Altoona students take top prizes at PA criminal justice conference

Rae Griffith (left) and Tyler Frye show off their awards from the PACJE conference.

Rae Griffith (left) and Tyler Frye show off their awards from the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Justice Educators conference.

Credit: Penn State

ALTOONA, Pa. — Penn State Altoona students Rae Griffith and Tyler Frye took home the top undergraduate student research awards at this year’s Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Justice Educators (PACJE) conference, held in late March. Griffith won the award for the best undergraduate student paper, and Frye won the Bernie Meyer Undergraduate Student Scholarship.

Griffith and Frye are both long-standing members of the Integrated Social Science Research (ISSR) lab co-directed by Nathan E. Kruis, assistant professor of criminal justice, and Nicholas J. Rowland, professor of sociology.

“This comes at an amazing time,” said Kruis, “because both students just finalized plans to start graduate school in fall 2022. Rae will take their skills to Sam Houston State University on a full scholarship, and Tyler will attend my alma mater, Indiana University of Pennsylvania."

"We could not be more proud of Rae and Tyler for this and so much more,” added Rowland.

The PACJE undergraduate paper award is given to a student whose work is an original analysis. Of Griffith’s paper, “Sentencing Bias Against Lesbian and Gay Criminal Offenders,” the award committee wrote, “The committee believes that your submitted paper exceeds the requirements of this award.”

Griffith’s paper is based on research that could not be conducted if it were not for generous funding support from Penn State Altoona’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, and Associate Dean of Research Corey Gracie-Griffin.

The PACJE Bernie Meyer Undergraduate Scholarship “recognizes both your classroom performance and your extensive extra-curricular activities related to the field of criminal justice,” the award committee told Frye. “We applaud the dedication to your classes that has produced your excellent academic record. Perhaps most impressive is your extensive record of research activity, which far exceeds that of most undergraduate students.”

Eight other student members of the ISSRL joined Griffith and Frye in attending the PACJE conference, the second the ISSRL lab participated in this semester. The group recently took part in the Academy of Criminal Justice’s annual conference in Las Vegas. “After two years of COVID, the students are eager to participate in these events, and I am, too," remarked Rowland. “The students are doing tremendous work. I am happy that they are finally getting to participate in conferences in person and enjoy all of the benefits of conferencing."