SCCJ Welcomes New Doctoral Students
The "Magnificent Seven" Adds Much to SCCJ
Great minds from across the country united in UNOs School of Criminology and Criminal Justice this fall as the new doctoral student cohort arrived in Omaha to begin the last phase of their formal education. Todd Armstrong, Ph.D., doctoral program coordinator, was pleased to welcome the seven outstanding candidates into the program. “We had many qualified applicants to choose from,” Dr. Armstrong noted, “but these students really had something extra to offer over the rest of the applicants. The ‘Magnificent Seven’ as I like to refer to them are an outstanding group of scholars and good people as well,” he added.
Introducing the 2020-2021 Cohort:
Caralin Branscum was born in the Hunan providence of China but grew up in Florida, just north of Fort Lauderdale. She attended Florida Atlantic University, earning both a BA and a MS in criminology and criminal justice. Her original career aspiration was to become an attorney and as a result she got involved with criminal justice research as an undergrad. After realizing how uniquely powerful the criminal justice system is, she opted to pursue a career in academia, hoping to positively impact criminal justice practices. Caralin chose UNOs doctoral program after learning about it from Dr. Calli Cain. Dr. Cain is a faculty member at Florida Atlantic who earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in criminology and criminal justice from UNO. Dr. Cain served on Caralin’s master’s thesis committee and realizing Caralin’s interest in victimology and policing, she recommended that Caralin look into UNOs program believing UNOs faculty and resources would be an excellent fit for her. After attending an American Society of Criminology (ASC) conference and meeting UNO faculty members Drs. Tara Richards, Justin Nix, Emily Wright and Teresa Kulig, Caralin knew UNO was where she belonged. Caralin has been assigned to work on the Research Fellowship on Sexual Assault Kits and Victim Notification project. Caralin could not be more pleased. “I feel like UNO has amazing people that will allow me to work on topics I am passionate about while providing the training I need to be successful in the field,” she said. One of Caralin’s hobbies is gardening. She loves plants and her apartment is filled with all kinds of houseplants, succulents and herbs.
Nathan Dufour attended college at Oral Robert University in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he earned a BA in psychology. Due to his strong interest in the human mind and human behavior, particularly deviant behavior, he enrolled in the master of arts program in criminology and criminal justice at UNO. He opted to pursue the doctoral program at UNO as well because the UNO faculty he encountered in his master’s program “made me feel welcome and as a student made we want more” he said. Nathan’s primary academic interests are terrorism, counter-terrorism, violence and gangs. He is excited to be supporting the work being on done on campus in the National Counterterrorism, Innovation, Technology, and Education Center (NCITE) under Dr. Gina Ligon’s direction. “I hope to contribute to terrorism research and counter-terrorism and make meaningful changes to government processes” Nathan stated. When not studying, Nathan participates in long distance amateur running events. “I’m not saying I’m good at it, just that I love it,” he quipped.
Sheena Gilbert hails from Kimberly, Wisconsin and studied at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, earning a BS degree in criminal justice. She then attended Boise State University where she completed a master of arts degree in the same area of study. She was excited to come to UNO due in part to the passion Drs. Richards, Wright and Kulig have for their victimology research. In being accepted into UNOs doctoral program, Sheena was awarded the Gender-Based Violence in Native American Communities’ Fellowship, which aligns perfectly with her research interest. Sheena herself is Native American, being a citizen of the Stockbridge Munsee tribe in Wisconsin. Through her studies she aspires to gain a better understanding of policy as it relates to gender-based violence and hopes to identify gaps in protecting women of all races and ethnicities. “I am really looking forward to working with the amazing professors at UNO,” she said. Sheena relocated to Omaha with Stache, her 7-year-old chihuahua, and Olaf, her 5-year-old cat.
Brian Gildea also has a strong academic interest in victimology, particularly domestic violence among intimate partners and sexual violence against women. He earned a BA in criminal justice from King’s College in his home state of Pennsylvania. He then studied at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, completing his master of arts degree in criminal justice as well. He opted to attend graduate school at UNO because “there were so many aspects separating UNO from other universities,” he said. He cited Omaha’s rich history, the high caliber of the diverse faculty, and the warmness and welcoming nature of everyone he interacted with as being reasons why UNO won out over other contending universities. “I have long been aware of the stellar reputation UNO has preparing doctoral students for the rigors of academia,” Brian said. “Through my own research and conversations with colleagues, this was further enforced.” Brian is currently working with Dr. Leah Butler and is responsible for conducting a literature review on social construction of intimate partner/cyber abuse for an upcoming article. Throughout his short life Brain has lived in all 4 U.S. time zones and has visited 31 states thus far, all the while avoiding learning how to swim.
Addie Kobie grew up in Saint Louis, Missouri and earned her BA from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, double majoring in psychology and criminal justice. While attending Rockhurst, Kobie worked as a seamstress for a costume shop. After graduating she moved to Texas and attended Sam Houston University, where she completed a master of arts degree in criminal justice and criminology. Her main academic area of interest is juvenile delinquency, along with corrections and criminology.” The fact that UNOs School of Criminology and Criminal Justice is home to the Juvenile Justice Institute really caught Addie’s eye. In deciding to attend UNO, Addie notes that she “really liked the opportunities UNOs program provided, especially the Juvenile Justice Institute, and I thought it would be a good fit.” She’s looking forward to not only expanding her practical skills, but also learning how to think like a researcher. Addie is currently working with Dr. Zachary Hamilton on a variety of corrections projects.
Alyssa Nystrom is a native of North Dakota, having grown up on a cattle farm. She earned her BS degree in criminal justice studies from the University of North Dakota before relocating to Omaha. She attended graduate school at UNO, recently completing her MA in criminology. Like others in her cohort, Alyssa is interested in studying victimology, and she decided to stay at UNO so that she would “get to continue to work on really interesting projects” that she had begun working on during her time in the master’s program. “I chose the program at UNO because of the opportunity to be part of the team doing important and needed research in the victimology field,” Alyssa said. She is currently working with Dr. Tara Richards on the Missing and Murdered Native Women and Children in Nebraska project. “A major selling point of this program is that I will gain experience teaching at the college level and the large number of victimology-focused faculty,” she added.
Nick Vietto hails from Detroit, Michigan and earned a bachelor of arts degree in biological science from Oakland University and a master of science degree from Wayne State University. He’s blending his interests in biology and criminology to focus on the relatively new research area of biosocial criminology. “The state of biosocial criminology is still in its infancy,” Nick noted. “I find it exciting to have the potential to contribute meaningfully to this field in the years to come,” he said. Nick turned down offers at other schools to attend UNO, believing UNO offered him a better opportunity to succeed. One of his goals while being at UNO is to “be first author on a publication in a high impact journal.” He is currently working on a research project with Dr. Todd Armstrong that looks at autonomic nervous system reactivity and traits associated with antisocial behavior.
Congratulations to all of our “Magnificent Seven” students. We’re looking forward to your continued success.