Major: Political Science
Hometown: Oxnard, Calif.
Dr. Kendra S. Schiffman, Teaching Fellow in Sociology, Beloit College, Beloit, WI.;
Dr. Mary A. Finn, Director and Professor, School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.
What was the biggest takeaway from your experience?
My GSEF summer research experience provided me with the frank truth of what pursuing an advanced degree and choosing a career in the professoriate entails. Although the amount of work required scared me at first, after significant deep thought and reflection I came to the conclusion that I am prepared to take on the challenge of pursuing a doctorate degree. I will never forget the skills and lessons I learned at my summer research experience. I learned a lot about myself, particularly as a woman of color functioning in higher education, as well as what it will take to make change for other women of color in higher education. Although I am not dead set on any one-career path, I am steadfast in my belief that I will pursue a career that works towards improving the lives of people of color everywhere.
Share a little bit about your research through the GSEF program.
My summer research project focused on how prosecutors in New York County prosecuted offenders based on their racial/ethnic identity and the composition of the neighborhood the offender was picked up in, using data collected by the Vera Institute and pairing it with New York County census data. In looking at neighborhood composition, I looked at the socioeconomic status of the neighborhood, the racial/ethnic composition of the neighborhood, and the crime rate in the neighborhood.
The United States Criminal Justice System is a complex and obscure beast. Justice systems vary by state, county, and city, which in turn are all different from the federal justice system. Additionally, there are numerous actors within the criminal justice system; the main three are police officers, prosecutors and judges. Unfortunately, the short time span of ten weeks did not allow us to complete our project, but I was able to learn how to read and analyze quantitative data as well as apply for IRB approval and get training for working with sensitive data.
How do you think you've benefited from the GSEF program?
GSEF has provided me with more guidance and resources than I could have ever asked for. They have not only financially supported me in my application to graduate school as well in my professional development, but have also provided information sessions and conferences on the variety of things one can do with a PhD. As the honorary cohort and program director, Lilly Lavner, has worked hard to make sure that we get what we want out of the program. For me, this has meant how to balance a passion for social justice with an academic career. GSEF has gone above and beyond to introduce us to professionals who do social justice work both inside and outside academia.
What have you found most surprising about your experience in the GSEF program?
When I joined the GSEF program, I really didn’t know what to expect other than that I would be doing research and attending a yearly conference. What I have found through GSEF is a network of close friends who go to schools throughout the Midwest. I have developed a network of individuals whose experiences have been both informative and exciting. GSEF has offered me so much more than guidance and support, it has given me lifelong friendship and mentors.
How did your mentor impact your experience?
My mentor, Dr. Finn, guided me through the process of developing my research, while also giving me advice on graduate school and how to navigate higher education. Her primary job was to help me narrow in on a topic that we could research and begin to conduct that research through the use of the secondary data set, all in ten weeks time. As the Director of the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University, Dr. Finn gave me meaningful advice on what pursuing a graduate degree entailed as well as how to navigate academic spaces. Her guidance has greatly assisted me through my process of applying to graduate school this fall.
After completing your program, what are you looking forward to most?
After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school. I am applying to post doctoral programs in a few different fields. For sociology, I am applying to Northwestern University and Columbia University. For ethnic/cultural studies, I am applying to the University of California, Davis and the University of California, Irvine. I am also applying to American studies programs at the University of Minnesota and Purdue University.