Each year, SPEA IUPUI awards a full-time faculty member the IU Trustees Teaching Award for their positive impact on learning. Assistant Professor Eric Grommon, who joined SPEA in 2012, was selected for the annual award.
In addition to teaching both graduate and undergraduate criminal justice courses, Grommon collaborates with students on a range of community-based projects. One of the most recent projects gave a graduate student the opportunity to co-author reviews of evidence-informed programs and practices in the criminal justice system that was integrated into the recommendations of the 2016 Indianapolis Criminal Justice Taskforce report.
Grommon is a widely published criminal justice scholar whose research focuses on corrections, offender re-entry, and the evaluation of justice system programs, policies, and operations.
Grommon recently discussed his approach to teaching and how he mentors students outside the classroom.
Q: What was your initial reaction when you found out you won the Trustees Teaching Award?
A: I was really surprised. Teaching is important, but it’s not always something where you really know how you’re doing at any one point in time. You can sense the culture of a class but you don’t fully grasp how well you’re doing until the end when you get your student evaluations. It’s really nice to be recognized that I do well in the classroom.
Q: What has been your favorite class to teach and why?
A: I like all the classes I teach, but my undergraduate “Corrections” course may be my favorite. I’ve been able to use the partnerships I’ve developed in Indianapolis and bring in correctional experts and practitioners. I like to teach this class by giving my students a taste of the academic side, but I also rely on my network of contacts to share their insights and experiences, which also creates opportunities for students to obtain internships, volunteer opportunities, and employment opportunities.
But not all of my contacts are practitioners in a traditional sense – some of my contacts are those folks who are currently or formerly incarcerated. Giving students these kinds of experiences helps to break down some preconceived notions that people may have about individuals in our correctional system, especially knowing that our students are going to be future criminal justice professionals.
I also enjoy teaching “Research Methods,” both the undergraduate and graduate level. The Research Methods course is really, really important, especially in a time where we’re thinking about how to consume research to understand what are solid findings and what are fluff. Having strong research skills is always going to be important, so I really enjoy finding ways to make dense, boring material fun – I really enjoy that. I try to think of different ways to pitch research-design elements so that it’ll be something that sticks to students.
For example, when I talk about about experimental designs, I randomly assign students to two groups and force the class to take a difficult quiz on statistics. Prior to taking the quiz, one group essentially receives the answers, while the other group receives a newsworthy story. Students then score their own quiz and share the results in class. Half the class is proud to report their 100 percent, while the other half tends to bomb their quiz. By debriefing and walking through these steps after the results are shared, students are able to experience the nuts and bolts of this type of design and how the design can be criticized.
Down the road when students read the research they, hopefully, will think back to one of my classes and what I did in class to make them remember why these elements are so important.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about teaching at SPEA IUPUI?
A: I feel like teaching SPEA IUPUI students has been different than my past experiences in that they are way more engaged. I find that our students really want to learn the material and understand what’s going on in the real world. I think that makes our students different. And I think being able to rely on networks with folks we’ve developed in the community and bringing them into class really benefits our students as well. Our students realize that we’re helping to lead criminal justice efforts in the city and by doing so, they also can have a part to play in the research or just by simply corresponding with practitioners.
Q: How do you engage and mentor your students outside of the classroom?
A: I always try to push my students into taking independent studies so they can expand upon topics they are really interested in. These independent studies do not necessarily need to be with me, since I’m sure my students have been exposed to one of our instructors in one of their classes who discussed a topic they were really interested in. I encourage students to approach these instructors to discuss opportunities to do independent studies. Our faculty is doing a lot of really important work in and around Indianapolis and the state of Indiana.
If a student has an idea for an independent study and approaches me to discuss the option, I’ll talk through ideas and guide students toward more feasible studies. Once we’ve agreed on a topic, I will direct students through their own independent research. One component of these studies is to actively engage with policymakers or practitioners. In some instances, these will be practitioners I work with, but depending on the topic, students may experience the trials and errors of trying to build collaborations with practitioners. The end result of these studies is a report that is submitted to policymakers or practitioners the students have been interacting with over the course of the semester. I believe this is an important resume-building experience that can be discussed in interviews for entry-level positions.
Other times students may simply be interested in the research I am working on. In these instances, I’ll talk about what I’m up to and place students on tasks they would like to help out on, whether that’s doing literature reviews, helping with data collections, or simply attending meetings. I try to find ways to get students involved in my work so that they can see the importance of research and notice how what we may discuss in the abstract in class does translate outside of class. As a faculty member, I feel that like it’s my responsibility to find first-hand opportunities in the community for students.
- 2016 – Brad Ray
- 2015 – Seth Payton
- 2014 – William Foley
- 2013 – Jeff Paine
- 2012 – Roger Jarjoura
- 2011 – Crystal Garcia
- 2010 – Crystal Garcia
- 2009 – Tom Stucky and Sheila Kennedy
- 2008 – Crystal Garcia and Alfred Ho
- 2007 – Tom Stucky and Crystal Garcia
- 2006 – Crystal Garcia and Kenna Quinet
- 2005 – Crystal Garcia and Ann Holmes
- 2004 – Roger Jarjoura
- 2003 – Ann Holmes