Message From the Chair


Melanie-Angela Neuilly, Associate Professor and Department chair. smiling.
Melanie-Angela Neuilly

Welcome to Criminal Justice News!

What a year! Before the beginning of the pandemic, I agreed to serve as chair of the department, and this is certainly not how I expected my first year to go…. Nevertheless, our students, faculty, and staff accomplished incredible feats this year, including mastering some K-12 curricula for homeschooling, and I could not be more grateful for them. This note might be a bit longer than usual, as COVID got in the way of our sending a Fall 2020 Newsletter. Hopefully this Spring update will catch you all up.

Before fall semester even started, faculty were hard at work all summer long, participating in University-sponsored teaching workshops to refine and optimize the distance delivery of their courses. At the same time, staff on the Pullman campus were busy coordinating our big move from good ole Johnson Tower to much roomier digs in Wilson-Short Hall. We now have some elbow room (which we are quickly filling up…) in two office suites: our main office, along with a dedicated advising suite, the Complex Social Interaction Laboratory, and faculty and graduate student offices are located on the first floor of Wilson-Short, while more faculty and graduate student offices, along with a communal lounge are located on the ground floor. We look forward to welcoming people back in person in the coming months, and giving everybody a tour!

Moving to a new location on campus was a big success for us, but it was also bittersweet, as we were not able to fully enjoy our new accommodations with the work-from-home order. Other heartbreaks involved canceled conferences, no study abroad program, and virtual graduations without hooding or hugs. We miss our students so much, we look forward to seeing them again in the fall, and we wish all the best and send heartfelt congratulations to our Winter 2020 and Spring 2021 graduates.

The move to all things virtual was not entirely negative though: For example, Assistant Professor Amelie Pedneault was able to easily give an invited talk to the University of Montreal on the topic of attempted sexual offenses. The talk was attended by 200-some people from all over the world—something that would have not been so easily achieved in the pre-COVID world. A team led by Professor Mary Stohr presented the results of their three-year, $1 million NIJ-funded investigation of the impacts of the legalization of marijuana in Washington state on the operations of the criminal justice system to local, regional, and national audiences in person as well as virtually.

Of course, the pandemic has not been the only crisis we have faced this year, and our faculty and students have volunteered their time and expertise to help respond to the urgent calls for conversations and reforms around issues of racism in the justice system. The Criminal Justice Club, along with our undergraduate honor society, Alpha Phi Sigma, led a coalition of registered student organizations, along with the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology and other departments in the College of Arts and Sciences, in organizing a speaker series on the topic. Additionally, Associate Professor David Makin and Assistant Professor Dale Willits both gave presentations to the University community in the context of the Common Reading Program book, which was Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, and centered on the topic of racism. They both discussed the relevance of their research at the Complex Social Interaction Laboratory to issues of bias in policing. The long-standing work that the department has conducted on issues of equity in the justice system was recently covered in this article featured in WSU Insider.

Despite not being able to get together in person, we recognize this year an exceptional slate of awardees, both internally, and in the university and beyond. I want to recognize Professor Faith Lutze in particular, for receiving the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Founders Award this year, a much-deserved national recognition of her dedication to and impact on the field.

Next fall, we look forward to welcoming our incoming students in person, resuming some stalled projects, and generally continuing to serve our communities through our teaching, scholarship, and service.  We are excited to scale internships and research back up, restart study abroad, while retaining some of our newly developed and most-beneficial COVID practices. Importantly, our ranks will grow again as we welcome Arifa Raza and Hillary Mellinger to the faculty (more to come on our new colleagues soon). For all the difficulties and heartaches of the past year, we find ourselves at a junction, and I believe the road ahead may not be the easiest, but where it takes us is up to us!

Melanie-Angela Neuilly
Chair and Associate Professor