Erin grew up in Los Angeles and went to a small Catholic high school, with a graduating class of 300. Her family has deep roots in California. So how did she end up at UW Tacoma?
Well, first she entered the Army. She became an Arabic translator, having had no previous experience in the language, which demonstrates the Army’s ability to determine aptitudes and teach languages. After three years stationed in Germany she wound up in South Puget Sound when her husband got transferred to JBLM, the military base nine miles south of UW Tacoma campus.
In the Army, she learned not to underestimate herself. She gained a focus and structure and found a seemingly bottomless capacity for hard work. She had her veteran’s benefits from the G.I. Bill, and she experienced UW Tacoma as a welcoming campus. “The UW Tacoma veteran’s office is fantastic,” she says.
Her field of study is psychology, but she has been drawn to criminal justice as well. She has taken many courses in UW Tacoma’s unique CJ program (designed and taught by social work faculty, with a social-justice focus), and plans to get a Ph.D. in criminology from University of California at Davis. That emphasis on social justice has penetrated every aspect of her college experience and has caused her to reassess many beliefs and assumptions held since childhood.
One such assumption is the value of shame and stigma as a social corrective. When campus administrators proposed to add a question to the UW Tacoma admission form asking applicants to identify any previous convictions for violent felonies or sexual offenses, Erin became a leader of the effort to remove or restrict the question. Even the strongest privacy policies may not prevent the conviction history of a rehabilitated college applicant from becoming known, and it is not clear that social shame reduces recidivism.
As for the future, Erin envisions a career as a policy advisor on social justice and criminology, at the state or federal level or with a non-governmental organization. With her capacity for work, and her ability to make a plan and see it through, don’t be surprised if she ends up as a White House cabinet official!
John Burkhardt, Media Relations, email@example.com or 253-692-4536