New CWB Senior Scholar: Dr. Angela Hattery

by Whitney Hopler, Communications Director

New CWB Senior Scholar: Dr. Angela Hattery
Dr. Angela Hattery

Angela Hattery, Ph.D., Professor and Director of Mason’s Women and Gender Studies Program, has joined our center as a senior scholar. As a sociologist, her research and teaching focus on the ways social structures and social inequality impact life chances and the ability to thrive. She is the author of 11 books, most recently, Gender, Power and Violence: Responding to Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence Today (2019) and Policing Black Bodies: How Black Lives are Surveilled and How to Work for Change (2018) and more than 50 book chapters and peer reviewed articles. Her most recent research focuses on the relationships between inmates and staff in solitary confinement units.

“Angie brings outstanding experience and depth to our well-being work,” says Dr. Nance Lucas, our center’s executive director. “Her expertise in how social inequalities can impact well-being and how people can thrive in diverse communities like Mason is valuable.”

Hattery says that working in the well-being field has long been important to her. “My entire career has been about identifying the structural factors that produce social inequalities, particularly race and gender inequality, and offering recommendations for reducing inequality and I do this work as an empiricist. Mason is one of the most diverse campuses in the United States, and yet we continue to struggle with ensuring that everyone in our community is well. It’s important for me to contribute to the well-being conversation at Mason by bringing cutting-edge, real-world science to bear on our discussions of the intersections of diversity, inequality and well-being.”

Hattery often works with people who are struggling with well-being challenges. "Most of the research that I do is centered on people who are struggling in their lives, women who are struggling to balance work and family, people returning from prison, families living with intimate partner violence. For most of the people I work with, they are struggling with very basic well-being: can I find child care that I can afford so that I can return to work? Should I leave my abusive partner and if so, how do I do that? How can I find a place to live and a job now that I’m out of prison but have a felony record? My goal is to find strategies for improving well-being for people struggling with the most basic level of survival.”

Her most recent research focuses on the experience of solitary confinement on both inmates and staff. "Anyone who spends time in solitary confinement experiences low levels of well-being. My research has revealed some areas of low-hanging fruit that would significantly improve the well-being of both inmates and staff. For example, for reasons that remain inexplicable, inmates in solitary are often limited to having one book at a time, and books can only be exchanged once a week. Reading is one of the best ways to pass the time, so I’m hopeful that we can reform the prisons where we conducted research to remove this obstacle to improved well-being. Similarly, for staff, many work double shifts in order to make ends meet at home. I met one staff member who routinely works 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and then has to be back at work at 6 a.m. the next morning. Because his roundtrip commute is three hours, it doesn’t make sense for him to go home. He can’t afford a hotel room, so he sleeps in his car. One of our proposals is that the prison create a sleeping room with cots and a shower for staff like him. It’s a simple, inexpensive fix that would significantly impact his well-being. And, well-rested, he will be less likely to take out his frustrations on inmates. It is only through empirical research that these kinds of issues can be uncovered and appropriate recommendations be developed.”

Hattery says she’s looking forward to her upcoming work with our center. “The chance to work with such an inspiring faculty and staff who know so much more than me! I can’t wait to start learning and incorporating best practices and informed science to my own work.”