Learn by Doing Fund

Donate to the Political Science Department

Meet the New Faculty

Coleen Carrigan, Ph.D.

Coleen Carrigan

Coleen Carrigan, a feminist anthropologist, joined the Social Sciences Department faculty in fall 2014 as an assistant professor of gender, race, culture, science and technology. She hails from Massachusetts and, even after living on the West Coast for many years, still has traces of a Boston accent. Her first job was in her parents’ bookstore, Notes & Quotes.

As an undergraduate, Carrigan focused on women’s studies and English, and interned full time at the Women’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. She was an executive at a Seattle-based corporation during the boom and then earned a master’s in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Washington for ethnographic research on gender and race in Brazilian quilombos, communities founded in resistance to slavery. Funded by the American Association of University Women, her dissertation investigated cultures of high-tech knowledge production and women’s lived experiences as marginalized members of computing fields.

As a faculty member in Cal Poly’s College of the Liberal Arts, Carrigan is committed to creating new knowledge with peers and students, contributing to the advancement of justice in science and technology, and sharing her ethnographic findings in journal publications, grant proposals, public presentations, short films, facilitated workshops and, most recently, a book in preparation. This academic year, she will help launch a new interdisciplinary minor in the CLA Science, Technology & Society Minors Program called Gender, Race, Culture, Science and Technology.

As a child she visited San Luis Obispo and swore that one day she would live in California. Now here, she enjoys exploring the phenomenal beaches and independent bookstores, getting to know new folks, learning to surf, and continuing her love affair with the novel. She lives with her dog Frida and takes pride in being a caring daughter, sister, friend, granddaughter, educator and aunt.


Robert Schaeffer, Ph.D.

Robert Schaeffer

A California native, Robert Schaeffer grew up in Berkeley and went to college at UC Santa Cruz. He completed a doctorate from Binghamton University in New York, where he studied sociology from a historical, world-system perspective and wrote his dissertation on pirates, sailors and the Great Mutinies of 1797.

Schaffer worked for many years as a journalist for nonprofit and environmental organizations — Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace — and lived in Chicago, Boston, Maine, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. He taught for some years at San Jose State University and then Kansas State University, before joining the faculty here at Cal Poly last fall as a senior sociology scholar.

Schaeffer is the author of 10 books on global problems, and he has written extensively about partition and war, globalization, democratization, women and work, environmental issues, social movements, and global social change. He is currently revising his book, “Understanding Globalization,” for a fifth edition. At Cal Poly, he teaches classes on comparative societies, international political economy, social movements and organizations. 

He lives in San Luis Obispo with his wife Torry Dickinson, who teaches women’s studies at Kansas State, a Bernese Mountain Dog named Indigo, and a deaf cat named Sam.


Unique Shaw-Smith, Ph.D.

Unique Shaw-Smith

Unique Shaw-Smith, also known as Dr. U, earned her doctorate in sociology from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Her areas of expertise include criminology and social psychology.

Before embarking on her college career, Shaw-Smith knew that she wanted to study criminal justice so that she could try to understand why most, if not all, of the men in her family had cycled in and out of jail or prison. During her undergraduate studies at Cal State Chico, she became discontent with her decision to study criminal justice, as it provided only a practical and operational view of “the system.” She expressed her concerns to a professor, explaining that she was interested in understanding the why — (why certain groups, particularly low-income racial minorities, were disproportionately impacted by the system) and she was directed to sociology.

Shaw-Smith’s research interests have primarily centered on incarceration, specifically the effects of having a parent incarcerated. She has examined the timing, frequency and duration of parental incarceration on a variety of outcomes. More recently, she has directed her attention to examining how social and political activism within communities of color impact change in police accountability and use of force.

She has taught courses at Bowling Green State University, Brown Mackie College, and California Baptist University. In addition to her personal research endeavors, Shaw-Smith has conducted quantitative research for the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study, the Center for Demographic Research, and the County of Riverside’s Department of Social Services.

Shaw-Smith is a first generation college student and a trailblazer for her family, who still largely reside in inner-city Oakland. She has one child, Seviin. She describes herself as a feminist, an activist, a poet and a seeker of truth. Her favorite quote is from Dr. Benjamin Chavis, “You can have whatever you can take, but you can only keep what you can hold.”

Related Content