Our Team

Dr. William Umphres, Director, Associate Professor of Political Science

Dr. William Umpres Headshot

William P. Umphres, Ph.D is a political theorist whose research focuses on norms of deliberation, theories of inclusion, and questions of equality and inequality in democratic institutions. His teaching focus covers the intersections of Law, Politics and Society, with emphasis on Political Theory and Constitutional Law. He challenges students to understand the structural dynamics of politics, re-examine fundamental assumptions about the nature and legitimacy of political institutions, and to participate in the ongoing process of constructing the “We” of “We the People.” 
Professor Umphres earned his Ph.D from the University of Virginia, where his dissertation addressed the legitimacy of the use of religious and non-shared reasons and justifications in political discourse. He has published in prominent journals such as “Constellations” and “Political Theory.” His publications engage questions about how democratic processes of debate and deliberation can yield inclusive outcomes that uphold democratic norms of equality and self-government. His current research project builds on this work, deploying a systems-focused view of democratic deliberation to articulate a normative case for the importance of silence, listening, and the ceding of deliberative space amongst historically privileged groups.  
In the classroom, Professor Umphres teaches courses in the History of Political Thought, Law and Society, Constitutional Law, and Courts and Judicial Politics. In these classes, he invites students to explore the theoretical and historical underpinnings of central aspects of the American Legal and Constitutional regime. Core ideas like human nature, the purpose of politics, freedom, equality and inequality, free speech, the nature and purpose of punishment, freedom of religion, freedom from religion, separation of powers, and executive privilege are examined in detail. Problems of racial and gender inequality, mass incarceration, access to goods such as healthcare, basic income, and courts are discussed and debated. Throughout, these theoretical concepts are tied back to specific manifestations in the American political context. Students are encouraged to apply these ideas to their lives as citizens.  

Erin Saul, Community Outreach Specialist at Cincinnati Children's  

Erin Saul headshot.

Erin Saul currently manages a collective impact initiative at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital called Joining Forces for Children. At its core, Joining Forces for Children is a coalition of 50+ organizations across Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky working to build a movement to address the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adverse Community Environments (ACEs) on children, families, and communities. Erin first learned about ACEs and toxic stress while working at a sexual violence prevention and advocacy agency in Portland, Maine. Since then, she’s been working to bring strengths-based, community driven solutions to the forefront of the conversation on ACEs and toxic stress. Erin earned her bachelor’s degree from Denison University where she majored in Political Science. She is working on a Master of Business Leadership and Innovation degree at Northern Kentucky University and expects to graduate in the summer of 2022. Erin serves on several nonprofit boards including UpSpring and Mission2Move, and she was recently named Cincinnati Children’s Hospital 2020 Young Professional of the Year.

Lonnie D. Jennings, Leadership Team Member

Lonnie Jennings headshot.

Lonnie D. Jennings (he/him/his) graduated from UC with a degree in Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Lonnie's current research interests include topics such as antiracism and the effects of marginalization. Beginning in 2020, Lonnie has been working with the University of Cincinnati's Center for Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation (UC TRHT). Within his role at the center, Lonnie manages social media content and co-facilitates trainings. Lonnie co-created and co-facilitates the Radical ALLI Training workshop. The Radical ALLI Training is meant to assist participants through interactive exercises topics such as radical empathy and standpoint epistemology.

Lakisha Clinton, Graduate Research Assistant

Lakisha Clinton is pursuing her MPA- SJ specializing in CyberSecurity Policy. Concurrently, Clinton works in the BusinessManagement Division of The US Army Corps of Engineers.

Clinton’s prior experience includes serving as a ComplianceSpecialist at Perkins Coie LLP; a Legislative Assistant for StateSenator Lena C. Taylor in Wisconsin; and, as a HumanResources Analyst for The Wisconsin Physicians Service.

Clinton earned her BA with Honors in Political Science as well as her Certificate In Ethnic Studies from University of Wisconsin, Platteville.