Faculty, Staff, Graduate Student Bios

Brenda Baker

Dr. Brenda Baker, is an Assistant Clinical Professor at Emory University, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. She received her Ph.D. from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond Virginia. Dr. Baker is a volunteer with the Georgia Department of Corrections providing prenatal and postpartum programs for women. Dr. Baker’s research focuses on maternal well-being and the role of social support in the transition to motherhood. Prior to joining the faculty at Emory University, Dr. Baker worked as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in perinatal settings. Dr. Baker serves on state and national committees representing the unique needs of incarcerated pregnant women and care of pregnant women with substance use disorders.

Providing prenatal and postpartum programs to incarcerated pregnant and postpartum women allows me to interact with the women and see the impact of social determinants of health in this population. Working directly with the women informs my teaching, research, and advocacy endeavors.

Image of a fence with barbed wire in front of a blue sky with a white woman looking to the left. She is on the right side of the image and is wearing a brown jacket.

Elizabeth M. Bounds

Dr. Elizabeth M. Bounds, who joined Candler’s faculty in 1997, works on issues of the prison system, engaging restorative justice, conflict transformation, feminist and liberation theological ethics, and transformative pedagogical practices.

I have been a volunteer with the Georgia Department of Corrections since 1998, first at Metro State Prison for Women and then at Arrendale State Prison for Women. My primary role is administering the program I co-founded, the Certificate in Theological Studies at Arrendale, which offers certificate programs as continuing education (over 170 women have graduated from our basic one-year certificate). I have also taught courses in creative writing, spirituality, and conflict transformation inside the prison, and have supervised interns in chaplaincy and in education. Working with women inside is central to my vocation and ongoing work and has lead to involvement in issues of reentry, along with issues of "life inside."
My hope is to develop a structured and recognized network of justice involvement that is considered an integral part of Emory University. Some possibilities I have considered....involvement in development of a reentry center where Emory could offer programs, etc; involvement in a consortium offering higher education in the prison system, coordinated involvement in the Metro Reentry Facility.

David Cloud

David Cloud, JD/MPH is a PhD student at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, and a Senior Program Associate at the Vera Institute of Justice. Broadly, his research and advocacy seeks to apply theories, methods, and ethics of public health, human rights, and harm reduction to end mass incarceration in the United States. His recent projects include designing, implementing, and evaluating a pilot project to improve health screening, diversion, and medical triage in Manhattan’s central booking facility; advancing harm reduction in correctional systems; and addressing solitary confinement in Louisiana prisons. He has published widely on these topics and his work has been featured in the New York Times, the New Yorker, National Public Radio, among many other national and local media outlets. He has a law degree from Villanova University an MPH at Columbia University, and a BS from the University of Georgia. He is also a board member of the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition.
I have worked in a wide range of carceral settings, including courts, jails, and prisons. Most of my work has focused on educating system-actors on the harms of current policies/practices, and worked through legal, policy, and programatic strategies to develop alternatives to incarceration, address inhumane living conditions, and translate research findings to bolster activism or steer government policy.
Nurture a strong group of diverse leaders who can capably and strategically combine research, scholarship and, political activism to elevate Emory as an institution that funds and supports infrastructure to support faculty, students, and community partners to address mass incarceration in Georgia and other parts of the South. Serve as a body to create fellowships and develop an accredited program to provide college to currently and formerly incarcerated people. Incorporate ending mass incarceration into the fabric of the University's core mission.

Liza Cobey

photo of Liza Cobey, white woman with long brown hair and a blue dress

Liza Cobey

Liza Cobey is a senior at Emory University, double majoring in American Studies and media studies with a concentration in film and media management. She is currently involved in community organizing in her hometown Fredericksburg, Virginia, and works in media for a local nonprofit. She is a prison abolitionist, a police abolitionist, an anti-capitalist, and the president of Emory SPEAR, Students for Prison Education, Activism, and Resistance.

Cara Curtis

I am a PhD candidate in Religion here at Emory, with a focus in social ethics. My work asks how U.S. families, and in particular mothers, understand what it means to “flourish” in a context marked by deep social inequality—and how they pursue these visions of flourishing. One of the ways I am asking this question is through qualitative research with women who participate in a theological studies program at a state prison in North Georgia. Led by Dr. Elizabeth Bounds, this research asks the women what it means to them to live a “good life,” their hopes for their children and their future, their strategies for building care and community while inside, and how their faith or spirituality informs their perspectives. This research informs my dissertation, which more broadly asks what maternal perspectives on flourishing can tell us about what it means to live a “good life” in an unequal social landscape.

In addition to research, my work with incarcerated women has involved teaching classes related to theology, community-building, and care ethics. Teaching at the prison, seeing the incredible work that students do and ways they are able to grow, has strengthened my commitment to making quality humanities education accessible to all.

There are so many people working on this issue at Emory. My hope is that the momentum continues to build, and we continue to strengthen connections across disciplines and schools. Ultimately, I hope that Emory can will recognize the importance of this issue and the strengths the university has in responding to it, and will prioritize support for this work in its strategic planning.
Image of a white man with glasses and dark hair wearing a blue and white button up shirt. He is facing the camera and smiling.

Nicholas Fesette

Nicholas Fesette is assistant professor of theater at Oxford College of Emory University, where he also serves as director of the theater program. His research interests include critical prison studies, trauma theory, theater and performance practice, and adaptation. His book project, Cagecraft: Performance, Race, and Trauma in Carceral America, examines modern and contemporary prison performances in order to understand how the prison system itself performs racist and classist violence. This writing draws in part on his experience working as a volunteer artist with the Phoenix Players Theatre Group inside Auburn Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Upstate New York.

Linda Grabbe

I am a psychiatric nurse practitioner and have worked with homeless and underserved women, children, and youth for 20 years. I teach psychiatric nursing at Emory and conduct research on stress and resiliency in healthcare providers and women with addictions; also I have taught and researched meditation/mindfulness for homeless adolescents.
Recently I have been teaching the Community Resiliency Model to justice-involved youth and incarcerated adolescents and pregnant women. This simple sensory-awareness skill set provides valuable emotion self-regulation skills which are empowering to individuals and their families. We now have 5 Community Resiliency Model teachers in the Department of Juvenile Justice and they plan to target corrections officers to become teachers of this model.
I would like Emory to become a trauma- and resiliency-informed campus. That means we all recognize the ubiquity of trauma, understand the best practices for engaging with traumatized populations, and have the means to elicit strengths and resources--to help them develop resiliency and self-care capacity.
Image of a white woman with short blond hair looking to her left and wearing a black shirt.

Sarah Higinbotham

Sarah Higinbotham is an Assistant Professor of English at Emory’s Oxford College, where she studies and teaches early modern literature, especially the intersections of literature and law. She has written about the violence of the law in early modern England, critical prison theory, and human rights in literature. Her current book project traces responses to the law’s violence throughout the English Renaissance.

I’ve discovered unparalleled intellectual freedom and creative collaboration. I help support Common Good Atlanta, which offers accredited college courses inside four Georgia Prisons (Phillips State Prison, Whitworth Women’s Facility, Metro Reentry Facility, and Burruss Correctional) as well as a weekly course in downtown Atlanta for formerly-incarcerated and justice system-impacted people.

Photo of Dr. Kathleen T. Leuschen, white woman with brown hair wearing maroon shirt

Dr. Kathleen T. Leuschen

Kathleen T. Leuschen is the Director of First-Year Writing at Emory. Her research focuses on recent activist histories, public memory, and community-engaged pedagogy. She coordinates the Mellon Public Writing Fellowship for graduate students who will be partnering with Common Good Atlanta and Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation for the 2020-2021 school year.
Image of white woman with brown hair wearing a black shirt and grey blazer. She is smiling.

Marie Marquardt

Marie Marquardt is a Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and an author of young adult fiction. She has researched among Latin American immigrants to Georgia since 1998, and has published many articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. She also writes fiction, and she has published three young adult novels that address similar themes. Marie is chair emerita of El Refugio Ministry, a Georgia non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She lives in a busy household in Decatur, Georgia with her spouse, four children, a dog and a bearded dragon.

You can find out more about Marie at: www.mariemarquardt.com http://candler.emory.edu/faculty/profiles/marquardt-marie.html

Image of a white woman with short, curly blond hair standing in front of trees smiling. She is shown from the shoulders up and is wearing a black and white top.

Stacy Bell McQuaide

I teach an Oxford College course on reading and writing personal narratives in which Oxford students share a collaborative classroom with students at Lee Arrendale State Prison; I co-taught an Emory CoLA course on Women's Incarceration Issues.
After a decade of taking Oxford students into Georgia prisons, I can see that this high-touch, unmediated interaction with individuals experiencing incarceration transforms Oxford students' goals and values in meaningful, concrete ways. Students self-select into the course, but they are also inspired by it to use their chosen career paths to address mass incarceration and issues faced by systems-involved people. Examples: one former student has just finished law school and is seeking work in the New York public defender's office; another is enrolling in medical school in the fall and plans to become a researcher into medical interventions for people with substance abuse disorder. My prison course is a no-brainer because it is experiential learning at its most intense, it is local and connects Oxford students to issues in their community, and aside from van transportation, it costs the college almost nothing. I am adjunct faculty in the Life University Positive Human Development and Social Change degree program at Lee Arrendale State Prison. Teaching in the Life program strengthens my connection to the prison/institution--which is crucial to the success of any college-in-prison program. Life's degree program requires a faculty consortium; at this time I am the only Emory faculty teaching courses in the program [with approval of my deans]. My participation in this program matters to Emory, because it connects the Emory name to the only liberal arts degree-granting program in a Georgia prison. Emory can and should be doing more to support the Life program. All successful college-in-prison programs around the country rely on the consortium model. One of my main goals in my participation with the Justice-Involved @ Emory group is to appeal to the administration to take a closer look at the Life program and consider appropriate ways that Emory can continue to support this historical and ground-breaking program in Georgia.

David Nichols

I work with narratives of the body in carceral spaces. Focusing on migrant detention and post 9/11 torture regimes, I explore the violent inscription of U.S. imperialism and hierarchies of race and citizenship on the bodies of the confined, as well as tactics of embodied resistance and subversion in those same spaces.
I want to see social justice practice integrated into academic curriculum to the point where the distinction between the two is imperceptible.

Michael Leo Owens

Michael Leo Owens, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of the Politics of Policing Lab at Emory University. He is a past president of the Urban Affairs Association and former member of the board of directors of Prison Policy Initiative and the national advisory board of Foreverfamily (née Aid to Children of Imprisoned Mothers). He currently serves on the national advisory board of the Georgia Justice Project and volunteers with the Youth Diversion Program of the DeKalb County Juvenile Court. Owens also was co-director for the Atlanta Reentry Mapping Network. His current justice-involved projects include a book manuscript on the restoration of political, social, and civil rights to formerly imprisoned people and a set of shorter studies at the intersection of policing and politics, including studies of police violence, militarization, and municipal reforms.
For more about his scholarship, teaching, and philanthropy, visit https://www.milophd.com/.
"Emory University can and should become the key academic site in the South for study, teaching, and research-driven engagement about mass incarceration and other forms of carceral punishment, as well as the historic and contemporary practices and effects of the police and policing, in the region."
Liz Pittenger, younger woman with brown hair
Liz Pittenger

Liz Pittenger

Liz Pittenger is the Justice Involvement Coalition’s research assistant. She is participating in the Research in Sociology at Emory (RISE) program to help with administrative and research tasks for the Coalition. She is a current junior double majoring in psychology and sociology and serves as SPEAR’s Academic Coordinator for 2020-21.

Leslie Salas-Hernández

Having been raised in Inglewood, California, and later working at a community mental health clinic there, Leslie has seen the intersection between mass incarceration and mental health firsthand. For her dissertation research, she plans to study police-public contact and its association with mental health in Los Angeles.
Mass incarceration is a public health issue that requires continued cross-sector collaboration between multiple stakeholders including community members, policymakers, public health professionals, and the justice system. Emory University's positionality in Atlanta can help support advocacy groups in the community.

Jennifer Sarrett

Dr. Jennifer Sarrett is a social scientist who works on issues related to intellectual and developmental disabilities and criminal justice. She uses interviews, surveys, and record reviews to expose the issues people with these disabilities face when interacting with the criminal justice system as both victims or the accused. From this work, Dr. Sarrett identifies area of reform in the criminal justice system that will benefit all who come in contact with it. She obtained her PhD from Emory's Institute of Liberal Arts, where she learned to apply interdisciplinary, problem-based measures in her research and scholarship. It is this approach she takes to her current line of research.
Dr. Sarrett is also a Lecturer in Emory's Center for the Study of Human Health (CSHH) where I teach classes on bio- and neuroethics, human rights, disability, and health. She is also the Managing Editor of CSHH's blog, Destination HealthEU.

Contact: jsarret@emory.edu, @sarrettspeaks

Image of an African American man wearing a short sleeved blue shirt. He is facing the camera and smiling.

Darrin Sims

Darrin Lamont Sims Jr was born in raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Growing up in such a racially divisive city had a large impact on the way Darrin saw social justice, even from a young age. He soon made the decision to attend Fisk university in Nashville, Tennessee where he double majored in Political Science and History. Upon graduation, Darrin answered that call and served as a teacher for Teach for America in Nashville and Saint Louis. It was during the Ferguson Uprising that Darrin decided to focus on community organizing and abolition.  Soon after, Darrin moved to Atlanta, Georgia and enter Candler Divinity School at Emory University.. Since then, Darrin has devoted his work and research to social justice through a theological lens . Darrin currently teaches, preaches an organizes around faith-based approaches to reducing recidivism, voter suppression and police and prison abolition in Southwest Atlanta, Georgia. He is supported by his beautiful wife Chauncey and their two children Emmett and Zora.

Image a white man standing in front of grey background wearing a dark suit. He is shown from the chest up and has a mild smile.

Eric Solomon

Eric Solomon is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English and American Studies at Oxford College, and a graduate of the Laney Graduate School (2017). Eric is originally from Leland, Mississippi located at the intersection of Highway 82 and the legendary Blues Highway 61 in the middle of the Mississippi Delta and a few miles from Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman Farm. His scholarly-activist work stands at the intersection of the new southern studies and queer and sexuality studies and is informed by a commitment to social justice rooted in his background and knowledge of socioeconomic inequities and disparities for people of color and LGBTQ+ people across southern spaces.

I have volunteered and experienced carceral settings firsthand, and it has only deepened my understanding of the social inequities and level of precarity that some, more than others, experience due to the increasing monetization and privatization of our criminal justice system in the era of mass incarceration.
All justice work is intersectional. The self-described black-lesbian-feminist-poet-mother Audre Lorde, in speaking about how to bring different groups together to achieve change, said we must learn to understand "the creative use of difference" in our commitment to social justice for all. No one is free unless we all are free, and it is this ethic with which Emory University should proceed with a commitment to intersectional justice for all, finding creative and perhaps unorthodox solutions for the problems that impact some communities differently and disproportionately.
Image of an African American person with long thin dreadlocks, glasses, and a blue and white tie and purple and white button up shirt. They are facing the camera and smiling.

Alyasah A. Sewell

Alyasah “Ali” Sewell (they/them/their) is Associate Professor of Sociology at Emory University and Founder and Director of The Race and Policing Project. Advancing quantitative approaches to racism studies, they assess empirical links between the political economy of race and racial health(care) disparities using policing and housing policy data. Published in a wide array of sociological and interdisciplinary outlets, their research garnered support and recognition from the National Institutes of Health, the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, the Baden-Württemberg Foundation, and the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. Planned Parenthood named them, “The Future: Innovator and Visionary Who Will Transform Black Communities”. They received their Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociology from Indiana University with a minor in Social Science Research Methods and their B.A. summa cum laude in Sociology from the University of Florida with a minor in Women’s Studies.

Image of white woman with short, light brown hair smiling at the camera wearing a white shirt and blue blazer. She is standing in front of trees.

Donna Troka

Donna Troka is a senior associate director at the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence. She heads up all teaching and pedagogy programs as well as the university course initiative and academic learning communities. As adjunct faculty in the Institute of Liberal Arts (ILA), she teaches special topics courses in American studies and interdisciplinary studies. Her publications include the co-edited volume The Drag King Anthology, and articles titled “Archivists and Faculty Collaborative Course Development” in Provenance, “Critical Moments: A Dialogue Toward Survival and Transformation,” in The Caribbean Review of Gender Studies, and “‘You Heard My Gun Cock’: Female Agency and Aggression in Contemporary Rap Music” from African American Research Perspectives.
Donna has a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies from Emory University (2007), a master’s in women’s studies from The Ohio State University (1998) and a BA in English from University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign (1995). For more about her teaching, research, activism please see www.donnatroka.com.