Charlotte, N.C./Jan. 27, 2023 – While some faculty and students spent their winter break home with family celebrating the holidays, Criminology major Alexis Lawson ’23 flew to Hawaii with Dr. Anita Bledsoe-Gardner, professor of Criminology, to present collaborative research at the International Academic Forum (IAFOR) Conference.

“This was more than an academic trip,” said Lawson, who visited Hawaii last year for a similar presentation. “I wanted experience giving another presentation because I could add it to my resume. Plus, it was Hawaii, so why not go again?”

The project is called “Collaborative and Reflective Learning: Creating Synergistic Scholars and Scholarships at an Urban HBCU.”

Lawson’s side of the presentation focused on research she’s collecting for her senior paper, which dives into the issue of white supremacy in America.

She surveyed about 50 students on campus to learn if they felt safe in the country, if they’ve ever felt unsafe in predominately white spaces, if they were concerned about becoming a victim of a hate crime and, perhaps most important to the field of Criminology, how students feel law enforcement has been handling white supremacy.

According to the Department of Justice’s 2021 hate crime statistics, 64 percent of hate crimes committed in the U.S. were racially or ethnically motivated. After the police-involved deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Philando Castile among others, systemic racism became a widely discussed issue in America and in other countries.

Lawson’s research confirmed that most of the students she spoke with felt incidents of white supremacy weren’t being handled well by law enforcement, and many feared they may become a victim of a hate crime.

With so many students sharing this sentiment, Bledsoe-Gardner wanted to see how professors could create new spaces where students could expand upon dynamic research concepts like Lawson’s to create opportunities for synergistic scholarship.

“This project was collaborative and reflective,” she said. “It discusses how we can use interdisciplinary activities across the University to create a space for students to foster scholarship while we promote learning. Students like Alexis are making transformative changes in this field.”

Lawson is a McNair Scholar, a member of the NAACP chapter at JCSU and a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.  Prior to this trip, she was able to attend a National Security Seminar in May 2022. Both trips afforded her the opportunity to speak with doctoral candidates, graduate school representatives and students from all around the world.

Bledsoe-Gardner and Lawson did make time to enjoy the culture and beauty of Hawaii. They visited ʻIolani Palace and Pearl Harbor, and went snorkeling and whale-watching.

“When we discuss experiential and cultural learning, that was a part of this trip,” said Bledsoe-Gardner,
“It was more than doing a presentation on an academic subject. We also learned about the people, culture and history of Hawaii, how we can embrace others and how to capture the true concept of DEI.”

Lawson aspires to earn a master’s degree in Criminology, preferably at Bowie State University in Maryland, and then work for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“Trips like these bring visibility to JCSU and other HBCUs,” said Bledsoe-Gardner. “It highlights and profiles our students on a different level. In my opinion, giving up part of my winter break to invest in our student is what a professor should do.”

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