You are here

Microsemi/Peterson Fellows

The Microsemi/Peterson fellowships are made possible because of a gift from Jim Peterson, CEO of Microsemi Corporation, who has been a generous supporter of Center activities. The selected fellows participate in a year-long set of activities designed to further their interdisciplinary research training, through intellectual collaboration and exchange, and through the production of an original project.

Matt Fritz-Mauer

Matt Fritz-Mauer is a fifth year law and graduate student, pursuing both a J.D. from the School of Law and a Ph.D. from the Department of Criminology, Law and Society. Once he finally finishes school, Matt hopes to practice labor and employment law before eventually entering academia. His current research interests surround labor and employment law, as well as criminal defense work. Matt is originally from the East Coast, and has a B.A. in Criminal Justice from the University of Delaware.

Matt's current project explores the issue of wage theft by examining empirical research, case law, statutes, bills, and news articles and press releases. "Wage theft" is generally defined as the unlawful withholding or denial of wages or benefits that are rightfully owed to an employee. Employers may commit wage theft in a variety of ways, including--but not limited to-- failing to pay minimum wage and overtime, failing to pay for all hours worked, withholding tips, and misclassifying employees. This project has two primary foci: first, how has California responded to the growing concern about and increasing activism over wage theft? With its strong reputation for being "employee friendly," does California adequately address the problem of wage theft, or does the practical application of its laws fail to provide protection and recourse for workers? If California's enforcement of workers' rights laws is arguably deficient, is it fair to call the state "employee friendly"? Second, across the country activists have mobilized to combat wage theft, often by lobbying for the passage of increasingly harsh civil and criminal laws. Is this ratcheting up of penalties likely to be an effective solution to the problem? Would activists be better served by pursuing other avenues to fight against wage theft?

Justin O'Neill 2014-15 Peterson Fellow

Justin O’Neil is a third year law student. He received his B.A. in political science from the University of California, Irvine in 2007 and spent five years working in higher education administration and student affairs prior to starting law school in 2012.  Justin’s primary interests involve issues of law, sexuality, and gender.

The LGBT movement, in the last two decades, has primarily pursued formal equality under the law in areas of policy such as marriage, workplace discrimination, and hate crimes, using courts as the primary avenues of change (with legislatures a distant second). It seems increasingly likely that many of these goals will soon be achieved, especially given the Supreme Court’s June 2013 decision in U.S. v. Windsor and the nearly-unanimous string of legal victories for marriage equality proponents in the time following the decision. Once the movement reaches its legal goals, however, what happens next? Does the achievement of formal legal equality spell the end of the LGBT movement’s engagement with the law? If not, what can come next, what should come next, and what will come next? This theoretical project will look to a wide variety of perspectives, from social movements scholars to queer theorists to community leaders (paying special attention to those perspectives critical of the path the movement has taken to date) with the goal of integrating these various sources of knowledge to provide a broad outlook on the potential futures of the LGBT and queer movement. The project will be oriented around two primary questions: 1) what is the most likely course for the LGBT movement in a post-marriage equality nation; and 2) what insights might the movement gain from sources of knowledge that have not, to date, been well represented within the LGBT mainstream?

Nikki Sherman 2014-15 Peterson Fellow

Nicole Sherman is a doctoral student in UCI’s Criminology, Law and Society department. She graduated from San Diego State University with a B.S. in Criminal Justice, a B.A. in Sociology, and a minor in Anthropology. During her undergraduate and early graduate experience, she was employed by the Western Criminology Review, the official peer-reviewed journal of the Western Society of Criminology as the Editorial Assistant. Since beginning her graduate career, she has developed a wide range of projects to explore her research interests, which include sentencing and punishment, the role of identity in criminal justice system experiences, and the intersection of military veterans and the criminal justice system. She is currently a part of the multi-city, multi-method “Gun Violence in Urban America” project, working with Dr. George Tita and Dr. Keramet Reiter, faculty in CLS, to understand how people think about guns, gun law, and to develop a richer context for how and why people procure illegal firearms.

First established in Buffalo, NY in 2008, a unique form of specialty courts know as Veterans Treatment Courts (VTCs) have since proliferated throughout the United States. Recognizing that criminal behavior stems from multiple loci, VTCs utilize a therapeutic approach to simultaneously treat PTSD from combat trauma, substance abuse issues, and criminality. VTCs are especially important to examine because of their recognized success in curbing recidivism for their clients. During the fellowship period, I will be researching how VTCs generally function and what specific correlates appear to be associated with criminal desistance. My project builds on over a year of nonparticipant observation at a southern California VTC and will utilize in-depth interviews with participants and court staff to show how participants restructure their lives through powerful narratives, community support, and reaffirmation of a veteran identity. Moreover, I will explain how a veteran label and belief in legitimacy in the court facilitates positive outcomes for participants. That is, this project attempts to bridge criminological theory of desistance and socio-legal studies of court processes to identify the influential mechanisms that may lead to successful outcomes for offenders who complete the VTC program.

Tom Worger 2014-15 Peterson Fellow

Thomas Worger is a joint degree student in History (PhD) and Law (JD) at University of California, Irvine. Before attending UCI, he received his BA in History from University of California, San Diego, in 2007 and his MA in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University in 2010. Thomas's current research focuses on legal reform and the role of legal institutions in China during the twentieth century.

In the wake of the 2009 Xinjiang riots between Uyghur minority and Han majority groups, Chinese social media websites were quickly populated with pro-Han comments blaming the state's preferential policies for ethnic minorities as the cause of the violence. Principal among these complaints was the "two restraints, one leniency" policy. Announced in the context of the country's "strike hard" campaign against crime in the mid-1980s, the intent of the policy was to account for traditional cultural practices of ethnic minority groups in the course of criminal prosecutions, and consequently treat them with greater leniency. In recent years, the policy has expanded in public perception to equate with a get out of jail free card for members of China's ethnic minority groups, fueling tensions. This project investigates the origin, practice, and public perception of the "two restraints, one leniency" policy. Eschewing traditional approaches to similar "affirmative action" policies as civil rights matters, this project views the dynamic relationship between minority groups and the state, and the way this relationship is reimagined in online discourse, through the lens of colonial studies.

Melissa Wrapp 2014-15 Peterson Fellow

Melissa Wrapp is a second year Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology.  She holds an MPhil from the University of Cambridge in Social Anthropology and a B.A. in Anthropology and Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame.  Melissa’s current research interests include urban planning, low-income housing development, bureaucracy, and citizenship.

Melissa’s research seeks to investigate privatized urban housing development in Cape Town, South Africa, through the lens of “mini-cities” such as Wescape (a mega housing project proposed to break ground just north of the city in 2015), in order to examine competing imaginaries of African urban futures. Though publicized in eye-drawing brochures and splashy TED-talks, these futures are negotiated through struggles between municipal and provincial governments over land use ordinances, battles over the zoning of the city’s urban edge, and local communities’ contestations over property values and environmental impacts. Critical analysis of Wescape’s ongoing pursuit of legal authorization for development offers insight into local perceptions of value, urban citizenship, and cultures of expertise (both legal and architectural) in this neoliberal postcolony.

However, while future-oriented, developments like Wescape also share crucial continuities with past urban planning techniques and utopian visions for Capetonian communities. In her Peterson Fellowship project, Melissa will trace these continuities through the history of legislation that, to follow an architectural metaphor, served as the foundation on which the edifice of apartheid-era racial spatial management was constructed. An exposition of this history, coupled with analysis of ethnographic data from exploratory fieldwork conducted in summer 2014, will not only provide a basis for critiquing the fiction of rupture and fresh beginnings promulgated by “mini-city” developers, but will also offer insight into the political expediency of this tabula rasa narrative.


Alex Keena is a third year Ph.D. student in the Political Science Department at UCI. He received his political science and anthropology from Loyola Chicago in 2011. Alex's research interests focus on political representation and public law, and his current work explores the logic and design of policy.

Why does America’s prohibition on drugs persist in the face of failure? For much of the last century, federal policymakers have attempted to reduce drug abuse in society through prohibition, a strategy that seeks to resolve the problems of drug use economically, through a ban on the possession and sale of illegal drugs, and criminally, through the penalization of drug offenders. By any measure, enforcement of this strategy has been both financially and socially costly, yet it has failed to reduce the availability of drugs and has not curbed Americans’ appetite for illicit substances. Why, then, does the drug prohibition endure as policy? By analyzing the “drug problem” from both a political and socio-cultural perspective, this project explains the design and perseverance of prohibitory policy as a political and social compromise that serves the dual function of shifting moral accountability for drug abuse off of society while meeting the demands of key actors within the political system.

Jonathan Markovitz is a third year law student.  Before starting law school, he earned a Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of California, San Diego, and taught courses in Sociology, Communication, Ethnic Studies, and Writing at UCSD and other universities. He has written and taught about race, gender, popular culture, social movements, and collective memory. Jonathan is the author of Legacies of Lynching: Racial Violence and Memory (University of Minnesota Press, 2004) and Racial Spectacles: Explorations in Media, Race and Justice (Routledge, 2011). He is interested in human rights and civil liberties law.

Racial Stereotypes and Self-Defense:
Self-defense inquiries often turn on the question of whether a defendant had a reasonable belief that he or she was faced with a genuine threat. Because fears of violent crime are so deeply entwined with “commonsense” understandings of race and gender, determinations of what counts as “reasonable” fear may be driven by reliance upon racist stereotypes. Because legal determinations of self-defense are, in effect, reflective of policy determinations about socially acceptable forms of violence, the stakes of any single case touch upon much broader social issues.  When legal decision-making is reliant upon racist stereotypes, the legal system lends those stereotypes its imprimatur and imbues them with the force of law.  When this happens in the self-defense context, legal determinations can legitimate forms of racial violence.  This project will argue for the necessity of actively guarding against such outcomes, while calling for a number of critical interventions in self-defense doctrine.

Natalie Pifer is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Criminology, Law & Society. She holds a law degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles and a B.A. in Journalism and Politics from New York University. Natalie's current research interests include legal translation, punishment, and law's construction of and relationship to vulnerable groups.

Though Atkins v. Virginia (2002) categorically exempts the intellectually disabled from execution, repeated accounts of constitutionally questionable executions suggest that the decision's implementation has been uneven. This project explores the gap between Atkins' promise and its implementation by examining the unique legal category created by the decision—the intellectually disabled capital defendant. A product of competing cultural categories, this offender exists in the intersection of rhetoric surrounding intellectual disability—an eternal childhood—and contemporary penal and executable subject constructions—rational and othered. These constructions represent three disparate categories, yet confronting the intellectually disabled capital defendant requires their integration. Subjecting capital cases involving an Atkins claim to latent content analysis, I plan to explore this delicate balance as a complicating mechanism of the decision's implementation. Focusing on how law understands Atkins claimants and their crimes will contribute to better understanding the implementation of Atkins and the cultural meaning of modern punishment.

Anjuli Verma is a doctoral student in UCI’s Department of Criminology, Law and Society. Her primary research interests pertain to the sociology of punishment, with an emphasis on examining how law, organizational behavior and legacies of mass incarceration within the U.S. have shaped emerging prison downsizing measures, such as California’s recent “Public Safety Realignment.” She serves on the advisory board for Justice Strategies, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to providing analysis and solutions to advocates and policymakers pursuing more humane and cost-effective approaches to criminal justice and immigration reform. Before graduate school, she worked as a policy advocate and communications strategist on drug policy and criminal justice reform issues at the American Civil Liberties Union. She earned a B.A. in Political and Social Thought from the University of Virginia and during college interned at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama and the National Indian Human Rights Commission in New Delhi.

My Peterson Fellowship project contains two interlocking components, which will culminate in two separate manuscript submissions to leading scholarly journals in the sociolegal studies and criminology fields. The first is a qualitative content analysis of organizational documents produced by California county-level criminal justice officials in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s prison downsizing order in Brown v. Plata (2011) and the enactment of state legislation known as “Public Safety Realignment.” I analyze these documents as artifacts of a legal meaning-making process in which counties with divergent historical levels of reliance on incarceration produced divergent interpretations of the same legal mandate. This article will contribute to the law and society scholarship on legal translation processes, primarily through synthesizing the punishment and society and law and organizations literatures, as well as by introducing the historical concept of “legacies” to examinations of how local actors translate legal mandates into everyday practice. The second is a statistical analysis tracing counties’ multiple developmental pathways to current imprisonment levels in the decade leading up to Plata and Realignment (2000-2009). This article will produce quantitative insights crucial to contextualizing future changes in imprisonment rates in a post-Plata and post-Realignment era because they allow us to properly situate year-to-year fluctuations within significant historical imprisonment trajectories.


Alyse Bertenthal is a second year Ph.D. student in the Department of Criminology, Law & Society.  She has a law degree from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. in Literature from Yale University.  Prior to graduate school, she served as a judicial law clerk on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States District Court for the Central District of California, and worked as an attorney for the ACLU.  Alyse’s current research interests include dispute transformation, legal consciousness, and the relationship of law, language, and society.

Every year more than 7,000 non-criminal appeals are filed in California state courts.  The number of appeals is a significant court statistic, yet there exists virtually no research on individuals who appeal or why they decide to reassert a claim after previously unsuccessful legal experiences.  In this project, I will conduct a detailed exploration of the claims that emerge as appellate issues, and will ask how litigants and legal professionals jointly construct the meaning of these claims.  Using data from a California state court self-help clinic in which litigants and attorneys discuss potential appeals, I plan to investigate the discursive practices used by clinic participants to construct legal meaning and understanding of the law’s role in resolving disputes.  This study will contribute to an expanded model of the dispute transformation process, and has implications for rethinking the production of legal knowledge in terms of communicative interaction and social activity.

Nathan Coben is a second-year Ph.D. student in the department of anthropology at UC Irvine. Nathan received his BA in History from UC Berkeley in 2007 and his MA in Folklore from UC Berkeley in 2011. His folklore research looked at narratives about crime, economic crises, and urbanism in the context of a California “new town”. His current and future research examines property in the Republic of Ireland.

This project explores the socio-legal construction of the estate in the Republic of Ireland. As a category, the estate confounds easy distinctions between public law about sovereignty and private law about property. Understanding the historical development of the estate is crucial in articulating contemporary relationships between property and politics in Ireland. I will study archival material on the granting of estates during the imposition of colonial English Common Law in Ireland. My goal is to produce a study with these archival accounts that emphasizes the legal practices constituting the estate as a problematic site of sovereignty and property. As the state currently attempts to register and tax all the property in its territory as part of austerity measures, it is apparent that the genealogical relationship between property and the state must be rigorously examined. I intend to produce a manuscript for publication in a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary law and society journal.

Jennifer Henry spent her childhood in Fort Collins, Colorado. After attending Macalester College, she began her career at the Sonoma County Economic Development Board in Santa Rosa, California, and continued at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce in Saint Paul, Minnesota before returning to California for law school at UCI. She is in her third and final year of law school and has spent her summers interning in Washington, D.C. at the Federal Communications Commission and Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law with its Community Development Project. She is fascinated by master-planned communities like Irvine and hopes to become a professor someday.

This project will analyze the history and development of Irvine, a master-planned community in California. Irvine’s uniform character owes much to the Irvine Company, a private real estate developer with massive land holdings and a commitment to community design. Because the Irvine Company owns so much land, and tends to lease land to businesses and residents of Irvine rather than selling, the company retains a great deal of control over what activity takes place on the land. This project will focus on the ways in which the Irvine Company contributes to the organization of space in and around the city, much like a local government. The project’s analysis will contribute to a larger discussion surrounding the distinction between public and private, which some scholars assert is meaningless while others insist it has essential meaning that differentiates between public and private space, public and private bodies of law, and public and private entities.

Sheiba Kian Kaufman is a third year doctoral student in English literature. Her research focuses on cosmopolitanism and literary representations of and understandings between the Christian West and its Eastern neighbors—particularly Persia—in the early modern period of 1558-1714.  Her interdisciplinary approach to interreligious embraces in literature strives to discover alternative modes of edifying dialogue that is conducive to an age of global consciousness and citizenship. She has a B.A. in English from UCLA and an M.St. in English Literature 1550-1780 from Oxford. Her service and humanitarian efforts include translating for Asylum Welcome, Oxford, and coordinating with Amnesty International representatives to bring Education Under Fire, an national campaign dedicated to promoting  international human rights and access to higher education, to UCI.

This project investigates the socio-legal configurations of interreligious and intercultural diplomatic interactions in the early modern period of 1558-1714. To this end, this paper explores depictions of hospitality and diplomacy between Europeans and Persians in the English Renaissance play, The Travels of the Three English Brothers (1607). In the play, Anthony Sherley—fictionalized ambassador par excellence—meets Shah Abbas I of Persia and implores, “Our sins are all alike; why not our God?” Curiously, the Englishman’s interfaith inquiry, his leap of faith, is left unanswered. This paper aims to elucidate the intent and context of such a provocative socio-religious question and uncover its ramifications for our society today. By reading literature through the lens of global citizenship, this project aims to contribute to early modern and religious studies and in turn support our evolving understanding of present day interfaith initiatives.