I am a researcher and Instructor in Colorado State University's Department of Political Science. At CSU I teach upper-year undergraduate courses including Constitutional Law, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Women and Politics, as well as introductory courses including American Government and Politics.
My research covers a broad range of topics in American politics, but I focus particularly upon the intersection of law, society, and gender and intersectionality. I have research interests in American legal studies and judicial politics, the study of gender and politics and gender-based violence, and political science’s exploration of framing and discourse. In several of my previous publications and in my dissertation, I have used political science approaches to examine legal, political, and media discourses related to violence against women and sexual violence, which is a research trajectory that I continue to explore in my current projects as well. More broadly, my research agenda revolves around the exploration of how gender-neutral legal and social structures intersect with gender and other facets of personal identity to produce often problematically gendered, as well as raced and classed, outcomes.
In May 2016, I graduated from Georgetown University's Department of Government with my PhD in American Government.
My dissertation, completed in May 2016 at Georgetown University, examines how the American judiciary frames violence against women, particularly sexual violence. The foundational question of the project is whether we see American judges employing inaccurate, though widely held, myths about rape even though decades have passed since 1994’s Violence Against Women Act. Though sexual assault has become an increasingly salient social and political issue, both inside and outside academia this question remained unsettled. Thus, my dissertation examines and resolves this dilemma by undertaking a critical analysis of over one thousand state appellate court opinions discussing sexual violence. The project’s key questions of whether rape myths are used by the judiciary anymore, and if so, when, are answered with the responses: frequently, but variably, depending on the myth in question. Building upon these results, the demographic, institutional, and political correlates of this discourse were then explored. The results of these analyses highlight that while women, as a monolithic group, do not seem to be judging in a “different voice,” Democratic women are. Further, both men and women who choose to focus on gendered issues in their legal careers also have different rape myth usage patterns compared to those who do not. Finally, this gendered effect is also connected to the presence of a critical mass of women on the bench – where a critical mass of women can be found, rape myth usage among men and women on the bench is lowered, and challenges to rape myths increase. The results of these examinations inform how rape myth use by judges can be reduced and the findings of this study add critically to sociolegal scholarship’s goal of learning more about the nexus of law and society. Thus, this project has significant implications for praxis as well as for the academic study of the judiciary, as it provides vital information to those working towards achieving greater justice in the court system on how they might effectively reduce biased or problematic judicial discourses.