When asked to describe her research interests, Professor Angela Hawken laughs and says, "I tend to attract to misery in general. I'm very interested in poor countries, in particular issues relating to corruption and to health care, and I'm fascinated by the criminal mind. I want to better understand criminals who do terrible, terrible things and I expect to spend much more time in prisons. We have to get better at dealing with these people."
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Growing up in South Africa, health issues, especially HIV/ AIDS, figured prominently in her thinking. "I have known people and colleagues who have died of AIDS. It is so widespread in South Africa." She continues to work both in Los Angeles and South Africa on projects related to AIDS and looks forward to Pepperdine working with a National Institutes of Health grant on AIDS later this year.
She finds that students' lives are often changed by their immersion in purposeful work, so she encourages students to identify issues affecting vulnerable populations.
Hawken has herself taken 15 students with her to the Republic of Georgia to work with esteemed organizations. She explains, "Now, in the South Caucasus, people know who Pepperdine is and it's going to grow to other parts of the world. We won't recognize this program in 10 years. The investments will pay off not just with our students but also through the organizations working with our students."
In 2003, Hawken was hired as the lead economist on a statewide evaluation of an alternative-sentencing law. The study showed that the state saves money by providing treatment rather than incarcerating for certain drug offenders.
Always thinking of her students, Hawken offered research opportunities to public policy students like Travis Bunch (MPP '05). "Assisting in the cost analysis of Proposition 36 with Professor Hawken, I was able to work side-by-side with leading researchers in the field of drug policy, analyze multiple datasets, and incorporate lessons learned in the classroom into my research," Bunch recalls.
"It has always been important for me to be able to plot my own course," she says, "doing interesting things inside and outside of the classroom is very appealing."