Ingrid Ritchie Presenting At ASC

An Investment of Time and Energy

Few programs across the United States can offer competitive, meaningful research opportunities for undergraduate students, but the Administration of Justice program at Penn State Wilkes-Barre has done just that, exposing students to discipline study they could not begin to cover in a classroom.

Higher education is widely known for its research component. Graduate school programs can be entirely based on research. Tenure line faculty are required to engage in research activities. “Publish or perish” is in every faculty member’s mind when it comes to success in academia. But what about undergraduates? Do they come to mind when one thinks of research potential?

At Penn State Wilkes-Barre, the Administration of Justice (AOJ) program has done just that – put their students at the forefront of undergraduate research activities.

“We’ve been told by graduate coordinators that we are doing things that very few programs across the United States have been able to do in terms of undergraduate research,” explains Assistant Professor of Administration of Justice, Rick Dierenfeldt. “Five AOJ students will have presented research at a national conference during the 2017-2018 academic year--which is roughly 13% of the declared majors in our discipline. While this is certainly a consequence of the exceptional work of our students, it is also indicative of the quality of the educational experience we provide at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, the time and energy investment we make in these students.”

Dierenfeldt recently returned from The American Society of Criminology (ASC) 73rd Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, a trip he took with current student, Matt Caines and spring 2017 graduate, Ingrid Ritchie.

“Matt and Ingrid successfully completed their first full paper presentations,” states Dierenfeldt. “Each of their presentations was well received by their respective panels. We received a number of positive comments and several of the panelists expressed interest in when we intended to submit the papers for publication.”

Matt Caines & Rick Dierenfeldt at ASC

Matt Caines & Rick Dierenfeldt present at The American Society for Criminology's 73rd Annual Meeting in Philadelphia

Credit: Penn State

Caines, who was also selected by ASC to serve as the panel chair for his respective session – a rare opportunity for an undergraduate student – presented on a co-authored paper on the effects that Ferguson, Missouri had on strain and intra-racial violence, given the lack of borders on new media. Ritchie presented a co-authored paper on the inequality of gender specific drug arrests and addiction. 

But the experience extended beyond their research for both Caines and Ritchie, according to Dierenfeldt.

“In addition to presenting, Matt and Ingrid did an outstanding job of expanding their networks each day of the conference, interacting with graduate faculty and coordinators from a variety of institutions. Equally important, their attendance exposed them to a wealth of innovative approaches to the study of crime and criminal justice that we could not begin to cover in the classroom.”

Penn State University Assistant Vice President and Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education, Alan Rieck, echoes Dierenfeldt’s statements.

“These accomplishments are a testament to the work that is being done with the students in Wilkes-Barre and the opportunities that are being provided for them to engage in real and meaningful research within the AOJ program there.”

“Several of the faculty at ASC were surprised to learn that Matt and Ingrid were undergrads--a testament to their composure, professionalism, and quality of their research,” boasts Dierenfeldt. “I strongly anticipate that both Matt and Ingrid will receive a number of competing, funded offers to attend graduate school in the spring. Our students were strong representatives of the campus and the broader university.”

Robert Faux, Penn State Wilkes-Barre Assistant to the Chief Academic Office and Associate Teaching Professor of Engineering, agrees with Dierenfeldt.

“Matt and Ingrid are wonderful ambassadors for Penn State Wilkes-Barre and we have no doubt that their experiences in graduate school will be reflective of their time with us. Because of experiences such as the ASC conference, both Matt and Ingrid will have a ‘leg up’ on their peers as they move forward in academia.”

Caines, Ritchie, and Dierenfeldt are looking forward to getting their manuscripts completed and published in the coming months. Dierenfeldt is also preparing three students, to include Caines, for The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences 55th Annual Meeting in New Orleans in February 2018.