Faculty News

Dale Willits appointed interim chair for the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology

Dale Willits.
Dale Willits

The department of Criminal Justice and Criminology is proud to announce that Dale Willits has been appointed to serve as interim chair for the 2023-2024 academic year while Melanie-Angela Neuilly will be on professional leave. Dale brings with him years of experience in other department roles, including being the chair of the Graduate Studies Committee. Dale’s personable and professional demeanor, combined with his experience, will be greatly beneficial to the department for the upcoming academic year.

I am honored to serve as the interim chair of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Washington State University. In this capacity, my goal is to continue to build on the strong foundation that has been established in our department. I am committed to promoting excellence in teaching, research, and service and to fostering an environment that is inclusive, supportive, and innovative. I look forward to working closely with our faculty, staff, and students to pursue our shared goals.

– Dale Willits

Unlocking Research Potential: Introducing the Research Experience for Undergraduates Program

We are ecstatic to announce the launch of a National Science Foundation-funded project within the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. The Research Experience for Undergraduates project provides a unique opportunity for nine students to conduct research in the Complex Social Interactions Lab Research Program under the guidance of professors Dale Willits and David Makin, graduate student lab managers Christina Richardson and Brittany Solensten, as well as collaborators from the Department of Mathematics and the WSU School of Medicine.

This program offers a fantastic opportunity for students to develop research skills and gain hands-on experience in the field of criminal justice and criminology. We are excited to welcome six students from other universities, as well as three of our own students, to participate in the program. They will work together in the CSI lab and engage in research on topics that explore race and policing.

Planting the Seeds of Success: New Faculty Seed Grant

Hillary Mellinger.
Hillary Mellinger

The Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology is excited to announce that Hillary Mellinger, assistant professor, has been awarded one of nine New Faculty Seed Grants (NFSG) from WSU. These grants are designed to support junior faculty in their research, scholarly, and creative endeavors, with the aim of promoting sustained professional growth and securing external funding. Professor Mellinger’s research focuses on language access and communication barriers between linguistically diverse community members and law enforcement. Her upcoming summer project involves conducting interviews, facilitating focus groups, and participating in police ride-alongs to gain deeper insights into how language issues affect both the community and law enforcement. Her research will contribute to a better understanding of this under-explored social justice issue and potentially lead to more effective policy changes. Congratulations to Professor Mellinger on this outstanding achievement!

Problem specification for targeted prevention of sexual and intimate partner violence

Amelie Pedneault.
Amelie Pedneault

On April 4, 2023, Assistant Professor Amelie Pedneault gave a talk to the Washington State Public Health Association on problem specification for targeted prevention of sexual and intimate partner violence.

“In this talk, we argued that more specificity is of core importance when developing prevention measures that are going to be effective for violence prevention,” Professor Pedneault said.” Specifically, we analyzed two sets of data to demonstrate this point in the context of sexual and intimate partner violence (IPV).

“In the context of sexual violence, using the National Crime Victimization survey, we analyzed the context of sexual victimization risk on college campuses. We found that women living on college campuses are at heightened risk compared to college women not living on campus. In addition, this risk is specific to sexual assault (i.e., non-penetrative), but not to rape, suggesting that some locations on college campuses put college women at increased risk of assaultive behaviors like groping and non-consensual touching.

“Second, we made a similar point in the context of IPV, drawing upon the prior results of Professor Kathryn DuBois published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence also using the National Crime Victimization survey. In this article, she argued that the traditional urban vs. rural dichotomy was ill-suited to fully understand the risk of IPV, considering many non-metropolitan places are not truly isolated the way we think of when we think of rural intimate partner violence (i.e., no one hearing when someone screams in anger or for help). She considered women risk of IPV when combining both the metropolitan statistical area and residential concentration, to account for women living in the urban core, suburban, exurban, small town, or dispersed rural settlements. Her results indicated that women living in small towns are most at risk of experiencing IPV, demonstrating more specificity allows for better understanding of the context of violence. 

“Overall, this demonstrates that finer distinctions in understanding the core components of violence (such as the type, location, victim) are of primary importance when thinking of violence prevention measures. We acknowledge that one important component, perpetrators, is missing from our analyses, but we are hopeful that more specificity understanding the context will get us closer to intervening in their behaviors, such focusing on college locations where sexual assaultive behaviors are tolerated, and designing IPV interventions tailored to small towns specifically.”

Neuilly presents to National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine workshop

Melanie-Angela Neuilly.
Melanie-Angela Neuilly

On April 25 and 26, 2023, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on National Statistics organized a workshop on Approaches to Improve the Measurement of Suicide of Law Enforcement in the United States. Professor Melanie-Angela Neuilly was invited to speak on a panel discussing the classification of suicide and methods to address sources of bias alongside some of the country’s foremost experts on the topic. Professor Neuilly used her ethnographic and survey research on the factors influencing medicolegal actors’ decision-making processes to illustrate the various possible sources of bias in suicide misclassification. Recording of the two-day workshop is available here, and proceedings will be made available in the near future.

Celebrating extraordinary achievements

David Makin.
David Makin

It is with great pleasure that we announce Associate Professor David Makin received the President’s Award for Leadership. This well-deserved honor is a testament to his exceptional leadership, unwavering commitment to excellence, and invaluable service to both our University and the community. David’s visionary mindset, exemplary leadership skills, and innate ability to inspire and motivate others have made a profound impact on our department and the students we proudly serve. We congratulate him on this remarkable achievement and express our heartfelt gratitude for his contributions to leadership development in WSU students.

Additionally, Professor Makin won the Honors Faculty Award. This award recognizes an exceptional faculty member who has demonstrated remarkable dedication to the Honors College. This prestigious award celebrates his invaluable contributions in thesis advising, student mentoring, and exceptional teaching. Awardees are innovative educators and trailblazers in their field, seamlessly blending expertise with classroom excellence.

Washington Traffic Safety Commission supports Yakima DUI Court Evaluation

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission is funding a Process and Outcome Evaluation of the Yakima DUI Court starting in May 2023 and lasting through summer 2024. The principal investigator on the grant is Craig Hemmens, who will be supported by a team of accomplished professionals. Joining Professor Hemmens as co-principal investigators are doctoral student Keilah Shaw, Professor Arifa Raza-Bayona, and Professor Mary K. Stohr. Additionally, undergraduate student Zachary Tees will be serving as a valuable research associate. The grant is funded at about $130,000.

Mary Stohr.
Mary Stohr
Craig Hemmens.
Craig Hemmens
Arifa Raza-Bayona.
Arifa Raza-Bayona
Keilah Shaw.
Keilah Shaw