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School of Criminology and Criminal Justice names 1st Distinguished Visiting Professor

Valerie Jenness, president-elect of the American Society of Criminology, says she plans to learn much from her time at ASU

Portrait of Valerie Jenness, Distinguished Visiting Professor at ASU's Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Valerie Jenness is the spring 2023 Distinguished Visiting Professor at the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Photo courtesy the School of Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine

January 30, 2023

A national leader in criminology is in residence at Arizona State University during the spring semester as the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice’s first ever Distinguished Visiting Professor.

Valerie Jenness, a distinguished professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California, Irvine, is president-elect of the American Society of Criminology. Jenness isn’t new to engaging with faculty and students at other institutions. In 2021–22, she spent a semester in a similar role at the law school at the University of California, Los Angeles, and before that she was a visiting professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2016, and at the University of Michigan in 2015.

“I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from being at ASU,” she said, noting that the university recently opened its California Center in her home state. “There’s a reason ASU gets positive press attention as it serves more students in more ways.”

Jenness said her time on the academic road has been good for her as a scholar and teacher, and she anticipates it will be helpful to those she engages with at ASU.

“My hope,” she said, “is to benefit from a fresh point of view and to bring a new point of view to ASU. Hopefully, my visit is good on the synergy front.”

Leaving one’s environment occasionally to experience a new one is a positive experience, she said.

“It’s good to see how people outside of my campus learn and to share things with my ASU colleagues,” Jenness said. “It’s good to get out of one bubble and get into another bubble.”

In November, Jenness will begin a one-year term as president of the American Society of Criminology, an international organization of scholars, teachers and practitioners in criminology who exchange knowledge about the field.

Besides a typical schedule for many visiting professors — giving talks, sharing research, engaging with faculty and students — Jenness said she also will meet with colleagues outside of the criminal justice school, elsewhere within the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

She said she is particularly interested in being part of discussions about criminal justice reform, especially in Arizona.

Reform is always a big issue, she said, although it waxes and wanes in the minds of the public and among criminal justice professionals. It’s a major concern because the criminal justice system is a major institution in any society, here in Arizona as well as in California.

“We’re always reforming it. The question is where and why,” Jenness said. “I collect data to see what these systems are doing and ask, 'Are they doing what we want them to do?' And that takes you into a dialogue with the public. From my point of view, public universities are — and should be — in dialogue with the public and addressing issues of concern to various publics.”

She is currently working on a couple of major projects, including a study of the implementation of a new California law passed in 2021 enabling transgender, nonbinary and intersex people to be incarcerated according to their gender identity rather than their birth designation.

Jenness is also working on “Policing the Rainbow: Sexual and Gender Minority Experiences and Perceptions of Law Enforcement,” a study funded by a $654,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice. The research examines LGBTQ people’s experiences with, and views of, the police, with an eye toward discerning the similarity and dissimilarity within the LGBTQ community and others in what they think about law enforcement. She said she hopes to give a public lecture at ASU on the topic this semester.

Beth Huebner, Watts Endowed Professor of Public Safety and the school’s director, said Jenness’ position in the American Society of Criminology leadership is evidence she is one of the top authorities in the criminal justice field.

“Her work is important to the academy, and she has been able to translate her work into policy,” Huebner said. “For example, she is doing groundbreaking research on experiences that LGBTQIA+ persons have with law enforcement that will help the field and the profession better understand and respond to members of this group. We are thrilled to welcome her to ASU.”

Jenness earned her PhD and Master of Arts degree in sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her Bachelor of Science degree in sociology is from Central Washington University.

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