001_1Chris receiving the Distinguished Teaching Award, 2009

Chris has taught undergraduate courses at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Brown University, and the University of California, Davis and graduate courses at the University of California, Davis. While at UMass Amherst, Chris received two departmental teaching awards and one university-wide teaching award. While at UC Davis, she received two teaching fellowships. Her student evaluations have included the comments “Chris Smith for president” and “This class was amazing. It changed my life.”

In addition to the courses listed below, Chris has developed and taught research methods workshops on social network analysis, given talks on teaching strategies to graduate students and faculty, and worked as a research consultant developing training materials on applied social network analysis for criminal justice practitioners.



Criminology explores theories of crime and crime measurement in the US context. We apply theories and analyze official crime data in our quest to understand why crime has been dramatically decreasing since the mid-1990s. Our investigation includes units on guns, drugs, the family, immigration, economics, neighborhoods, policing, and punishment. This is a team-based learning course.

What UC Davis students said about the course:

“It’s been a real honor and pleasure to work with you. Even when it was a hard class, I really enjoyed it and I can tell that this was one of the best courses I’ve ever taken (and it’s now 5 years in the University!). Thank you for you effort and for encouraging us to do it better. I won’t forget it and I can tell that you made me more interested in Criminology!”

“I have never been one to really do rough drafts and then seriously analyze my paper for errors before conducting a final draft but this experience has totally changed that! I know the paper is short but I love that I have learned how much of a difference it makes when you pay attention to detail and apply those things when writing your final paper. … I know that it is still early in the quarter, but I have already learned a lot from this class and from you, especially. Thank you for being a great instructor and being passionate about what you do! It does not go unnoticed.”

“The strongest feature of the course was the very well-organized structure of the weekly activities. Every time we went into class, we knew right away what to expect out of each class period and how to prepare. Another strong feature that surprisingly helped was the team discussion aspect; I learned so much through collaborating and discussing with my team members, more than I would take away on my own studying. Lastly, what I loved the most was how the TA and Prof Smith was very approachable; this class became one of my favorites because of not just how much I was learning, but also the fact that Professor Smith and TA made themselves readily available for questions and were very clear in their answers and feedback.”

“Team based learning was a great experience, I learned from others and taught as well. Great course and wonderful teacher.”

“…thank you for making Poster Day part of your class. …. I appreciate the opportunity you have given us, that we might not always receive in the classroom setting, to develop a part of our professional and personal selves.”

“…the research, the paper, the poster, and the presentation–I would do it again. While I discovered so much about crime in general and my research in particular, I did it simultaneously to learning about myself. Plus, it felt great to experience the behind-the-scenes of conducting and presenting real, relevant data.”

The Criminal Justice System


The Criminal Justice System examines four components of the criminal justice system: policing, prosecution, punishment, and parole. Across these components, we will ask: What does the criminal justice system look like? How is it organized? What are the different institutions involved? Who are the actors embedded within and across institutions? How is the system maintained? How do systems change?

What UC Davis students said about the course:

“…your class has truly changed the trajectory of my career and what difference I hope to make in the lives of those around me.”

“I think the professor was really great and helpful. When someone actually likes what they are teaching it shows and it makes the students want to be more engaged. I never realized how much teachers made a difference in how well students do in the course. The fact that the profesor changed it up all the time helps because I felt like every learning style could and would benefit from her teaching style. The discussion were always interesting. The group work helped. The fact that our paper was done in small sections at a time helped tremendously because we were able to get great feedback from the TA’s and our classmates which was great.”

“I went into this class thinking about how the criminal justice system is, but now I’ve learned so much more about how policy, bias, conditions, and organizations influence matters in the criminal justice system a certain way.”

Gender & Crime


Men commit more crime, experience greater criminal justice contact, and are more likely to be victims of violence than women. The gender gap is the largest demographic disparity in crime, and some scholars have called the gender gap in crime “universal.” This course examines the gender gap in crime by focusing on how masculinity and femininity shape and are shaped by offending, victimization, and prosecution and how gender and crime differences are compounded by race, class, sexual orientation, nation, and migration status. Starting with historical criminological theories of difference, this course will focus on the following contemporary topics: gendered offending patterns, differences, pathways, street masculinities and femininities, gender-based violence, and gendered forms of punishment.

What UC Davis students said about the course:

“I want to thank Chris for her uplifting support, guiding us into brainstorming, discussions, and collaborations, provoking us not in a punishing manner but rather stimulating and enlightening.”

“Thank you so much this quarter. This class was a wonderful end to my undergrad career. Thank You, Chris!”

“I took Chris’s class because her Criminology class was one of my favorite. This class and professor helped solidify so many sociological concepts that many other sociology classes I’ve taken did not.”

What UMass students said about the course:

“Chris was one of the best instructors I have had. We had innovative assignments, received very in-depth feedback on our assignments, and could always reach her in person or via email.”

“I also learned a lot and felt comfortable in her classroom.”

Criminal Networks: From Al Capone to Al-Qaeda (Online)


Criminal networks is a perspective that examines how people are connected in order to explain group offending, peer influence, and structures of crime and victimization. Students will learn basic social network analysis concepts and apply them to topics such as the Chicago mob, white-collar crime, street gangs, global trafficking, and terrorist cells.

What UMass students said about the course:

“Just noticed that your voice sounds eerily similar to Sarah Koenig, the woman who hosts the Serial podcast produced by WBEZ Chicago and This American Life.”

“Highly knowledgeable in her field and very personable.”

Urban Crime & Policing


Crime has declined in the United States since the 1990s. However, cities have not experienced the crime decline equally, and crime concentrates in particular neighborhoods within cities. Drawing from sociology, criminology, and history, this course engages theories of crime and policing across and within urban centers; examines the consequences of fear of crime in U.S. cities; and considers the lived experiences of youth, families, community members, and police navigating crime in urban centers. In-depth topics include: perceptions of crime, disorder, underground economies, neighborhood organization, gangs, violence, organized crime, interactions with police, and incarceration and parole. Throughout the semester we will concurrently use the city of Providence as a case to gather and analyze data in order to test and generate crime and policing theories.

What Brown students said about the course:

“This course helped me develop my interview skills, analysis, and how to interpret raw data. I believe that throughout the course, I grew as a class participant.”

“Chris was one of my favorite professors in my four years at Brown. We had a relatively large class and she managed to engage everyone in discussion. She was incredibly supportive and responsive to our ideas and concerns. I couldn’t have asked for a better note on which to end my undergraduate experience.”

“Also, Chris reminds me of a younger Rachel Maddow, which is one of the highest compliments I can pay.”

“She is intelligent, approachable, and effective. I want to be her when I grow up.”

Social Networks: Theories & Applications (Graduate)


This seminar explores the historical foundations, theoretical traditions, and contemporary applications of social networks in sociology. Social network perspectives prioritize the interdependence among social actors, view the social world as patterns or regularities in relationships, and focus on how relationships affect networked actors’ behavior and outcomes. Our seminar will read widely across substantive areas in sociology on families, organizations, neighborhoods, health, crime, peers, politics, social movements, and technology to develop a broader and deeper understanding of how network processes such as social capital, embeddedness, diffusion, homophily, and power impact the social world.

What UC Davis graduate students said about the course:

“Prof. Smith is fantastic! She made the seminar extremely fluid and stimulating. While I do not have a background in Sociology, prof. Smith presented the material in a very clear way and her selection of readings was just perfect! I am very glad to have been able to take this seminar and I hope to take more classes from Prof. Smith in the future.”

“I am so glad I enrolled for this course, as I think it provided me a valuable framework to think relationally. The readings were fascinating, and I loved our Wednesday morning discussions. I deeply appreciate the creative flexibility Chris brought to this course, by allowing us to choose our own readings for the last few weeks of the quarter, and encouraging us to do better with her very thoughful and detailed feedback on each of our assignments. The easy flow of conversation interlaced with humor and positive energy made learning fun. Thank you Chris for an amazing quarter!”