Skip to main content
Department ofPolitical Science

Elsa Chen

Elsa Y. Chen


Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Education: Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles, 2000; M.P.P., Harvard University, 1993; A.B. Princeton University, 1991

Professor Elsa Chen teaches public policy, criminal justice policy, housing and homeless policy, research methods, and American politics. Dr. Chen received the College’s 2015 David E. Logothetti Award for teaching excellence.

Dr. Chen’s published work focuses on criminal justice reform, reentry from incarceration, criminal record expungement, analyses of the implementation and effects of sentencing policies, including mandatory minimums like “Three Strikes and You’re Out,” and racial and ethnic disparities in sentencing outcomes. Her current research studies policies associated with the de-escalation of mass incarceration and prisoner reintegration into society.

She recently published a book, Beyond Recidivism: New Approaches to Research on Prisoner Reentry and Reintegration (NYU Press 2020), co-edited with Andrea Leverentz and Johnna Christian. Her work has appeared in journals including Justice Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, Punishment & Society, Feminist Criminology, the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, and the California Journal of Politics and Policy.

Dr. Chen served as Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at Santa Clara from 2016 to 2020, and Interim Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Development in 2015-16. She has played a key role in work to advance diversity and inclusion at SCU, including the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity and Inclusion (2016), Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion (chair, 2017), and the Campus Climate Survey and follow-up (lead coordinator, 2018-20). Her professional service includes serving on the Executive Board of the American Society of Criminology (ASC), chairing the ASC’s Division on People of Color and Crime, and serving on the US Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs’ Science Advisory Board and the ASC Policy Committee.

  • Introduction to American Politics
  • Seminar in U.S. Politics
  • Making Public Policy
  • Special Topics in Public Policy
  • Public Sector Internship

Research Guides for Dr. Chen's Classes:

  • POLI 001 - Introduction to U.S. Politics
In the News

August 28, 2023

Elsa Chen published an opinion piece "Trump's mug shot was undoubtedly entertaining. But here's why it's a problem" in the San Francisco Chronicle.

July 19, 2022

Elsa Chen looks at increasing crime rates across the United States in an opinion piece "Recidivism isn’t the only measure of progress after incarceration" in The Hill.

January 20, 2022

Elsa Chen gave her opinions on California ending the Three Strikes Law for teens in the Voice of San Diego.