In 2011, Eric Grommon was on the hunt for jobs after completing his Ph.D. the previous year. He envisioned himself working within government organizations focused on research and analysis in the criminal justice field, but then an opportunity to work at O’Neill popped up on his radar.
“I got a nudge from colleagues who said O’Neill seemed to be a place that would give me opportunities to work with practitioners to figure out how the justice system impacts the community,” he recalls.
In the 11 years since he arrived on campus, Grommon has used his role as an applied criminologist to focus on corrections, the reentry of justice-involved individuals, and the evaluation of justice system programs, policies, and operations.
“Professor Grommon has a passion for improving governance and societal well-being, and has pursued exemplary, impactful research during his career,” said Siân Mooney, dean of the O’Neill School.
In January 2023, his dedication to advancing the criminal justice field led to a new honor. He was named a Paul H. O’Neill Professor within the O’Neill School, a professorship established in 2019 through a $30 million gift from IU alumnus Paul H. O’Neill.
“I’m honored to be selected, particularly because the Professorship intends to elevate the O’Neill School’s public and community scholarship—and this line of work is one I’ve found to be intrinsically rewarding and impactful,” he says.
Grommon plans to use the O’Neill Professorship to advance his research exploring racial and ethnic disparities in the prosecution of criminal cases and traffic infractions.
“There is growing national, state, and local recognition of the powerful role prosecutors play in shaping justice system outcomes,” he explains. “There also are calls from justice system representatives, the public, and elected prosecutors themselves to use data to monitor the performance of prosecutors’ offices.”
The trouble, Grommon adds, is that most prosecutor’s offices simply don’t have the resources to gather and analyze that data. But that’s where he hopes this new professorship will help.
“This investment will allow the O’Neill School and I to develop a foundation for data-informed prosecution in Indiana,” he explains. “We’ll be able to examine how cases move through local justice systems and explore the presence of racial and ethnic disparities as cases are received and resolved.”
It also will help create new opportunities and build existing relationships. Grommon plans to go back to prosecutor’s offices in Lake and Monroe counties to revisit previous projects and begin collecting new data on those topics. In addition, he plans to hire and train more student research assistants who will become what he calls “the next generation of public and community scholars.”
Blending student-centric opportunities with community-engaged research and an impactful research agenda are why Grommon has become a leader within the O’Neill School.
“Professor Grommon is richly deserving of being named an O’Neill Professor, and we look forward to all he will accomplish to improve the lives of others in his upcoming years at the O’Neill School,” adds Dean Mooney.
This new honor also puts Grommon in good company at O’Neill. The school awarded Claudia Avellaneda a Paul H. O’Neill Professorship this year as well. Three other faculty members had previously received the title: Douglas Noonan, Sanya Carley, and Sean Nicholson-Crotty.