Social Justice Distinguished Speaker Series

The Social Justice Distinguished Speaker Series was founded in 2015 by Dr. Shari Berkowitz and Dr. Jennifer Sumner, and is generously sponsored by the Office of the President. In creating this series, their goal was to bring in luminary speakers and respected scholars to join our students, faculty, staff, and members of the local community in a conversation about some of the most pressing issues in social justice, particularly those connected to the legal system. Dr. Berkowitz and Dr. Sumner, associate professors of Criminal Justice Administration, look forward to continuing the series on Zoom and will return to hosting campus events when it is safe to do so. ​

Recent Social Justice Distinguished Speakers include:

October 10, 2019 | Professor James Forman, Jr., J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School, presented Confronting Mass Incarceration.

Professor Forman teaches and writes in the areas of criminal procedure and criminal law policy, constitutional law, juvenile justice, and education law and policy. His particular interests are focused on race and class dimensions of schools, prisons, and policing. Following his lecture on confronting mass incarceration, Professor Forman generously signed copies of his Pulitzer Prize winning book, Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

April 29, 2019 | Dr. Nancy Rodriguez, Professor of Criminology, Law & Society at UC Irvine, presented: Expanding the Evidence Base in Criminology and Criminal Justice: Barriers and Opportunities to Bridging Research and Practice.

Dr. Rodriguez presented on the barriers and opportunities to bridging research and practice in the field of criminal justice. Notably, Dr. Rodriguez has a wealth of experience in this matter, as she was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2014 to serve for two years as the Director of the National Institute of Justice, the scientific research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. Following her lecture, Dr. Rodriguez engaged with our students about their educational and professional interests.

April 5, 2017 | Dr. Nikki Jones, Associate Professor, UC Berkeley, Department of African American Studies, presented: The Gender of Police Violence-An Intersectional Analysis.

Dr. Jones’s research interests include urban ethnography, race and ethnic relations and criminology and criminal justice, with a special emphasis on the intersection of race, gender, and justice. Dr. Jones’s lecture included work from her latest book, The Chosen Ones: Black Men and the Politics of Redemption, which was based on several years of field research in a San Francisco neighborhood, and examined how African American men with criminal histories change their lives, and their place in the neighborhood once they do. Following her lecture, she generously signed copies of another book she authored, Between Good and Ghetto: African American Girls and Inner City Violence.

May 2, 2016 | Professor Steven Drizin, Clinical Professor at Northwestern Univesity's Pritzker School of Law, presented: Making a Murderer and the True Story of Brendan Dassey's False Confession.

Professor Drizin is an internationally-recognized expert on the topics of police interrogations, coerced confessions, and juvenile justice. At the time of the event, he served as the Assistant Dean of the Bluhm Legal Clinic and a Clinical Professor at Northwestern's Pritzker School of Law. He is the co-founder of the law school's Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, and is currently the Co-Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions. Notably, Professor Drizin represented Making a Murderer's Brendan Dassey in his appeals. In Professor Drizin’s lecture, he discussed his work on Brendan’s case. This event was also covered by the Daily Breeze:

April 5, 2016 | Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor at UC Irvine, presented: The Fiction of Memory.

Dr. Loftus is the world's leading expert on memory distortion. She is considered the most eminent female psychologist of the 20th century. She has published 23 books and over 500 scientific articles. Dr. Loftus has consulted as an expert witness in many high-profile cases including: Michael Jackson, Oliver North, Ted Bundy, Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, and many others. Dr. Loftus presented on her decades of research on eyewitness memory and false memory. For more about this event as well as photos, please see:

April 13, 2015 | Dr. Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, presented: Can a Lawyer make a Difference?

Dean Chemerinsky, who was named the most influential person in legal education in the United States by National Jurist Magazine, in 2014 provided the inaugural lecture of the Social Justice Distinguished Speaker Series. In this lecture, Dean Chemerinsky pondered how lawyers can make a difference in society. In particular, he examined how the Courts and the Constitution have addressed (or failed to address) racial equality, sexual orientation, and economic justice in the United States. Following his lecture, Dean Chemerinsky generously signed copies of his book, The Case Against the Supreme Court. For more about this event as well as photos, please see: