AshLee Smith
PhD Student
Currently reviewing Ph.D. applicants
Faculty Advisor
Areas of Expertise
Social Policy; Policy Design; Poverty; Inequality, Race, Gender; Child Welfare; Foster Care; Criminal Justice; Qualitative Methods


    AshLee Smith is a Public Policy PhD Candidate in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University Minnesota. 

    AshLee’s primary research interests include social policy at the federal and state level, poverty, inequality, and the intersection between policy design, social control, gender, and race.  In her work, she examines the role of poverty governance in shaping the lives of the vulnerable. As a result of her life experiences in the foster care system, she is passionate about studying public policy and applying my research to the real world surrounding the lives of the vulnerable in the U.S.

    In her dissertation, “The Punished Mother: Essays Examining the Experiences of Mothers living at the Institutional Intersection of Child Protection and Criminal Justice” , she explores the dynamics of interacting punitive institutions through crossover mothers - mothers who have had involvement with both the child welfare and criminal justice systems as adults. She argues that poor women and women of color go through multiplicative violent processes when they are involved with these systems of punishment.  These systems not only regulate, but also exacerbate punishments on the poor.  Her dissertation research is supported by the NSF GRFP.

    She is the recipient of the 
    National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP 2016), the Diversity of Views and Experience (DOVE) fellowship at the University of Minnesota (2017), the APPAM 2018 Equity & Inclusion Fellowship and the American Political Science Association Minority Fellowship (2016). 

    ​AshLee holds a MPP in Social Policy from UMN. Prior to UMN, she graduated with a BA in Anthropology and Political Science from Louisiana State University (geaux tigers!). She is a former Public Policy and International Affairs  (PPIA) Fellow who participated in the Junior Summer Institute at University of California-Berkeley in 2014. 


    Master of Public Policy (University of Minnesota, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, 2018)

    BA in Anthropology (Louisiana State University, 2015)

    Smith, A. & Shlafer, R. (2018) "Best Practices for Working with Incarcerated Parents who have Children in the Child Welfare System." In LaLiberte, Barry, and Walthour (Eds.), Criminal Justice Involvement of Families in Child Welfare (15). St. Paul, MN: Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare. 

    Smith, AshLee. 2020. "Punishing Poor Mothers in a Pandemic". The Gender Policy Report (August 25).