Carnahan Hall 211BB
Mailing Address
One University Plaza, MS 2920
Cape Girardeau, MO 63701
I took no direct routes to any destination in my life.

I grew up in Minnesota, but moved to Idaho when I was 16, and then went to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City for my undergraduate education. Like a lot of students, I had trouble picking a major... I loved to write, so I was an English major (with a focus in 19th century British women writers) working on a Bachelor of Arts; and then I took a linguistics class and added a second degree in Linguistics (with a focus in sociolinguistics). After I graduated in 1992 and worked a couple of years, I thought perhaps I should go into public administration and took constitutional law and then a public policy course -- and so decided to get a B.S. in Political Science with a focus in law and policy. Yup... three Bachelor's degrees. And I loved all of it but really still wasn't sure what I should do next.

Off to work I went, but I heard the siren call of graduate studies of some kind. Law school was clearly an option. I took a job in a large law firm as a temporary legal secretary to see what I thought about it all. One day, one of the partners bought me lunch, sat me down and said, "You know, you'll be bored as a lawyer. You like research and writing much too much. Think about getting a Ph.D." His wife had a Ph.D. and taught at the university, so he had an idea about personality types and who belonged where. I decided to ask my favorite two professors what they thought. They agreed with the lawyer. And so I applied for Ph.D. programs about six week later, and picked the one that gave me the most financial support.

I headed off to Amherst, Massachusetts, hometown of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost -- I took that as a sign that it was the right place for me. I studied at the University of Massachusetts. I absolutely loved graduate school. I worked in the Legal Studies Program as a teaching assistant and then as an instructor while studying Political Science with a focus in public law and judicial behavior, but also studied comparative law, and public policy. My dissertation combined an area known as sociolegal studies with American Political Development -- law meets history meets political science -- in a study of the legal profession's relationship to property rights and legal change. I finished my Ph.D. in five years, and then spent a year at Northern Illinois University while I dotted the i's and crossed the t's of my Ph.D.

On a whim I applied for a legal policy fellowship at the Taubman Center for American Institutions and Public Policy at Brown University. That led me to Providence, Rhode Island for a life changing year. I learned to blend my academic work with actual policy work. I was able to explore land use, catastrophes, and disaster-related archives all over southern New England and Washington, DC. My work subtly shifted toward understanding the historical development of emergency management, disaster planning, and the importance of civil liberties in disaster contexts. Studies of the legal profession remained an interest (still are), but lawyers in emergencies have been my focus for a long time now.

Well, I won't bore you with the rest. I did make a stop in Madison, Wisconsin and worked at the Institute for Legal Studies and in Political Science for a couple years, and then headed to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale before finally landing here in Cape. And, more recently, I've added energy policy and the importance of renewable energy to my research and teaching portfolios.

I absolutely love this campus, my students, and our town. By no means was my path direct, but I did find my way. I am so happy I landed here at SEMO, and am thrilled to serve our campus, students, and community every day.

Just keep swimming!

Dory (Ellen DeGeneres)


Ph.D., University of Massachusetts of Amherst
B.A., B.S., University of Utah

Related Articles

  • "Property Rights Attitudes Are a Source of Public Opposition to Flood Mitigation Policies in the United States," in Risks, Hazards, and Crisis in Public Policy, Volume 13, Issue 3 (September 2022). This study highlights one tension in addressing flood policy in democratically acceptable ways, and also the important effects that framing can have on mass support for flood mitigation policies.
  • Property Rights and Neoliberalism: Cultural Demands and Legal Actions edited by Wayne V. McIntosh and Laura J. Hatcher (Routledge ebook edition 2016; first edition Ashgate, 2010). The essays in this volume investigate the ways in which property rights claims are mobilized in both domestic and comparative contexts with implications for social and economic rights litigation.

Professional Organizations

  • Law and Society Association
  • Northeast Political Science Association
  • Consortium of Undergraduate Law and Justice Programs
  • Association for Law, Property, and Society
  • Renew Missouri
  • Kellerman Foundation for Historic Preservation

Best Advice for Students

You do not need to know precisely what your career path will be right now. Instead, explore ideas. Think outside the box -- forget there is even a box. Act with good intentions while you explore and think, and life will guide you where you need to be.