The status quo has a worthy opponent in Kimya N. Dennis, ’99.

“I was raised in a household where you challenged the establishment,” the Richmond native said. “You were a respectful challenger, but you still challenged it.”

That includes her undergraduate alma mater. When a 1980 UR yearbook featuring an image of an African American student with a noose around his neck received media attention, Dennis posted her opinion of the incident — an incident that was also quickly condemned by the university — on social media, leading to her being interviewed by various news outlets.

“[T]his is an example of how a lot of people are not accustomed to having these honest discus-sions,” she told The Collegian.

Her work mirrors that philosophy. An associate professor of criminology at Notre Dame of Maryland University, a women’s institution in Baltimore, Dennis researches racial and ethnic disparities, mental health issues, law-enforcement training, and reproductive rights, among other interests.

“I do interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary work that’s primarily focused on community advocacy, so reaching everyday people,” she said. “In order to address why there are so many problems in the systems and institutions, we have to address what humans have done for thousands of years and how they keep trying to challenge freedom.

To ensure her students clearly receive the message, Dennis requires them to do “community visibility work, so they can’t just brag about memorizing textbooks and theories.” She urges her peers in academia to take the same approach.

“One thing I challenge my colleagues to do is not just theorize and research injustice,” Dennis said. “You need to be out there.

“I didn’t get a Ph.D. just to sit around talking to colleagues all day,” she added. “There’s no point in just sitting around complaining when I can actually be doing something.”