Summer research offers WSU students first-hand experience

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This past summer, nine students immersed themselves in an eight-week research program to connect with faculty and graduate students from the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. 

The Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program supports active research participation by undergraduate students and is funded by the National Science Foundation. Wayne State's REU: Communities, Crime, and Criminal Justice in Detroit (C3JD) is an intense virtual program that aims to examine crime and justice in Detroit.

The mission of the C3JD-REU is to promote undergraduate students’ interest in academic research and as policymakers equipped to prioritize evidence-based practices during their careers. The program offers under-represented students a unique opportunity to progress their understanding and ability to conduct research. 

Bethany Stoddart, an incoming junior studying criminal justice and criminology, is one of the program’s student researchers. Stoddart is working with Dr. Charles Khalm as her faculty mentor, Danielle Rice as her peer mentor, and Lydia Becker and Karen Veloz as her co-researchers.  

Stoddart has been working closely with mentors and peers to learn more about research and what that means in her field. With the help of her peers, Stoddart and the other students have been collaborating to create a set of questions that were compiled into a survey conducted at the end of the eight weeks.

​​“My favorite part of the program is being able to engage with others in the field outside of Wayne State and being able to go through the process of starting to conduct research,” said Stoddart. “Being a part of this program is exciting because I get to work closely with professors as well experience work I will be doing in the future.” 

Stoddart got involved in criminal justice and criminology because she hopes to one day make a difference in the field. She acknowledged the number of injustices that people in the criminal justice system face every day and hopes that she can help fix these problems.  

REU provided a unique and different learning experience for every student involved. Kaniz Chowdhury, a senior studying criminal justice and political science, got the opportunity to be a research assistant in a ten-week program through the University of South Carolina. This program aims to focus on the role of race and drugs on incarcerated mothers before, during, and after incarceration. 

 “I work alongside Dr. Koons-Witt, two graduate mentors, and two other undergraduate students,” said Chowdhury. “We have been analyzing interview data of incarcerated mothers and their unique experiences with motherhood and drugs. Some of our many end goals include a final literature review and a poster with our findings from the interview.” 

Chowdhury was drawn to this field of study while taking a gender and policies course with Dr. Jennifer Wareham. 

Chowdhury explained that the class was eye-opening and helped her discover her passion for understanding these policies, how they affected people and what we could do about them.  

She said she has enjoyed being part of the program and is grateful to have gotten the chance to be part of such a rewarding project. Although she has been faced with challenges along the way, she knows that in the end, all of her hard work will be worth it because of the impact it will have. 

“The work is challenging because it is tedious but rewarding because it is impactful,” said Chowdhury. “It is also satisfying because it is just as much about teamwork as it is about your individual goals and balancing that has been an invigorating process.”

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