“A Novel Model of Cocaine Addiction”: An Interview with Crystal Carr, M.S., Ph.D. Candidate

by Kendra R. Parker
Crystal Carr, M.S, is a  Ph.D. Candidate in Biopsychology and a Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. On Thursday, April 18,  Carr will deliver her talk, “Exploring a Novel Model of Cocaine Addiction” in Schaap Auditorium (Science Center), at 11 AM. In today’s interview, Carr discusses her upcoming visit, her research inspirations, and a riveting recommended read.


Welcome back to Hope College, Crystal. Recently,  you were at Hope for Brain Day. What are you most excited to share with students, faculty, staff, and community members who will attend your lecture on Thursday, April 18?

My research findings! I have presented some of the results at conferences, but much of the data I will discuss is new.

What’s your current field of study?

The University of Michigan Psychology Department offers a Ph.D. program in six areas of psychology. I am in the Biopsychology area, which is sometimes referred to as Behavioral Neuroscience. We broadly study brain-behavior relationships (the brain is the biology component and the behavior is the psychology component).

So, you’re in STEM, but as an undergraduate did you minor in Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS), and if so, how did your WGS minor/certificate shape you? If not, how did you come to learn about WGS as an academic discipline and how, if at all, does gender impact your research interests?

I did not minor in WGS, but for those interested, The University of Michigan offers several joint Ph.D. programs, with the option to combine Psychology with Education, Social Work, or Women’s Studies. In fact, a few of my colleagues are in the joint Women’s Studies and Psychology program and have shared their research with me. Though I am not jointly enrolled, I have conducted several sex-difference studies and I will share these results during my lecture.

If this does not give too much away before your lecture, what inspired you to research and write on cocaine addiction?

In short, addiction plagued my family. I consider relapse to be one of the most devastating aspects of addiction and I am interested in understanding the neurobiology in order to assist with treatment development. Unlike many other drugs of abuse, there is currently no approved medication to treat cocaine addiction.

Your talk will be on dangers of cocaine addiction, but I am wondering if you speak on any connections to race or gender and why your research is important for dispelling systemic myths about cocaine usage, addiction, and rehabilitation. 

There was a time when addicts were considered moral failures, with the logic being they could quit doing drugs if they really wanted. Addiction research has shown that addiction is a brain disease–a distinction that is especially important because it affects social and health policies.

What we know is this: repeated drug use results in neuroadaptations that contribute to compulsive drug use and a high propensity to relapse. The “telescope effect” refers to the observation that women typically transition to addiction faster, whereas women are seen for treatment sooner after first use and present with more severe addiction symptomology.  This knowledge and understanding are critical to dispelling stereotypes and myths.

What advice would you give to current Hope students, but Black women students especially, who are enrolled in STEM courses or who are interested in graduate school? Any words of wisdom? 

Great mentorship surely makes a difference!

In undergrad, I completed a plethora of biology courses, a neuroscience course, and even chemistry. While these courses were challenging, they provided a great foundation for my current degree. Although my Bachelor’s of Science degree is in Psychology, I spent a great deal of time in the Biology Department at Tuskegee Insitute, and I established relationships with the faculty, including Dr. Gerald D. Griffin.

So, as we wrap up a bit, tell me—what’s on your bookshelf these days? What’s the one book you recommend that we read—and why? 

For those who are interested in learning more about addiction, I would certainly suggest Dr. Carl Hart’s book, High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society. Hart’s prologue details an experiment he conducted in 1999 that gave “experienced and committed” crack users the choice between a hit of crack cocaine and an alternative reinforcer (five dollars).  Hart paints a vivid scene that ends in an unexpected outcome: after having sampled the dose, the participant, a thirty-nine-year-old Black man who worked as a street bookseller, chose the cash.


We really appreciate Crystal for taking the time to share with us! Intrigued? Want to learn more? Join us tomorrow at 11AM in  Schaap 1000. Crystal’s event is free and open to the public.

WGS and the World: Alumni Interview-Allyson Harper

Meet Our Alumni: Allyson Harper ’14

by Kendra R. Parker

Allyson Harper graduated with a double major in Women’s and Gender Studies and Psychology.  Allyson discusses one of her most formative experiences: organizing the 2014 Gender Issues Conference on Hope’s campus.

What are you doing now? What paths led you to this point?

I am currently the Lead Shelter Advocate at the Center for Women in Transition in Holland, MI, and I have been with the agency since October 2016. While at Hope College, I interned with CWIT in 2013. After my time at the internship, I knew I wanted to work with survivors of domestic violence. I was employed in with some other social work organizations which provided me with the experience necessary to be well-equipped for my current position with CWIT.

So, you majored in WGS. How did your degree shape you? 

I double majored in WGS and Psychology, but honestly, it was not until my senior year of the WGS program that I realized my passion for women’s and gender concerns. I had the opportunity to attend the National Women Studies Association (NWSA) conference in 2013. NWSA was an eye-opener. It made me realize I could make a career out of this work—the interdisciplinarity of Women’s and Gender Studies—and NWSA encouraged me to look into furthering my education with the possibility of a Master’s degree in WGS. Though I have not yet pursued a Masters in Women’s and Gender Studies, I am thankful NWSA; it shaped my approaches to my life and career.

WGS led me to so many of my passions. While at Hope, I was part of the Women’s Issues Organization (WIO),* and  I coordinated multiple Domestic Violence Awareness events during October, which is nationally recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

But the most memorable impact was in 2014 when I organized a day-long Gender Issues Conference for a senior project. The “Gender Issues Conference” (GIC) was a six-hour long conference on Hope’s campus.

This image is the design of the Gender Issues Conference T-Shirt. It was designed by a Hope Student. The first 100 attendees at the Gender Issues Conference received this t-shirt at no cost.

The GIC included presentations from a variety of groups focusing on sexual violence, pregnancy, and disordered eating. Songs Against Slavery presented on sex trafficking; representatives from Holland’s Center for Women in Transition (CWIT)  presented on sexual assault;  Planned Parenthood representatives facilitated a workshop on organizing and activism, and representatives from Lakeshore Pregnancy Center (currently named Positive Options) facilitated an information session on pregnancy resources. Additionally, representatives from Hope’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)  presented on stress, eating disorders, and a healthy diet. The conference ended with a screening of Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women (2010), a documentary focusing on the dehumanizing depictions of women in advertisements.

What advice would you give to current WGS students or students considering WGS as a major or minor?

Use this opportunity to gain as much experience as you can. It will make all the difference. Reach out, go to the events, and just participate. You won’t regret it.

If you could teach any WGS course, what would you title it, who is one person you would include on the syllabus, and why?

I would love to teach a course on domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking.  I don’t have specific people I would include, but it is important to me to include the voices and perspectives of survivors.

What is a WGS book you read–recently or not-so-recently–that you would call your “favorite”? Why?

My most recent favorite is the Hulu documentary Minding the Gapon Hulu. It from the point of view of an adult who witnessed domestic violence and was abused in his home growing up. My other favorite is Killing Us Softly IV.

*The Women’s Issues Organization was rebranded to the Women’s Empowerment Organization (WEO) in 2016. 

Are you a WGS alum who would like to be featured on our blog? Email us! wgs AT hope DOT edu

WGS and the World: Alumni Interview-Dr. Phillip Waalkes

Meet Our Alumni: Dr. Phillip Waalkes ’04

by Kendra R. Parker

Dr. Phillip Waalkes ‘ 04 graduated with a dual major in English and Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies.* Dr. Waalkes is a faculty member at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He credits his Women’s Studies minor as helping him “become more fully [himself].”

What are you doing now? What paths led you to this point?

I am currently an assistant professor in counselor education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. I have taught classes including theories of counseling, helping relationship skills, individual inventories, and multicultural counseling to students seeking to become clinical mental health counselors or school counselors. I am also conducting research on the development of teaching for counselor educators and college access and persistence for first-generation college students, including lower SES students and students of color.

Before becoming a counselor educator, I worked as a school counselor at a rural k-12 school in western North Carolina. During this time, I got to help develop, implement a virtual early college program where our predominantly first-generation college student population could earn up to a two-year associates degree tuition-free and with the innovative structured supports offer by our program (including student lead conferences, career and college planning, a peer mediation program, and college visits).

How did your WGS education shape you?

 I double majored in English and Psychology at Hope with a minor in Women’s Studies. I had numerous excellent professors who taught my Women’s Studies courses, including Dr. Natalie Dykstra, Dr. Julie Kipp, and Dr. Jane Dickie. My minor in Women’s Studies at Hope helped plant seeds to shape me in numerous ways throughout my life. I would be a lesser counselor, teacher, researcher, husband, and friend if it wasn’t for my WGS minor at Hope. It helped me become more humble and more willing to listen to and empathize with the experiences of everyone. It helped me gain more awareness of my privilege that can hamper my openness to the experiences of others because it is difficult to accept the ways I contribute to a system that caused so much suffering. It also helped me see outside of my own perspective and feel more validated in being the kind of man that fit with who I am instead of who our culture says that men should be. Counseling requires skills our culture has stereotypically classified as more feminine like understanding and discussing emotions, listening, and being responsive to the needs of others. It is hard for me to imagine embracing this fulfilling career path without my Women’s Studies minor. In other words, not being as focused on living up to the limiting traditional parameters of masculinity helped me become more fully myself.

What advice would you give to current WGS students or students considering WGS as a major or minor?

 Everyone’s path and life experiences are different, but I would say: Keep an open mind. Think critically about patriarchy and systems of oppression and ways you see them functioning systemically, institutionally, interpersonally, and interpersonally. Question elements of our culture that many privileged people push out of their minds. Examine yourself. Take action. Discover your voice to challenge prejudiced comments or discriminatory practices. Find connection and solidarity with other WGS students.

If you could teach any WGS course, what would you title it, who is one person you would include on the syllabus, and why?

I would love to teach a course called “Unpacking Toxic Masculinity in the Media.” There are so many movies, tv shows, video games–and more–that portray masculinity in narrow and harmful ways. They often encourage men to put their needs ahead of others and disconnect from their emotions and the important relationships in their lives. For example, think of how many romantic comedies portray heterosexual men “getting the girl” after essentially stalking her despite her repeated assertions that she isn’t interested.

What is a WGS book you read–recently or not-so-recently–that you would call your “favorite”? Why?

 This is a tough question, but if I have to choose just one, it would be Alan G. Johnson’s The Gender Knot: Unraveling our Patriarchal Legacy (1997), which I first read at Hope. Johnson’s engaging and persuasive book was a revelation for me; it helped me understand the advantages white heterosexual men have in our culture and how patriarchy helps them keep those advantages at the expense of others.

* The Hope College Women’s and Gender Studies Program went under a formal name change from “Women’s Studies” to “Women’s and Gender Studies” in fall 2014.

Are you a WGS alum who would like to be featured on our blog? Email us! wgs AT hope DOT edu

Meet the WGS Faculty: Dr. Carrie Bredow

How long have you been teaching at Hope College?

This is my 7th year teaching at Hope, my 6th year teaching within the WGS program, and my 2nd year serving as director of Women’s and Gender Studies.

Did you major/minor in WGS, and if so, how did your WGS major/minor/certificate shape you? If not, how did you come to WGS as an academic discipline?

I did not major or minor in WGS, but I wish that I had! Unfortunately, although I took many relevant classes, I did not stumble across WGS as a stand-alone discipline until pretty late in my academic career, making it difficult to complete a formal program. Nevertheless, my interest in gender studies was sparked by several classes that I took as an undergraduate (Psychology and Family Studies double major) and grew during my graduate work in Human Development and Family Science (HDFS).  Through my interdisciplinary training in HDFS I was able to explore the intersections between gender studies/feminist theory and numerous aspects of psychology, sociology, and related fields. It was through this coursework that I discovered my passion for examining psychological issues (including my research on the development and maintenance of romantic relationships) through a gendered (and feminist) lens.

What advice would you give to current WGS students or students considering WGS as a major or minor?

Do it! Women’s and Gender Studies is an incredibly valuable program that is relevant to virtually any career trajectory. Interdisciplinary by nature, it is also very flexible and easy to pair with other majors and minors, providing an analytical framework and skills that can be applied to whatever job(s) and opportunities you end up pursuing. Are you passionate about listening to historically marginalized voices, exploring complex social structures, understanding/confronting injustice and oppression, and honing your ability to interact sensitively with diverse individuals and communities? If so, I encourage you to check out Women’s and Gender Studies here at Hope; send me an email (bredow@hope.edu) and I would love to talk to you more about the program!

If you could teach any WGS course, what would you title it, who is one person you would include on the syllabus, and why?

This is a tricky question, as I really love teaching Psychology of Gender, which I see as a perfect blend of my passion and expertise. But I already teach this course every year so the answer is a bit of a cop-out! If I could teach an additional course I think it would be a class called Gender, Sexuality, & Science that examines the interplay of sex/gender/sexuality and the sciences/social sciences through a feminist lens. There are many individuals who have made important contributions to this topic that I would want to include on the syllabus, including Anne Fausto-Sterling, Sarah Richardson, and Rachel Maines.

What is a WGS book you read–recently or not-so-recently–that you would call your “favorite”? Why?

I have never been good at selecting favorite books, movies, etc., but Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender, bell hooks’s Teaching to Transgress, and Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider are all books that have been particularly influential to my professional and personal development. Several of the essays in The Essential Feminist Reader (edited by Estelle Freedman) also rank among my favorite because they were pivotal to my own “consciousness raising” during undergrad and graduate school.