Casey Morrison ’22
During my senior year at Villanova, I chose to write my criminology senior seminar research analysis on gender disparities in the plea-bargaining process. Dr. Welch taught me how to conduct a meta-analysis where I examined the effect of gender on charge, count, and sentence reductions. Prior to graduating, I discovered an internship with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO) examining racial disparities in the plea-bargaining process. Between my senior seminar research and information I learned about racial disparities in the criminal justice system, particularly from Dr. Welch’s Race, Crime, and Justice course, I immediately knew I had to apply. I believe the knowledge I acquired from my research and classes was fundamental to securing the internship.
During my internship, I engaged in a thorough case file review of about 200 cases that resulted in a dataset used in an analysis conducted by the Urban Institute (UI). I learned how to read case files, police reports, FBI records, dockets, and court summaries. The main task was to find bails, detainment statuses, arrest dates, plea bargains, diversions, offense severity scores, and the number of prior misdemeanors and felonies committed by the defendant. Professor Donato’s Criminal Courts class was especially helpful in my initial understanding of these types of data.
While I did not engage in the main statistical analyses conducted by UI, the dataset I helped to create supported the qualitative interviews of attorneys in the office. I was involved in writing a Data Story for the DATA Lab’s website that described our methodology and the underlying issue of racial disparities in the plea bargaining process. My meta-analysis from Dr. Welch’s class was instrumental to the “Identifying and Confronting Racial Disparities” section of the Data Story.
I fully believe that majoring in criminology at Villanova had a direct impact on my success in this position. For example, I often helped my fellow intern grasp criminological concepts fundamental to the project. I also felt confident engaging in conversations about other serious criminological issues being studied at the DATA lab such as gun crime patterns in Philadelphia, causes and effects of police failures to appear, and conviction integrity. This was due to classes like Justice and Society, Wrongful Convictions, and my involvement in the Nova Chapter of the Philadelphia Justice Project.
I appreciated and enjoyed my experience at the Philadelphia DAO. The internship provided an opportunity to apply my criminology education to real-world issues and contribute to the discourse on a crucial part of the criminal justice process. The hands-on experience and education I received at Villanova have helped to prepare me for my first year of law school at Seton Hall. I hope to continue work on the topic of gender and racial disparities in the criminal justice system to make it a better and more just system. I am forever grateful to Dr. Welch and the other faculty at Villanova for giving me the knowledge and tools to not only succeed in work settings but make a difference in the world.
Jocelin P. Rocha-Quiñones ’18
I had no idea of the struggles I would face my first year at Villanova. As the first person in my family to attend university in the United States, I was simply excited for the next chapter in my life. One thing I did know, however, was that paying tuition was going to be very difficult for my family. I was an undocumented person, meaning I was not entitled to federal aid to attend a higher education institution. Navigating the higher education system was challenging and I did not know where to ask for help.
I lived at home in NJ to cut costs for my family. I would walk a mile to take a 25-minute train ride to Philadelphia. From there, I would take a 35-minute ride on the SEPTA regional rail line to Villanova. Coordinating the train schedules perfectly was frustratingly impossible. Not to mention bad weather and unexpected delays that further complicated an already long and stressful commute.
Despite the financial and logistical challenges, I was grateful to be part of the Villanova community. Dr. Eckstein’s Intro to Sociology was one of my favorites. It was jarring to see how the personal issues I faced on a regular basis (i.e., poverty, gender, immigration status) became topics of conversation in class. I was often distraught that it all had deeper explanations and involved systems of oppression that I did not know existed.
When I shared my experiences with Dr. Eckstein, he was kind enough to sympathize and advocate for me. Thanks to his help, I was able to get a merit-based scholarship which reduced some of the financial pressures. We still had to work hard to pay the remainder of the tuition, but the scholarship gave me the opportunity to live on campus and fully immerse myself in the Villanova experience. I was able to focus more time on my studies and enjoy student organizations.
I double majored in Sociology and English. Graduating as a scholar of sociology, I was determined to pick a career that made a difference in the world. I wanted to tackle injustices in society and empower the disempowered. Combined with my love for English literature, I pursued a master's in education at Villanova.
I went on to teach at my hometown high school for three years. Teaching there after studying sociology made me look at my familiar surroundings in a different light. The education system was truly a microcosm of society’s flaws and strengths. There was so much I wanted my students to know before they set out to a world not built for them. I infused my lessons with sociological theory. It ranged from introducing them to Marxist theory when we read Animal Farm to the Prison Industrial Complex when we read Shawshank Redemption.
I recently decided to take a break from teaching and have been pursuing other opportunities. Nevertheless, I look back on this experience as incredibly fulfilling and meaningful. I look forward to the future and hope that I can continue to utilize what I learned in the Sociology Department.