Kenneth Mentor

 

 

 

Dr, Kenneth Mentor / Lejeune Education Center / 910-859-3460 / mentork@uncw.edu

 

 

 

 

My path to UNCW began as an undergraduate at Central Michigan University, where I fell in love with a girl from Wilmington. I was not ready for adulthood and addicted to snow skiing at the time. My priorities were clear though, so I hitchhiked to Colorado to become a parking lot attendant (with a season pass). More like running off to the circus, but this was a great experience. This was followed by marriage, a CMU Master’s Degree in Social Psychology, another move to Colorado, and our first of two children. I was working as a ski instructor, skiing over 200 days per year and enjoying the experience. However, law school had always been a goal, and parenthood is a good motivator. We headed to Syracuse University to experience law school, a graduate assistantship, the Adirondack Mountains, and the nation’s top ranked policy school.

The law school’s “Public Interest Law Firm” provided an opportunity to work on cases involving patient privacy, environmental impact statements, policy regarding HIV positive prisoners, and a statewide mental health system that was destroying lives based on poorly formed determinations of “mental illness” vs. “intellectual disability.” A great experience, and our clients prevailed in every case, but I learned it is very difficult to use the law as a tool for social change.

Reservations about the law, and positive experiences as a ski instructor, motivated a move toward teaching. The next step was the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, where I earned my Ph.D. in Social Science.  Coursework was completed simultaneously for the J.D and Ph.D, followed by a dissertation examining the role of law offices funded by the Legal Services Corporation. Prior to UNCW, my teaching positions have been in departments of public administration, sociology, and criminal justice. Presentations and publications have been diverse, including peer reviewed papers in the fields of law, public policy, organizational development, dispute resolution, psychology, criminal justice, and online learning. The latter has been a primary interest, with numerous papers and presentations during nearly 20 years as an online educator.

I am still addicted to snow skiing. I have also learned that everything and everyone is connected. The sociological imagination is active when talking with random chairlift partners from around the world. Criminology is part of the mix when the conversation turns to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. The sociological imagination provides a way of examining and understanding social life, including ways in which each of us are conditioned by social forces. How do social structures influence and define individual experiences? How do these collective experiences define society? A social science education has also allowed me to understand the patterns of power and hierarchy that became so clear in law school. The “war on drugs,” climate change, inequality, the global economy, and other social problems are just that - social problems. As it turns out, an understanding of the social world can be a very powerful tool for change.

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