Although the other Criminal Justice student in this month’s Spotlight has just begun his studies, Crystal Null has completed her program and received her M.S. in May. Crystal received her B.S from UAB in Justice Sciences in 2004 and because she was impressed by the quality of professors at UAB, she decided that UAB was the right place to pursue her graduate studies. She explains, “The professors are very passionate about their research and eager to help students both inside and outside of the classroom. I had many discussions with different professors about possible schools to attend for my graduate studies. In the end, I chose to stay at UAB. After seeing how willing they were to help me shape my academic career to achieve my professional goals as an undergraduate student, I knew I wanted to continue my graduate studies with them.”
Crystal’s research is related to alternatives to incarceration for offenders, focusing on the Jefferson County Mental Health Court. She draws her motivation for research from the research itself explaining, “There is a big push in the United States for criminal justice policy to be tough on crime. A component of this approach is longer prison sentences for offenders. This has not only caused an over-crowding problem in prisons across the nation, but it does not address many of the root problems of crime - such as mental illness, drug addiction, and even poverty and unemployment. This is a very timely topic in criminology, as policy-makers are trying to figure out what to do with the large number of offenders currently in the system.”
Crystal’s greatest influence at UAB has been her advisor, Dr. Kathryn Morgan. “She was not only my thesis advisor and chair, but she took a genuine interest in me and my life goals. Sometimes I think she knows me better than I know myself. She supported me throughout my graduate studies, encouraging me to do the best work I could. I hope when I am a professor, I am able to do the same with my students.”
As far as her most rewarding experience is concerned, Crystal again praises her professors, saying, “I was able to work with numerous professors on topics ranging from identity theft to drug courts. I co-authored a publication on property crime with Dr. Heith Copes. I feel like the relationships I have made with professors at UAB will continue as I pursue my PhD at the University of California in Irvine.”
Crystal’s future plans include the Criminology, Law and Society PhD program at the University of California in Irvine and becoming a professor at the university level.
Crystal’s Advice for Other Graduate Students:
“Many students begin their graduate studies just rushing to get out. Take the time to look at the opportunities that exist for graduate students. I spent a semester interning with the Department of Justice. While that delayed my graduation, I felt like it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Get everything you can out of your time in school because after that, you have to find a real job.”