September 20, 2011
Serving justice: Alumna to discuss work for civil rights division of U.S. Department of Justice
Kristy Parker, a Kansas State University alumna, will discuss her work for the federal agency in charge of protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans in two lectures during a visit to Manhattan.
Parker, a 1991 magna cum laude history graduate of K-State and now deputy chief of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, will present the lecture "Kristy Parker, for the United States: Behind the Scenes at the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division" Thursday, Oct. 6, and Friday, Oct. 7.
Parker's Oct. 6 lecture is part of a dinner the K-State Women's Studies Advisory Board is hosting in her honor at the Landon Room in the Holiday Inn at the Campus, 1641 Anderson Ave. Tickets, which are $45 for the general public and $35 for students, are available by calling the women's studies office at 785-532-5738. Tickets must be purchased by Oct. 3. The event includes a cash bar at 5:30 p.m., followed by the dinner and the lecture beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The Oct. 7 lecture will be at 12:30 p.m. in Hemisphere Room at K-State's Hale Library, with a reception to follow. Both the lecture and reception are free and open to the public. The lecture is co-sponsored by the Women’s Studies Advisory Board, the department of history, K-State Libraries, Phi Beta Kappa and the K-State honors program.
While at K-State, Parker was named a Rhodes Scholar and a Truman Scholarship winner. She also was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest academic honor society. Parker went on to earn a doctorate in modern history from Oxford University, and a juris doctor from Harvard Law School, where she graduated cum laude. Parker served as a law clerk for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and has practiced constitutional law with the Department of Justice for 13 years. In 1998, Parker joined the department's Civil Division through the Attorney General's Honors Program and litigated constitutional tort suits. She joined the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division in 2002, became a special litigation counsel in 2008 and deputy chief in 2010.
While with the criminal section, she has successfully prosecuted multiple hate crimes, including United States v. Fredericy, et al., in which the defendants placed liquid mercury on the front porch of an interracial family's home in a bid to drive them out of their neighborhood; police abuse cases, including United States v. Sydnor, et al., in which a group of jailers conspired to punish an 18-year-old traffic offender by placing him in a cell with convicted felons who were primed to rape him; and human trafficking cases, including United States v. Kaufman, which involved a 20-year conspiracy in which the proprietors of a group home for mentally ill adults subjected their patients to forced sexual labor.
In 2009, Parker was named the top prosecutor of the year by the Women in Federal Law Enforcement for her work on United States v. Sydnor, and she received the Civil Rights Division's Walter Barnett Memorial Award for Excellence in Advocacy in 2010.
Parker says that the people who are most successful in her field must understand how gender, race and class work in our society, and that people with backgrounds in women's studies and more generally, the liberal arts, are particularly well suited to this kind of work. She also says that law students who are interested in social change often gravitate toward legal aid organizations or interest groups that impact legislation, like Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the American Civil Liberties Union. But government in general, and criminal prosecution and defense in particular, are also avenues by which the law can function as an effective vehicle for social change, according to Parker.
Parker's visit is being organized and supported by the Women’s Studies Advisory Board, which is composed of alumnae and local business, government, academic and community leaders. It was founded by Julie Hostetler in 2009 to support the mission of the K-State women's studies program.
In spring 2011, after a successful fundraising campaign, the board awarded its first Women's Studies Advisory Board Endowed Scholarship for Academic Excellence in Women's Studies to Chrischelle Borhani, the outstanding junior in women's studies major. Borhani, who is also majoring in modern languages, is from Manhattan. In addition to funding the scholarship, the board has established the Women's Studies Advisory Board Lecture Series to provide a venue to distinguished speakers who will educate students and community members about women's achievements, issues and the benefits of women's studies. Parker is the third speaker in this lecture series.