Alyssa Whitby Chamberlain
When asked what it is about crime that fascinates her, UCI criminology doctoral candidate Alyssa Whitby Chamberlain is quick to point out that it has been a process of evolution. "I've always had a curiosity in what factors might motivate someone to engage in crime," says the Criminology, Law and Society doctoral candidate. "I took a few criminology classes as an undergraduate and what I learned was that a vast majority of individuals who commit crimes or are victims of crime, reside in great poverty, so I became interested in helping individuals improve their lives and the communities where they live."
Working with Associate Professor John R. Hipp, Alyssa's research focuses on teasing apart factors that contribute to the decline of neighborhoods. What makes a neighborhood go from good to bad? This is a key question that she tries to answer in her research. "I am interested in improving the quality of life for those living in our most impoverished communities," she says. "I believe that it is important to identify neighborhood characteristics, such as social capital, that can bolster community resources and improve public safety. In addition to understanding which factors protect neighborhoods, identifying characteristics that contribute to crime is necessary to improve communities."
Alyssa received her M.S. in Justice, Law and Society from the American University and a B.A. in American Studies from Brigham Young University. For Alyssa, being able to conduct pivotal research in a supportive environment was a key factor in her decision to pursue doctoral studies at UCIrvine. "UCI was an obvious choice for me - the program here is one of the best in the nation - I feel like I have received great mentoring which has really fostered my development as a scholar and researcher."
She attributes much of her academic success at UCI to Professor Hipp's guidance. "Much of Professor Hipp's work focuses on the agents of change within neighborhoods and communities, with an emphasis on the role various networks and institutions play in affecting that change. It was a natural pairing with my research interests."
When she is not busy conducting research, Alyssa can be found volunteering with a local youth group where she works with girls aged 14-16. She helps the girls identify new skill sets and assists with community outreach projects designed to build a strong sense of civic responsibility.
And where does Alyssa see herself in the future? As of June, she will transition from the role of student to that of faculty - as an Assistant Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. In her new position, Alyssa hopes to be able to continue the process of looking at new ways to solve difficult problems – especially in the area of poverty and neighborhood crime. With my background in policy research, I hope that I am able to get policy makers not only interested in my research, but willing to implement some of my findings. It would be very fulfilling to me if my research had an impact on public policy, affecting the lives of neighborhood residents."