An interview with Candence Wills, a doctoral student in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, on her research with the Institute on Race and Justice. More on the Massachusetts Hate Crime Resource Center Project.
What are you researching?
The “Hate Crimes Educational Resource Guide” is a grant-funded project from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS). Professor Jack McDevitt and his research team, consisting of faculty and graduate students at Northeastern, American University, and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), are tasked with creating an educational resource guide to address hate crimes and bias-motivated events for personnel in Massachusetts schools. This includes understanding the material that is currently available to assist those who face or report bias-motivated events and bias crime trends in the US, Massachusetts, and in local school districts to help us develop a flexible guide that can support each unique school district in creating their own bias-incident policies, reporting procedures, and investigations.
What led you to pursue this research?
I am fortunate in that I have great working rapport with Professor McDevitt, and he asked me if I would be interested in joining his research team for the project. It was a great opportunity to work on a research with more people in the community and government agencies. I particularly enjoy projects that collaborate with community organizations, government agencies, and social service providers and directly impact communities or a target group. I am further interested in understanding how institutions respond to issues/victimization, especially marginalized groups. This project collaborates with the ADL and interviewing public administrators in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), school principals, and the Attorney General Office to create a guide that will benefit Massachusetts schools to respond to hate and bias-motivated events when implemented.
How has the research impacted you?
In this project, I had the opportunity to interview study participants, create project reports, help develop resource guide components, and collaborate with the ADL. To me, one of the most important aspects of this project is having the opportunity to work on a project from start to finish. It may not seem like a crucial aspect, but as a future researcher, I would like to develop projects in collaboration with other scholars and community organizations and understand how to execute (and potentially implement) the project. I have been afforded a great opportunity to work closely with the team as the lead graduate research assistant on the project and understand how to engage with participants and work in collaboration with those who are outside of the academic setting.
What is the end goal of your research?
The end goal of the project is to be able to have resources available for staff, teachers, administrators, students, parents, and the larger community to recognize hate crimes and bias-motivated events and also to report incidents to those who can investigate. School districts also will have a guide in creating districtwide policies that communicates to both the school personnel, students, and the larger community that addressing and preventing bias-motivated events will be a continued priority. It may be farfetched, but I envision Massachusetts serving as a model for other states or school districts to follow when dealing with hate and bias-motivated behavior.