maintain my interest in Women/Gender studies…..I read Patricia Hill-Collins’ Black Feminist Thought, Bell Hooks’ Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, and Gloria T. Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott and Barbara Smith’s But Some of Us are Brave….the rest is history!

How do you define yourself as a scholar/activist/educator?

I guess that’s it!  I define myself as a “scholar/activist/educator.”  I am always actively engaged in scholarship, activism and education that seeks justice.  If you want a word for it, let’s call it “schactivator”!  Yeah, that’s it!  I’m a schactivator!  LOL

What are your current projects or interests?

I am currently working on a book proposal about women and crime, I’m writing a chapter about the juvenile death penalty, I am doing a lot of social networking related to the protests against police brutality in places like Baltimore and Ferguson, I’m mentoring a lot of young people (some of whom have been in trouble with the law), I’m helping to write curriculum for a new minor/concentration in violence studies, I’m doing TV and newspaper interviews about social movements and justice and gender issues, I’m speaking in local high schools about civil liberties (violations) and the wrongness of the death penalty and mandatory sentencing…..etc.

Who is your favorite person (or animal!) to spend time with, and what are your favorite things to do when you are with them?

Right now, I am missing my sister a whole lot.  When it gets busy for her during Real Estate season and busy for me during final exams, we don’t get to see each other very much.  I also miss my boyfriend because he has been in Europe for the last 9 months, but he is coming home next week and I am having dinner with my sister the week after that so I will be ok very soon (smile).  My favorite things to do with family and friends are brunch and dinner out!  I love restaurants, massages, pedicures, movies, art shows, museums, slam poetry, books and book stores so that is what I love to do with my sister and my boyfriend and my other friends and family.  I belong to a fabulous sorority called Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and I spend a great deal of time with my Delta sorors.  My sister is a Delta too.  It is always a pleasure to get together with my sorors on a regular basis and we do all of the activities that I mentioned above together (smile).

How do you wind down after a stressful day?

Good question!  Anyone who knows me knows that the first thing I decide after a stressful day is what I want to eat, and then I go get it!  LOL  The next thing I do after a stressful day is find some dark chocolate.  The third thing that I do after a stressful day is I find someone or something to rub my feet – and that is usually a foot massager and not a person.  LOL  After that, I find some big pillows and either watch my favorite funny movies or video concerts of some of my favorite artists and sing along.  I have been known to rewrite music videos and perform them in my office or in my home as if I were the real artist.  I would make a great female version of LL Cool J!  “When I’m alone in my room, sometimes I stare at the wall…..(sing along if you know the rest).  LOL

What obstacles do you feel you have overcome to be where you are today?

Not enough time in the day to discuss all of them but here are a few: 1) People underestimating me, 2) People being afraid of me, 3) People questioning my integrity and my work ethic, 4) People telling me to be quiet or to play small, 5) People telling me to slow down or to set lower goals, 6) People lying about me, 7) People insulting, disparaging and knocking down my self-esteem, 8) Getting paid less than men and less than white women for every job that I have ever had, 9) People being suspicious of me, 10) People not believing what I say and not believing in me.  None of these things have stopped me.  I am proud of that.  But I resent the fact that my life has been so hard because of these things.  I have succeeded IN SPITE OF racism and sexism, not because it doesn’t exist.

What would you like to be remembered for?

I’m glad you asked!  My two books thus far, my love of bright colors and of Converse sneakers, my smile, my happiness, and my sense of humor.  I would like for people to remember that I truly loved myself and that I really tried to be a good scholar, colleague, teacher, daughter, sister and friend.  I want people to remember that I loved God and tried to bring charity to the poor and freedom to the wrongfully convicted, among other justice issues.

What is one of your lifelong goals?

I’m working on finding new ones!  I’ve recently accomplished one of the biggest ones I had by being promoted to FULL PROFESSOR in March of this year!  Yay!  I always wanted to publish a book and now I have two published!  I am now looking for additional goals to pursue other than traveling to the places on my bucket list, which is getting longer every day, but right now includes Brazil, the Maldives, West Africa, and Scandinavia!

Is there a website where we can send people for more information about you?

No.  I have a faculty page on my school’s website though…..www.msudenver.edu.

What are one or two of your publications that you feel best represent your work?

Effigy: Images of Capital Defendants.  Lexington Books. 2008.

https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780739125526/Effigy-Images-of-Capital-Defendants

Class, Race, Gender & Crime: The Social Realities of Justice in America. 4th edition.  Rowman & Littlefield. 2014.

https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442220720

Michelle Hughes Miller, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies
University of South Florida

How did you become interested in the field of women and/or gender and crime?

Honestly, in graduate school I mostly saw criminology and gender as separate issues, with different faculty and courses in each and very little focus on reading that bridged the divide. But then in 1994 Susan Smith killed her sons, and to understand her actions and the justice system’s and media’s responses to her I delved into the literature on women and justice, reading such authors as Smart, Feinman and Naffine, who shaped my early understandings of the interconnections. Eventually this work became my dissertation, on the criminalization of motherhood.

How do you define yourself as a scholar/activist/educator?

I usually say I’m a feminist criminologist, with a PhD in Sociology and specializations in gender and crime. But what that really means is that I define myself as someone who sits at the intersection of three disciplines: Sociology, Criminology, and Women’s and Gender Studies. Interestingly, in my career I’ve been a faculty member in all three disciplines (I’m currently in Women’s and Gender Studies). At this intersection I am most concerned about issues of justice, defined broadly, for women, with an even tighter emphasis on motherhood and justice. Virtually all of my scholarship, my activism, and my teaching relates to gender and justice.

What are your current projects or interests?

I’m in the middle of three larger projects right now, going three different directions. I feel a little stressed! First, I’m co-editing a book on Bad Mothers for Demeter Press. This is exactly what I study, and I’m so excited for the opportunity to work with my co-editors to pull together contemporary research on this topic. Second, I’m working with colleagues at USF on several interrelated projects (some funded, some in development) to address faculty and student retention and success issues in STEM. This involves studying how gender affects work design and outcomes for STEM faculty, incentives and barriers to promotion in the College of Medicine, and LGBTQI student experiences of inclusion in STEM. Third, I’m working with Katie Kaukinen and Ráchael Powers on an edited volume on Addressing and Preventing Violence Against Women on College Campuses. We hope to bring together practitioners and academics to talk about best practices.

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 is my husband of 25 years, Rob Benford. While I love walking, kayaking, watching sunsets, dancing, travelling and exploring another craft brewery with him, I also just love in the evenings when he puts an album on, we open a bottle of wine, and we just talk and make dinner together. It’s the simple things, right?

How do you wind down after a stressful day?

I love sitting outside on our patio with a cold beer. I love walking the beach at sunset. I love burying my head in a mystery novel. I love watching one of my series on TV. When the day is really tough, I might do all four.

What obstacles do you feel you have overcome to be where you are today?

Having two children during my MA program was definitely tough! Seriously, I think, like many academics, my biggest challenge has been balancing my interests and goals at work and my obligations and joys at home. Especially since I study motherhood, I am hyper-aware of the challenges of managing time in a culture (and institutions) that rarely acknowledges the importance of all of our activities. So, for me, I had to decide my own goals and priorities and make them sacrosanct, despite external pressures. At the same time, one of my greatest sources of pride is the work I’ve done within academe to push my institutions toward better policies and practices related to work-life balance.

What would you like to be remembered for?

In 2014 I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer, so I had several months to really think about my future, my goals for my life, and whether I was living the life I wanted to live. In short, I thought about what I had accomplished. I learned something really important about myself last year. I learned that I was happy. I don’t have the type of career that is filled with accolades or awards. I don’t have a vita that makes others envious. But I have made a difference, and I want to be remembered for that. I want readers to think my publications are enlightening I want to teach well and with integrity, and have my students engaged in learning and inspired to do social justice; I want to make a difference locally through my interactions with and support of organizations; I want to have friends that I admire and love; I want to always be there for my family, as they have always been there for me. In short, I want to be remembered as a good person, who contributed in my own small ways to the enrichment of our discipline, my university, my community and my friends and family. That is the goal I strive for every day.

What is one of your lifelong goals?

I would love to write a fiction crime novel, with a strong female protagonist, inclusivity among the characters, no glorification of violence, and lots of humor. I started one once, with a female professor as the lead (imagine that!) but since I was pre-tenure it is still sitting there. Maybe when I’m retired?

Is there a website where we can send people for more information about you?

My vita and a brief blurb can be found at http://wgs.usf.edu/faculty/mhmiller.

What are one or two of your publications that you feel best represent your work?

"Mothering Outside-In: Confined Children and Mothering Under State Paternalism"