Each year, NIJ’s American Indian (AI) and Alaska Native (AN) Student Travel Scholarship Program awards funds for undergraduate and graduate students to attend conferences to learn about the criminal justice field. Students from across the country attend conference plenaries, panels, seminars, workshops and poster sessions and have the opportunity to network with researchers, practitioners, and NIJ staff.
Go ahead and take the initiative… it’s worth it [be]cause it will open your eyes to a whole new world that you might not have thought about or even help you go more specifically into what you’re hoping to do.
- Olivia Augustin, 2018 recipient
One of these conferences—the American Society of Criminology (ASC) — is the largest criminology conference in the nation. Last fall, NIJ AI and AN Travel Scholarship recipients spent four jam-packed days in Atlanta, Georgia, exploring the criminal justice field and learning about new research. The students also attended NIJ Day — a day-long series of panels and symposia that highlighted the Department’s research investments in the field. Most importantly, during the conference, travel scholarship recipients had the opportunity to find out how their skills, interests, and educational backgrounds prepare them for potential careers in criminal justice.
Students who attended the American Society of Criminology (ASC) Annual Conference shared their travel scholarship experiences. When asked why she applied for a travel scholarship, Olivia Agustin, an undergraduate at Northeastern State University and member of Cherokee Nation said, “I chose to apply to the scholarship because I’m not exactly sure what I want to do [after I graduate], so being able to find the different avenues that people are going in is what really interested me in this scholarship.”
Another scholarship recipient, Ariel Roddy, a Ph.D. student at Michigan State University and member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa agreed. “ASC is the meeting of the minds for everyone interested in criminology. I’ve seen experts in the fields of different types of criminology while I’ve been here, and it’s been really beneficial to me as a researcher to see what the discussions are like in the field as they are now.”
Scholarship recipients attended panels, roundtables, and symposia that aligned with their educational and background interests at the ASC conference. Gemini Creason, a masters student at Northeastern State University and a member of the Cherokee Nation, who one day hopes to enter law enforcement, attended sessions that had personal meaning to her. “The one that stuck out to me was on the death penalty, specifically how those on death row feel and about their experiences and the struggles they face up to being executed. I did a paper a while back on botched executions. I’ve [also] seen one panel and that was about police officer and corrections officers’ suicide rates and what can be done, hopefully, to prevent those in the future.”
Roddy found that attendance allowed her to gain a broader perspective of the field. “I’ve seen different sociological and anthropological perspectives of the same issue, and the way that it’s treated differently across disciplines is really interesting. I’ve watched a dialogue emerge between different people in these different disciplines and watching them communicate has been really profound and interesting, and that’s been my favorite part.”
Every student in the program has had a different experience; however, they all agreed that applying benefited their educational and career goals. On a broader scale, opportunities like these provide AI and AN students the space to have a stronger voice in research and policies most relevant to them. Creason notes, “This scholarship is important to Native American communities because, in research, it is a population that has been ignored a lot. I realized that there’s not a lot of research out there regarding Native Americans, particularly in social science. So by coming to this conference and seeing how research is conducted and getting input on methodologies and things like that, we as Native Americans are able to take that back home and apply them to our own research that can then increase awareness of issues facing Native Americans and hopefully present solutions in the future.”
The travel scholarship program has also given students an opportunity to network and learn about career opportunities in fields that they would not have considered before. Roddy, who is preparing for life after graduate school stated, “Attendance at the conference is really instrumental to me because I am at a stage in my research where I’m starting to formulate ideas, and connect with people, and make professional relationships. This conference and this scholarship have given me the opportunity to meet new people, share new ideas, and expand the ways that I think about these problems.”
Olivia Augustin encourages students who want to apply: “Go ahead and take the initiative… it’s worth it [be]cause it will open your eyes to a whole new world that you might not have thought about or even help you go more specifically into what you’re hoping to do.”
If you, or someone you know might be interested in applying for the NIJ AI and AN Student Travel Scholarship Program, you can find more information and the application on the Scholarship webpage. You can also reach out to us with any questions at [email protected].
We hope you apply!