Supporting Underrepresented Scholars in their Academic Pursuits

The second objective of the Racial Democracy, Crime and Justice Network is to support the advancement of underrepresented scholars of color engaged in the academic study of crime and justice. This aim also relates to our interest in democratic inclusion on the basis of race, class, and gender. Research evidence indicates that young scholars from underrepresented groups encounter dilemmas, challenges and barriers that complicate their promotion in the academy. To buffer these obstacles, the Network is comprised of many young scholars from underrepresented groups who themselves are engaged in research on race/ethnicity, crime and justice. RDCJN makes consistent effort to provide opportunities for publishing or developing volumes to support young scholars in their academic pursuits. In fact, many members of RDCJN are authors and/or editors in the volumes of scholarship that we have produced.

Since 2006, we have assisted young scholars in their academic advancement by hosting an annual Crime and Justice Summer Research Institute (SRI). Two general assertions underlie the SRI program structure: (1) researchers from all walks of life can make important contributions to scholarship on crime and justice, with the field suffering to the extent that the full range of perspectives is not integrated into the knowledge base; and (2) isolation from resources and opportunities is a serious hindrance to the success of young faculty from underrepresented groups, and thus, by reducing such isolation we will also enhance the likelihood of their success. In turn, these assertions help diversify academe and enrich research and theories on crime and justice. To enhance the success and reduce the isolation of underrepresented scholars, SRI Fellows: (1) work on developing a research paper or proposal to bring it to submission readiness; (2) participate in a series of professional development workshops that serve as a toolkit of information for managing the academic environment; (3) build networks with one another and with senior scholars who serve as reviewers of papers/proposals or mentors facilitating individuals’ progress during the institute; (4) present and gain feedback on the paper/proposal during the RDCJN workshop; and (5) become integrated into the larger network of the RDCJN upon completion of the SRI. Many SRI Fellows have now reached the stage of tenure eligibility, and nearly all of these Fellows have been successful in attaining tenure. In addition, several have now been promoted to full professor and even taken leadership positions in university administration. Collectively, SRI Fellows have advanced to publish hundreds of articles and chapters, the majority of which are refereed journal articles, and more than a dozen books. SRI Fellows have also received external grants from national and regional funding agencies in support of their research.
Finally, because some young scholars participate in the RDCJN, but not the SRI, we provide collaboration breakouts and professional development seminars during the annual RDCJN Workshop. The breakout sessions provide opportunities for young scholars (from underrepresented and well-represented groups) to help plan, participate in, and take leadership roles in collaborative research and publishing activities. The professional development seminars cover a variety of topics (e.g., the tenure process, publishing journal articles, publishing books, balancing academic roles, etc.). These extra-SRI activities benefit all young scholars within the RDCJN, and even tenure-track and pre-tenured faculty who seek to further advance their careers. We are proud of the collective synergy of both junior and senior scholars and know that such collaborative efforts are key to the success of RDCJN.