Sociology faculty member Kelly James may teach about crime and social issues, but her passion is student development and helping young adults become comfortable in their own skins. Residence halls often tap her as a speaker to help students adjust to college life and to accept responsibility for their actions. They talk about dating, gender issues and sexuality. “I’m interested in being that professor that mentored me, someone who encourages you,” James said. “Students are in an interesting phase of their life here. I love people, and I love to hear about how they are doing.” Many students, not just sociology majors, seek out the former social worker when they need someone to listen. Known as a student advocate, James won the Faculty/Student Life Award in 2006. She has helped a peer gauge campus climate and conducted focus groups to assess diverse viewpoints and to encourage open dialogue. In her teaching, whether discussing social problems, criminal law or deviant behavior, James uses her storytelling skills to give students the big picture. She encourages dialogue so a variety of opinions are expressed and no one is criticized for his or her beliefs. Within the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, James has added a conflict resolution class as part of the peace/justice/conflict resolution minor. It takes a look at restorative justice as a component of the criminology system, the idea that juvenile offenders who commit non-violent crimes are given punishment more fitting of their crimes than jail time. “The point is to get young people to think about consequences,” James said. Some of James’ former students have ended up in law enforcement around York County, where they’ve been able to approach their jobs with an understanding of human frailties. And they often bring their real life experiences back to James’ classroom to prepare the next generation.
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