​Westminster College Assistant Professor Published and Presents Research at UCLA Workshop

Friday, June 20, 2014

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Dr. Kristenne Robison, Westminster College assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice studies, was recently published in the spring issue of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) quarterly publication. She also presented research at the Innovations in Prisons Workshop, held at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs in April.

Robison's manuscript, "Teaching and Researching Incarcerated Women: Undergraduates Explore Education as a Human Right," discussed a research project conducted by Robison and her students, in which the students taught Principles of Sociology and Sociology of Families courses in a women's prison, while simultaneously researching the women's educational experiences and backgrounds. The project came about after a representative from a women's prison gave a presentation to the Westminster students, during which he shared that women in prison tend to be less educated and are offered less educational opportunities than in the men's prison.

"The innovative undergraduate research project discussed here focused on the human right to education, and the setting was a women's prison not far from the Westminster College campus," Robison said. "Initially, I did not frame the experience for my students as research into human rights, but upon reflection both I and my students found ourselves mired in questions about the role of the state to ‘respect, protect, and fulfill' (United Nations 2012) the human right to education for incarcerated women."

Robison continued, "The experience also encouraged students to question the education that many of the women received or did not receive before they ever set foot in the prison, as well as other human-rights issues that shaped the lives of the women, such as sexual abuse and violence at the hands of intimate partners. Such research projects also provide for interactions between students and the research subjects and opportunities for students to see the people affected as human beings. More specifically, looking at human-rights issues in prison encouraged students to consider punitive versus rehabilitative philosophies."

Robison presented "The Role of Volunteers in Prisons: Teaching College Classes at a Women's Prison" at the UCLA workshop. She discussed the process of establishing college courses at women's prisons, and the different and sometimes contradictory reactions of prison administrators, inmates, student and professional participants. She also discussed recommendations on how to best navigate through the prison systems to provide educational programming to the incarcerated.

Robison was one of 12 invited, fully funded presenters. The event was supported by the Department of Social Welfare and the Luskin School of Public Affairs, UCLA, and funded through an international grant awarded by the United Kingdom's Economic and Social Research Council to Dr. Rosie Meek of the University of London.

Robison, who joined the Westminster faculty in 2009, earned an undergraduate degree from Baldwin-Wallace College, master's degrees from The Ohio State University and Syracuse University, and Ph.D. from Syracuse University. Her research interests include police work, sociology of gender, intimate partner violence, and qualitative research methods.

Contact Robison at 724-946-6033 or email for additional information.

About Westminster College...
Founded in 1852 and related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Westminster College ranks first in the nation as "Best College for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math," according to Forbes.com. Westminster is a top-tier liberal arts college and a national leader in graduation rate performance, according to U.S. News Best Colleges guide. Westminster is also honored as one of "The Best 378 Colleges" by The Princeton Review, and is named to the President's Honor Roll for excellence in service learning.

Nearly 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students benefit from individualized attention from dedicated faculty while choosing from 41 majors and nearly 100 organizations on the New Wilmington, Pa., campus. Visit www.westminster.edu/advantage to view "Advantage: Westminster" A Strategic Plan 2010-2020.


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Dr. Kristenne Robison, Westminster College assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice studies