Criminology Professor And Students Join Forces For ORSP FAST Grant Research Project
Oct. 7, 2023
SHSU Media Contact: Mikah Boyd
By Kim Foster
Three Sam Houston State University College of Criminal Justice undergraduate students, Avery Brinegar, Daniel Rodriguez and Jaritzy Ochoa, spent their summer conducting research alongside Stuti Kokkalera, an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology.
The research project, “Representing Victims in Parole Hearings: A Mixed Methods Evaluation on Victim Impact,” was made possible by funding from a Faculty And Student Team (FAST) Grant received from the SHSU Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) through the Enhancing Undergraduate Research Experiences and Creative Activities (EURECA) Center.
When asked to participate, all three students jumped at the opportunity.
“The moment I reached out to them, they said yes,” Dr. Stuti Kokkalera said.
Brinegar saw the opportunity as a chance to build on her resume while still earning her undergraduate degree.
“I am graduating this December,” Brinegar said. “I decided that I needed to get some extra things to build my CV to be a stronger candidate because I’m applying for graduate school.”
“I thought it was a good opportunity,” Ochoa said. “I knew it wasn’t offered to a lot of undergrads, so to me, this is an award.”
Once the team was assembled, the work began with a crash course on research training methods. Their training included learning the difference between quantitative data versus qualitative data, creating code books and categorizing data.
“They get to see the whole process and that these things take time,” Kokkalera said.
The research also allowed the students to gain a deeper understanding of a topic they learned about when previously enrolled in Kokkalera’s classes.
“I saw the research we were going to do was what we talked about in class,” Rodriguez said. “I thought I could actually apply what I’ve learned now.”
For Ochoa, the real-world aspect of the project brought perspective and inspiration.
“These are real people’s lives,” Ochoa said. “Implementing all I’ve learned and doing research on real people made me more passionate about wanting to keep doing research so they can help people in the future.”
Summer’s end brought the conclusion of the research portion of the project. The team presented their findings at the ORSP’s Scholarly Innovation Summit research fair in September.
“I was nervous,” Rodriguez said. “But as we got to the fair, I was able to explain my findings and I thought it was good.”
“When people started asking questions it was nice because we have so much information that we learned and discovered,” Brinegar said. “I wanted to share it all.”
The team says the experience helped them prepare to present on a national level at the American Society of Criminology’s annual meeting this November in Philadelphia. A research paper documenting their research and findings is also in the works. The goal is to see the paper published in a peer-reviewed journal.
As the project enters its final stages, the team says the experience was positive and encourages more undergraduate students to seek out research opportunities.
“I would recommend it,” Rodriguez said. “This was an awesome experience.”
Kokkalera says she’s glad to see undergraduate students receive research opportunities.
“It’s really nice for ORSP to encourage undergraduate students to get involved in research projects,” Kokkalera said. “Having them start early enough to see if research is a path for them is meaningful for planning for their future careers.”
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