Profile Story on Prof. Reed at Virginia Commonwealth University
11/24/15 – Kristen Reed, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, has a deep passion for helping those incarcerated reenter the workforce. This passion stems from her thoughts and ideas of city planning and judicial reform.
Reed moved to Richmond after graduating with her PhD in comparative literature from Indiana University in 2009. While in Indiana, Reed volunteered with a prison literacy program where requests where taken for certain books and those books would be shipped off to the different locations.
Arriving in Richmond Reed stayed busy for the first year but knew that she wanted to get involved with something similar to her volunteer efforts back in Indiana. Nearly a year later her coworker and friend was looking for a fill in for him at an organization, called Defender Aid and Restoration of Richmond, because he was going to be gone for the summer.
Defender Aid and Restoration of Richmond is a nonprofit reentry service to help those currently incarcerated or those recently released.
Reed filled in but once her friend returned she stayed on volunteering.
Recently, Reed has gotten involved with VCU’s Open Mind along side her volunteer work.
The Open Minds program is where VCU classes are taught at the Richmond City county jail. Reed has taught a few seminars there.
Volunteering with both programs ignited an interest in Dr. Reed’s life of judicial reform and city planning. Though she has always been interested in judicial reform it was not until her volunteer efforts did she truly understand it.
“I think when I started getting interested in that it was a surprising thing and I was always interested in judicial reform but I really didn’t understand how criminal justice issues interact with city organization until I moved to Richmond,” she said.
Reed believes both city planning and judicial reform are very closely related and important. She can see how both city planning and judicial reform affect her support groups and those incarcerated trying to get back to a normal life.
“Here in my support group, a lot of what we talked about like how to find a job when there’s no bus that goes to where the job is, or how to find housing in an area that has easy access to all the services you need,” Reed said.
In and outside of the class room Reed has influenced many people she encounters. She’s not easily forgotten. Many of her previous students remember her to this day and still interact with her.
One previous student, Casey Bryant, spoke of how Reed’s teachings in her Focus Inquiry class were more than a well-written paper. Bryant spoke of how Reed challenged them and taught them to be successful. Reed’s teachings helped Bryant in her future classes.
“When I went into UNIV 200, the rest of the students in my class struggled with the paper we had to do and said they never really learned anything in Focus Inquiry and that their professors never challenged them,” Bryant said.
Reed has left an unforgettable experience with multiple people in her life, from her college students to those trying to find their place in the world again.