Emmanuel College is one of 140 local nonprofits to receive grants of $100,000 to $500,000 each through the Cummings Foundation’s $25 Million Grant Program.
This past semester, nine students from the Emmanuel chapter of the Criminal Justice Honor Society, Alpha Phi Sigma, traveled with Visiting Associate Professor of Sociology Tom Nolan and Associate Professor of Sociology Janese Free to Las Vegas for a unique opportunity to present papers at two national conferences.
The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) hosted its 59th annual conference in March 2022, which focused on “Avenues of Change: Integrating Research, Advocacy, and Education.” In conjunction with this, Alpha Phi Sigma hosted its own conference.
Emmanuel students who co-authored papers presented on topics such as solitary confinement, ending cash bail, police reform, and alternatives to criminal prosecution for low-level misdemeanor offenses.
“This is the largest and most respected academic meeting in the country for criminal justice with participants who are faculty, academics and practitioners,” said Dr. Free, who serves as the program coordinator for Criminology & Criminal Justice (CCJ) at Emmanuel. “Having our students there to present their work is exactly what we hoped for the CCJ program at Emmanuel.” The group of Emmanuel students comprised the only undergraduate research panel presentation at the ACJS conference.
Sarah Joy Derosiers ‘22 reflected, “I applied to the honors program initially due to Professor Nolan reaching out to me about founding an Emmanuel chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma. As part of the chapter, we have been recognized for our academic excellence in the major. Watching the chapter grow from the 10 founding members to our 23 current members within one year has been extremely rewarding, and I hope that the chapter can continue to grow after I graduate!”
Two years ago, the Sociology Department converted the Criminology & Criminal Justice concentration into a Criminology and Criminal Justice major and minor. Since then, the program has gained significant interest, with about 63 majors this past academic year, 20 of them members of the Class of 2022. Dr. Free suggests that the interest in CCJ has been there all along, but more students are considering it because of the time in history in which we are living.
Dr. Free pointed out, “Our program highlights the mission of Emmanuel, which values social justice. It is particularly important to me that we learn about the system that exists, what works and does not work, and how we can improve it. Our students did that beautifully through these presentations.”
Emily Kline ’22 was also a member of the honor society and worked as a research assistant for Dr. Free. “I've been a research assistant to Dr. Free in the sociology department, as well as an Academic Resource Center tutor and instructional assistant for multiple sociology classes including Introduction to Sociology, Crime and Justice, Criminology, and Family Violence.”
Along with the CCJ honor society presentation, Kline presented with Dr. Free, where they discussed a paper they have been co-authoring together, called, "I became the person I needed:” Streetworkers' perspectives on working with youth placed at high risk.
In reflecting on the mentorship she received, Kline commented, “Dr. Free has pushed me to become a better person on a personal and an academic level. She allowed me to discover my passion for research, and I am so thankful for the opportunities she has given me that will extend far beyond my time at Emmanuel.”
Along with opportunities like membership in Alpha Phi Sigma, Emmanuel students have the benefit of taking courses with professors who are not only academics, but also have lived professional experience in the fields of criminology and criminal justice. Because of this, students stand apart in their internships at places like the Massachusetts State House, Boston Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as non-profit organizations like Catholic Charities, Home for Little Wanderers and Big Brother Big Sister.
Nolan attributes the success of these students to the overall foundation of Emmanuel education, saying, “They set the bar for themselves at a very high level, and they achieved it.”