Degree: Ph.D. in Psychology & Social Behavior
Expected graduation: May, 2018
Hometown: Delray Beach, Florida
Why did you choose the School of Social Ecology?
When I was applying to graduate programs, I sought a graduate education that would allow me to build an expertise at the intersection of developmental psychology, quantitative methods, and law. At the same time, having previously taught in public schools and a detention facility, teaching and mentoring were both incredibly important to me. I chose the School of Social Ecology because of its reputation for not only producing theoretically-grounded and practically-impactful research in psychology and law, but also for supporting meaningful mentorship opportunities.
How did you grow interested in your current field of study?
My interest in how psychology and law intersect began when I was an undergraduate student at Georgetown University. As an undergraduate research assistant, I studied how police officers interact with adolescent suspects. At the same time, I taught G.E.D. courses to inmates in a local detention facility and worked on public policy on Capitol Hill. In my research and professional experiences, I have found that developmentally inappropriate justice system policies can ensnare offenders in the revolving door of the justice system. The course of my developmental research focuses on identifying and improving those specific justice system mechanisms that affect youth in particular.
What has been your most memorable or significant experience so far at UCI?
My most significant experience at UCI has been working with the fantastic interdisciplinary faculty, particularly Professor Elizabeth Cauffman. Her Crossroads Study follows over 1,200 adolescents in three states for five years after their first arrest. Research clearly shows that how the justice system processes youth leads to immense inequality of outcomes in reoffending, education, and employment. Such inequality of life outcomes are particularly likely to affect youth of color because they are disproportionately likely to be arrested, to be detained, to receive more punitive sanctions, and to be incarcerated. The Crossroads Study examines the impact of juvenile justice system processing on generating and exacerbating racial inequality by matching formally and informally processed youth who have been arrested for the first time and examining long-term effects on offending, psychosocial development, employment, and educational attainment.
How do you envision your degree from UCI opening doors for you or benefitting your career?
During my graduate career, I have been privileged to collaborate with interdisciplinary faculty across departments and schools at UCI. Together, we have published over 17 journal articles. Further, I have learned how to build collaborative relationships with practitioners in the field to transform empirical research into justice policy and practice. Finally, I have had the pleasure of mentoring over 20 undergraduate and post-baccalaureate researchers who have presented their original research at national conferences and have earned thousands of dollars in grants and awards. I hope to stay in academia and I believe my experiences at UCI have helped me construct a solid foundation from which I can continue building.