New criminology program produces award winning research
By Gina Twardosz '20
Crime is part of society; but, while crime impacts society, society also has an impact on crime. That’s why Kelly Faust, assistant professor of sociology, named her criminology course Introduction to Crime and Society. It’s a course offered in the newly renamed Department of Sociology and Criminology.
The course hooked Mikaela Gohn ’18. Her desire to learn more about social patterns and behaviors led her to major in sociology. Throughout her coursework, Mikaela was intrigued by the perspectives of female police officers, which she pursued further for her senior comprehensive, “Navigating a 'Good Ol' Boys' System: A Qualitative Analysis of the Experiences of Female Police Officers.”
“I became interested in learning about the experiences of female police officers after I interviewed a female police officer for a Women’s Voices paper for a Sociology of Families assignment,” she said. “While interviewing this police officer, she recounted stories of mistreatment from male colleagues and supervisors. After the interview I was shocked; I decided to further pursue the topic for my senior comprehensive.”
Mikaela wanted to know how gender inequality affects female officers in a male-dominated field like policing. She would go on to study the lived experiences of female officers by interviewing active female officers in law enforcement. In the end, she concluded that “gender inequality and the masculine culture of policing hinder the complete integration of females into law enforcement.”
And all of Mikaela’s hard work paid off, as, after graduating, she won an award for her senior comprehensive from the the North Central Sociological Association (NCSA).
“The senior comprehensive process can be tedious and frustrating at times, but ultimately it is worth it when the project comes to fruition,” she said. “I love that my research paper won an award, but merely having a paper that I worked hard on and am proud of makes the whole process worth it.”
Currently, Mikaela is an intensive case manager at Elkhart County Community Corrections. Though she graduated before the College formally offered the criminology concentration, Mikaela said she was well prepared for her job, as it combines both sociology and criminology and allows her to work with offenders as they re-enter society. Soon she hopes to pursue a graduate program that focuses on research and crime analysis.
So what exactly makes criminology so intriguing? Perhaps the fact that the average consumer of media is exposed to crime on a daily basis. “Crime is unique in that, when people show up in your classroom, they feel like they have more of a right to have an opinion on crime and how to handle crime because we watch all these crime shows,” she said. “I like to acknowledge that we all get a lot of our information from crime shows. I consume all of that as well and I embrace it — that is how the majority of our society interacts with the criminal justice system. Whether or not those shows are accurate, they impact society’s views on crimes.”
Faust believes Introduction to Crime and Society offers lessons that can benefit every student, and the criminology concentration is perfect for those students who are thinking of pursuing a career in law enforcement or survivor advocacy, or for students looking to enroll in graduate programs based in criminology.
All in all, Faust hopes to challenge the ‘us vs. them’ mentality that many students may have about criminals. The introductory course and other courses in the criminology concentration require students to think critically while challenging the preconceived notions and stereotypes they may harbor. “Individuals who are criminals are also people…,” Faust emphasized. “They’re part of our society and we have to figure out meaningful ways to rectify what’s gone wrong.”