Department Newsletter | Faculty Spotlight

Internationally renowned researcher, popular instructor and sought after expert in sex offender assessment and treatment Dr. Judith Becker will be retiring from the Department of Psychology in May, 2017.  

A Celebration to honor Judith will be held March 31st - April 1st on the University of Arizona campus. For details visit: http://eepurl.com/cDmx5X

Internationally renowned researcher, popular instructor and sought after expert in sex offender assessment and treatment Dr. Judith Becker will be retiring from the Department of Psychology in May, 2017. 

Dr. Becker’s career spans four decades and includes over 170 scholarly works on the assessment and treatment of adult and adolescent sexual offenders. Her courses are always packed to capacity with students eager to learn. Dr. Becker has also provided expert testimony in many of the United States’ most notorious and violent serial sexual murder cases including Jeffrey Dahmer and Gary Ridgeway, dubbed the Green River Killer.  

However, Dr. Becker did not start out wanting to become a forensic psychologist. Instead, she wanted to be a flight attendant. Her father insisted she first go to college which changed her career path forever. After the first couple of years of college near her home in New Jersey, Judith decided she wanted to move away.  She found a college with an interesting name (Gonzaga University) and moved across the country to Spokane, Washington. She went on to study clinical psychology at Eastern Washington University and obtained her first job as a school psychologist (the only one for 6,000 students), cementing her interest in working with children. She continued her education at University of Southern Mississippi obtaining a PhD. While on her clinical psychology internship she met the person who would become her long time mentor, Gene Able, and this professional relationship changed the direction of Judith’s career. 

Judith’s career moved quickly. After her internship Judith was offered a faculty position and became co-director of the child psychiatry clinic at the University of Mississippi Medical School. A year later, Gene and Judith were invited to join the faculty at the University of Tennessee Department of Psychiatry. After only three years at the University of Tennessee, Judith and Gene were offered positions in the Psychiatry Department at the College of Physicians and Surgeons Columbia University, where she remained for 11 years as a professor and co-founder of the Sexual Behavior Clinic at New York State Psychiatric Institute. After Gene left Columbia, Judith became Director of the clinic. 

While at Columbia, Dr. Becker was asked to serve on Attorney General Meese’s Commission on Pornography. This commission was tasked with holding hearings throughout the United States to obtain testimony from social and behavioral scientists on research on the topic the and to hear from people who felt they had been negatively impacted by pornography. Because of Judith’s work on this Commission, she received an award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Judith then joined the University of Arizona’s Department of Psychiatry in 1990, and transferred to the Psychology Department three years later where she has remained a beloved instructor, mentor and colleague.  Judith’s favorite part of working in the Department of Psychology over the last 27 years is that “it is a healthy environment where people are supportive and respectful of one another.”  Dr. Becker also served the University in a variety of leadership roles including Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Acting Director, Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Institute, Acting Director, School of Information Resources and Library Science, and Acting Department Head, Near Eastern Studies. 

Judith has never doubted her chosen career path indicating she’s always had so many questions that need to be answered and those kept her going. “We can stop certain behaviors, but preventing them is important -- if we only knew how.”

When looking back at what was most rewarding about her career, Judith is most proud of her graduate students, mentoring them and seeing them succeed. Her students, in return, are also so grateful for her mentorship.  

"I am so grateful to have had Judith for a mentor. Not only did she demonstrate intellectual curiosity and openness, including a willingness to follow the data even if it meant changing directions, she was such an incredible example of grace, humility, integrity, and generosity. We also had so much fun - I've laughed as hard sitting in Judith's office as at any other time in my life. I carry so many Becker Life Lessons with me in my work and life to this day, and I strive to provide the kind of support and guidance that she gave me to my own students. She has touched so many lives through her direct mentorship and her influence on those of us who try to carry this forward. She is the #1 fan of all of her students and former students, and we are her biggest fans right back." Amanda Fanniff, Palo Alto University.

"I went to graduate school at the University of Arizona specifically to work with Judith Becker, and I was not disappointed. From an academic standpoint, she was an excellent mentor who provided limitless opportunities for her students, including co-authoring book chapters and papers, giving talks at national and international conferences, and becoming active in the local criminal justice system. In addition to all of the academic and intellectual gifts she bestowed, she was a truly kind, warm, supportive and generous person, who made it clear that she would always be my advocate and ally. She also never missed an opportunity to mentor her students in terms of how to manage the academic and clinical worlds, and how to function effectively as a professional woman. As a graduate student, I was always in awe of her success and her apparent ease in managing the many challenging and weighty tasks she undertook, and now as a forensic clinician and academic, I am no less impressed by her accomplishments. She was a wonderful role model to me, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to study with her and get to know her on a personal level. She is a truly remarkable woman." Laura Kirsch, University of Montana.

“I was honored to be the last graduate student Judith chose to work with her. Her mentorship has been an invaluable opportunity to work with a pioneer in her field of research. She is never short of stories that highlight her years of experience, as well as a sense of humor she maintains about her work. I am grateful that Judith has not only been a knowledgeable mentor, but also a genuinely caring person who always takes an interest in her students and supports them both personally and in their professional development." Cassie Valerio, PhD Student