Kyla Bender-Baird is a visiting assistant professor of legal studies and sociology. Her research examines the ways in which law produces identities and shapes institutional experiences. Bender-Baird’s projects seek to bring the perspectives of trans people to inform broader understanding of workplace inequality and legal consciousness. In doing so, her research provides new insights into how people in the U.S. think of law, legitimacy and social change. 

Areas of Expertise

Law & Society, Trans Studies, Sociology of Gender and Sexuality


2021 — Doctor of Philosophy from City Univ of New York

2008 — Master of Science from Towson University

2006 — Bachelor of Arts from Principia College

Courses Recently Taught

This course examines the law, legal profession and legal institutions from a variety of traditional social-science perspectives. The primary frames of reference are sociological and social psychological. The objective of the course is to expose students to a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives on law and to encourage the examination of law-related phenomena through the literature of multiple disciplines. Topics to be covered include law as a social institution, law as a social-control mechanism, a history of law in the United States, the U.S. criminal justice system, philosophies of law, law and psychology, comparative legal cultures, and law and social change. This survey course is intended to encourage and facilitate a critical study of law in society and serve as a foundation from which to pursue the study of law and legal issues in other curricular offerings. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. This is required for the law and society concentration. No prerequisite. Sophomore standing. Offered every fall.

This course has been designed as a discussion course with a series of mini-research assignments. The course focuses on the role and contributions of sociology and the social sciences to the conceptualization of law and legal policymaking. Course materials will draw upon research performed primarily within the context of the American civil and criminal justice system. We also will examine some prevalent notions about what law is or should be, legal behavior and practices, and justifications for resorting to law to solve social problems. Through the use of mini-research assignments, students will gain an appreciation for the complexity and far-reaching impact that the social sciences have upon social policymaking and legal policymaking as well as the difficulty of determining or measuring law and its impact. This course is highly recommended for students participating in the John W. Adams Summer Scholars Program in Socio-legal Studies. This counts toward the methods requirement for the sociology major as equivalent to SOCY 271. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. No prerequisite. Sophomore standing. Offered every other year.

This upper-level seminar offers students in the concentration an opportunity to integrate the various topics and approaches to which they were exposed in the law-related courses they have taken. Each year, the senior seminar is designed around a specific substantive theme or topic. The themes as well as the format and approach to the course change from year to year, depending upon the faculty members teaching the course and their interests. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. Permission of instructor required. Offered spring semester every year.

This introductory course explores the collective foundations of individual identity within the American experience. In what sense is the self essentially social? How are changes in identity attributable to the organization of experience throughout life? What are the effects of gender, race and social class on consciousness? How have changes in American industrial capitalism shaped the search for self-worth? In what ways have science and technology altered our relationship to nature? What challenges to identity are posed by emerging events in American history, including immigration and the African diaspora? How has the very advent of modernity precipitated our preoccupation with the question "Who am I?" Situated as we are in a farming community, we consider these questions of identity through an examination of local rural society. Students conduct group research projects to connect our ideas to everyday life. Students may take only one introductory-level course. This counts toward the foundation requirement for the major. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. No prerequisite.

Our common sense tells us that certain acts are "wrong"; that particular persons who engage in them are "deviant." But common sense suggests little about how and why a particular act or actor comes to be understood in this way. The objective of this course is to explore the significance of deviance and crime within social life. We carry the distinction between being different, being deviant and being criminal throughout the semester. This course provides a substantial introduction to criminology, with consideration of the social characteristics of offenders and victims, crime rates and various justifications of punishment. This course should be of interest to students within many majors who are concerned with theoretical, practical and ethical questions concerning the concepts of good and evil as foundations of human society. Prerequisite: 100-level sociology course. Offered every other year.

Social life is saturated by sexuality in unstable and disjointed ways. From advertisements that promote the use of sexual enhancement pharmaceuticals to laws restricting access to safe and healthy sexual encounters, the sociocultural framing of sexuality is unequal and often illogical. This course examines sexualities as they are constructed, experienced and regulated across multiple social contexts and institutions. We explore the social history of sexuality and the evolution of its framing in contemporary society; lived experiences of those labeled or identifying as sexual minorities; privileges associated with hegemonic sexual identity categories; the ongoing sociopolitical regulation of sexual bodies, communities and desires; and the history of social activism centered on sexual minorities. Prerequisite: 100-level sociology course.

This course is for advanced students. See online searchable schedule for further description. Prerequisites: permission of instructor and department chair.