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Cover Letter

Published onOct 28, 2021
Cover Letter
·

I have wanted to be a Gamecock since the start of my career. Now, I bring you a vision for your and my—our—next chapter. We will make the department the world leader in “open criminology”: the provision and use of free publications, educational resources, data, analytic code, software programs, and more. We can become the leader in the next three years; no doubt. As a result, we will reap many benefits. I know how to make it happen. I have a plan. I spell out some of it in my Leadership Philosophy (& Plan). In this letter, I try to convince you that my past and present prepare me to execute my vision and fulfill the duties of a Chair and Professor. Here are the sections:

  • Why Chair

  • Degrees & Ranks

  • Research

    • Approach

      • In-Progress

    • Productivity

      • Open Access

  • Teaching

  • Mentoring

    • Graduate-level

    • Undergraduate-level

  • Service

  • Lifestyle

Why Chair

All Chairs should be treated with suspicion. It is a tough job, so why would anyone want it? I do because it would better position me to advance open criminology. Why is that my priority? My mission? Because of all opportunities before me, this route has the most utility. It increases my impact by increasing the impact of my colleagues and our supporting institutions (e.g., universities, funders). Taxpayers get more for their money. It gives the gift of knowledge to people everywhere. This is social justice. I am not “Mr. Empathy,” but the thought of someone being unable to read research is distressing to me. Ditto a student being unable to afford their course learning materials. I could go on, but the point is this: I want to be your Chair so that I can do more good for more people. If I am Chair in the right place, I think yours, I will be able to do more than I can without the job.

In this part of my Leadership Philosophy (& Plan), I specify the broader motivations and implications of my utilitarian outlook for making your department better. A little more about it is in the final section.

Degrees & Titles

In 2005, I earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology from The University of Georgia. In 2010, I was awarded a PhD in criminology and criminal justice (CCJ) from The University of Missouri – St. Louis. From there, I spent two years as an Assistant Professor at The University of Cincinnati (UC). Around then, I was also a Researcher at the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NCSR). After that, I took a job at Georgia State University (GSU) so that I could be closer to “home.” This year, I was promoted to Professor.

Please note that near this letter’s end, I describe my most important positions with respect to my vision.

Research

Approach

My substantive focus is prevention, especially deterrence and proterrence. My theoretical lens is an ethnographic slant on (bounded) rational choice and opportunity, which shape the decision-making of criminals and controllers (e.g., victims, police, parents, neighbors). I consider myself as an empirically-oriented qualitative researcher, in that I emphasize observable events. I also collaborate with quantitative researchers (i.e., do mixed-methods research) to combine the strengths and offset the weaknesses of our respective approaches. All of that goes into generating information, knowledge, and understanding of pressing problems, including how to better control them. To date, my research has informed harms attributable to drugs; interpersonal crimes of violence, theft, and destruction; and, police discrimination. Furthermore, to hone my craft and help others, I study the social causes and consequences of how research is conducted, a body of work that I refer to as “theorizing method.”

My substantive, theoretical, and methodological expertise will help to “round out” that of your department. This will increase the collaborative possibilities for faculty, in part by expanding the pool of potential PhD applicants.

In-Progress

Since January of this year, I have been spearheading research on “ghost guns.” These are firearms without serial numbers and thus difficult to trace. My interest in open criminology drew me to the topic, as one type of ghost gun is desktop 3D-printed with open source files. The other two types are “defaced” (i.e., the serial number is removed) and “DIY,” most of which are “80% kits” that can be purchased online. If given the chance to interview with you, I would like to talk more about this research. For now, I will simply mention that I have put together an amazing team of researchers with expertise in criminology, computer science, data science, and engineering.1 I expect our research to receive substantial funding from public agencies and foundations (though you never know). This project will integrate open science principles and practices from the start. That is unusual in criminology, but it will become the norm.

Reflecting that research, I will strengthen your department’s interdisciplinary work with members of your college, university, and other organizations (e.g., in government, nonprofit, industry sectors, not just other universities).

Productivity

My complete record of publications includes two monographs; one edited volume; forty-seven articles in peer-reviewed journals; twelve chapters in edited volumes; and, a handful of other works. The nature of my prior work is such that I tend to be the sole author, lead author, or only coauthor (i.e., the second author of a work with two authors). My books are published by prestigious university presses and my articles are published in the top outlets for CCJ and drug studies; for details, see this part of my Curriculum Vitae (CV). Many of these outputs are the result of external funding (see this part of my CV). My work has a marked impact on the work of others as evident in citation metrics, for example; see table 1.2

My productivity would be happy to be friends with yours.


Table 1. Citation of my publications

Metric

Ever

Since 2016

Citations

1406

985

h-index

24

21

i10-index

34

29

m-quotient

1.853

n/a

Notes: The source of these data areGoogle Scholar as of October 10, 2021. ‘n/a’ denotes ‘not applicable.’


Open Access

I take great pride that all of my articles, chapters, and two of my books are open access (OA)—permanently free to read.4 You can see them by perusing my website’s homepage. Do note that with a few exceptions, I am against paying “processing charges” (e.g., APCs) because they are unnecessary and thus irrational, certainly compared to how the monies could otherwise be spent. I have not paid a penny to make my works OA. Anyone can achieve the same, if they know how and have the proper support (e.g., knowledgeable librarians). Making scholarship freely available is social justice, as it removes a cost barrier to learning. It also increases an author’s impact and, by extension, that of their institutions and other supporters (e.g., funders).

As you will see in my Leadership Philosophy (& Plan), I know how to increase your department’s impact by dramatically increasing OA to its scholarly articles.

Teaching

I have taught a wide range of courses, in seated and online formats, at the graduate- and undergraduate-levels; for details, see this part of my CV. I have a multi-prong teaching strategy, as I am sure we all do. Perhaps the most distinguishing part of mine is an emphasis on no-cost learning materials. This approach is evidence-based: research shows that student success is increased by using no-cost learning materials.5 My work to make courses no-cost has been supported by four Affordable Learning Georgia (ALG) grants, totaling $67,400. It took time to get “here,” but now all of my courses are no-cost. I have saved students hundreds of thousands of dollars, probably more than a million—a total that grows every semester. This helps students to “stay in school” (e.g., not drop, withdraw, or exit altogether), get higher grades, and move faster to completing their degree.

As you will see in this part of my Leadership Philosophy (& Plan), I know how to increase your students’ success by eliminating their expenditure on learning materials. This will bring good attention to the department—i.e., it will increase your social capital—within the college, university, the university system, as well as locally, nationally, and internationally. We will be able to procure sizable donation dollars to support the work. If interviewed, I request to spend time with the college’s Development Officers and, time permitting, those of the USC Library. For more about why, see this part of my Leadership Philosophy (& Plan).

Mentoring

Graduate-level

In the last 5 years, I served as chair of Elizabeth Bonomo’s dissertation committee in 2016; as a dissertation committee member of Mindy O’Hara Bernhardt’s in 2018; as the external dissertation committee member of Timothy Dickinson in 2014; and, currently, I am on the dissertation committee of Tessa Cole and mentoring Josh Beck (a new PhD student). During the prior two years, I worked closely with Austin Wright, a PhD student in computer science at The Georgia Institute of Technology.

I will personally oversee making your graduate students the cream of the crop in open criminology. Soon, departments will seek out job applicants who bring this expertise. By making your students the experts, we will improve their placement and your national rankings.

Undergraduate-level

I also have a passion for mentoring undergraduate researchers (URs). I have mentored nine URs as they worked on various research projects, and have done so intensively with two students. My teaching accomplishments at GSU include proposing and developing a new course in my department: Directed Undergraduate Research. While at UC, I founded and coordinated the Undergraduate Research Program in Criminal Justice, which entailed pairing students with faculty mentors to work on collaborative projects.

The most rational way to improve the quantity and quality of PhD student applications is to recruit from within the university. As Chair, I will prioritize finding and nurturing URs, especially minority students. This will bolster your current initiatives, such as the REU summer program in Disparities in the Criminal Justice System.

Service

My many service activities at GSU, at UC, and for my field are listed in this part of my CV. During my time at GSU, here are my most important service positions:

  • For my college, the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies (AYS), I serve as Director of AYS Open (2019–present). It focuses on increasing the dissemination and use of free scholarship (e.g., OA articles), open educational resources (e.g., free textbooks), data, analytic code, et cetera. I write more about this role throughout my Leadership Philosophy (& Plan).

  • For the university, I serve as the Affordable Learning Georgia Faculty Champion (2020–present), which testifies to my recognized leadership in no-cost learning. Also, I previously served as Chair of the Faculty Senate’s Library Committee (2019–2020).

  • For my department, I served as Associate Director for of the Evidence-Based Cybersecurity Research Group (2020–2021). For it, I developed a new minor in Digital Criminology.

For my field, my most important service stems from being Founder and Director of Criminology Open, a nonprofit based in Atlanta. Its mission is to increase the quantity and quality of open criminology. It does so by providing CrimRxiv, COADO, and (the in-development) Criminology Tracking Project. The nonprofit also supports …Qualitative…Criminology and the Oral History of Criminology Project.

Those service activities prepare me to execute my vision and fulfill the many duties of Chair and Professor. More evidence is in my Leadership Philosophy (& Plan).

Lifestyle

I could pursue my vision at any R1-type institution, in the US or elsewhere. So why The University of South Carolina? Because on top of the professional opportunities it affords, it offers an ideal mixture of lifestyle factors. I grew up in metropolitan Atlanta. My parents are still here, and I must be driving distance from them. Since my teenage years, I wanted to live in the Carolinas, as I often visited for soccer tournaments. I love the weather, terrain, and a lot of the culture (e.g., pimento cheese, college football, friendliness, the word “y’all”). I want to work on a traditional campus with a big green quad and old brick buildings. On the weekend, I want to play golf, spend time at the lake, and take short trips to the beach. This is the life I want to live. For those reasons, I would have accepted the job back in 2009, had it been offered, when I interviewed with you. I would like the chance to accept it now.

I will do everything in my power to make your department members happier. I explain what that means in this part of my Leadership Philosophy (& Plan). In short, I will act to maximize the benefit and minimize the cost of work and school. This is how we will further attract and retain great faculty, staff, and students. So long as we care about more than just money, I know we can make everyone happier.

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