Tell us more about the journey that has led you to the role of UG Director of Criminology?

I don’t know if anyone really has a clear journey to becoming a Program Director, but I have been teaching Criminology at UNSW since 2016 and served in an equivalent role in the School of Social Sciences since mid-2017. That said, I have long been passionate about learning and teaching, and delivering programs and courses that engage and challenge students (I have been teaching Criminology since 2008).

The directorship has been both attractive and rewarding because it allows me to channel this passion, and it has been an absolute honour to work alongside so many great students and staff to help shape what I think is a really great Program.   

What are the benefits of moving the Criminology program to the Faculty of Law & Justice?

One thing to emphasise here is that we have always been a cross-faculty program, delivered by both Arts and Social Sciences and Law. We have two distinct core curricula in our Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice (BCCJ) - the Criminology core and the Social Science core (made up of courses teaching policy in practice and social research methods). Despite the move of the Criminology staff teaching into the BCCJ to Law & Justice, we remain firmly committed to retaining the Social Science core of our program. This is a critical point of difference in our offering in an increasingly competitive UG market in Criminology in NSW and helps us to produce what I think are the best Criminology undergraduates in the country. 

One of the key benefits of the move is that we now have much greater autonomy over program delivery with all Criminology teaching staff in a single faculty. We can build on existing synergies in research and teaching to offer exciting new courses that our students want. That’s something we have already started to work on.

What's your vision for Criminology this year?

2021 is no doubt a huge year for our program, as was last year. 2020 saw the departure of a number of amazing senior colleagues who have been long-time leaders in research and teaching in Criminology at UNSW – so 2021 will be a year of consolidation and planning. We have a major Academic Program Review scheduled for 2022 and we are hoping to build towards that with a focus on emphasising the strengths of our program as it is, but also growing our staff and program in new and exciting ways.

While vibrant, I think Criminology as a discipline is at cross-roads in Australia and is being challenged around its role in the continuation of systems that bear such impact on many in our community – particularly the most vulnerable, marginalised and disadvantaged. I think confronting this challenge must be a key focus of our curriculum if we are to take seriously our commitment to social justice. This is why I am passionate about continuing to introduce different voices and perspectives into the classroom, particularly those with lived experience of the criminal justice system.

What steps are being taken to include Criminology students in the new Faculty? 

Our team has been working incredibly hard to make sure that the needs of our students are represented as well as possible in their new home Faculty. Obviously, a move like this requires considerable revision to a whole raft of policies governing how we operate, but we have been well-supported by the incredible professional and academic staff in Law & Justice to make sure that this is happening as smoothly as possible.

We are also working closely with CrimSoc – our Criminology Students Society – to ensure that any pressing issues, concerns or questions are addressed as and when they arise. The Dean and I have regular meetings with CrimSoc, and recently produced a recorded Q&A session based on a series of questions submitted by BCCJ students. This is one example of the ways in which we are ensuring that Criminology students feel welcome and supported in Law & Justice.

Do you expect big changes for Criminology students following the move to Law & Justice?

There are many differences between our old home in Social Sciences and Law & Justice. There is no question it will take some time to get used to new cultures, policies and people, but we are also lucky to have really well-established relationships with staff here that have made the move much easier. 

In terms of the delivery of our program, there will not be any major changes for students to manage. Our program remains structured as it was prior to the move, but with new scope to establish fresh elective offerings and grow key areas of our program such as our internship opportunities and career readiness training. 

Dawn Lo