Lauren Gant, MA: Using Sociology to Improve State-Level Criminal Justice Systems in Colorado

 

Editorial Note:

This profile is presented as a part of a larger project with the intentions of: 1) providing students with examples of applied sociology, 2) providing market value to sociological skills and services, and 3) promoting the work of individual sociological practitioners and organizations. You can find a directory of all profiles included in this project here. We'd like to thank all those who participated by sharing their experiences as applied sociologists!

 

Lauren Gant, M.A.

Lauren Gant earned her M.A. in applied sociology from the University of Northern Colorado and is now working as a professional research assistant and consultant for the Criminal Justice Research Initiative at the University of Colorado - Denver. Gant describes the Criminal Justice Research Initiative as "a resource for public, private and nonprofit criminal justice entities that respond to crime and victimization issues in Colorado." When we asked her about her work with the initiative she told us:

We work with law enforcement agencies, the courts, corrections, victim advocacy groups and others to provide cutting-edge research and analysis on pressing criminal justice issues. Drawing on diverse skills and expertise within the School of Public Affairs, the center provides a broad range of services to strengthen the partnership between practitioners and academics. Our goal is to improve efficiency and effectiveness of criminal justice systems in Colorado.

Read our full interview with Lauren Gant on her applied sociology career below:

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Using Sociology in Practice

In general, how do you use sociology in practice?

Sociological theory and methods inform every stage of the research/evaluation process including, data collection, data analysis, and report writing. We refer to sociological journals to find reliable measures and best practices to inform our survey guides, interview guides, and overall project design.

How do you use sociological theory in practice?

Sociological theory also informs how we interpret and present our data in a meaningful way to clients, practitioners, and academics. A background in sociological theory provides the researcher with context to relate their findings to larger social trends.

Lessons for Future Practitioners

What types of courses should undergraduate students take in preparation for a career in your type of practice?

Sociological Research Methods, Sociology of Inequalities, Classical and Contemporary Theory, Criminology, and Statistics.

What types of courses should graduate students take in preparation for a career in your type of practice?

Social Statistics, Applied Sociological Theory, Qualitative Research Methods, and research credit hours.

What types of experiences should undergraduate students seek in preparation for a career in your type of practice?

During my undergraduate career, I interviewed and shadowed applied sociologists to explore different career options. I also had an internship at a research lab to gain experience in data collection, analysis, and report writing.

What types of experiences should graduate students seek in preparation for a career in your type of practice?

I worked for the Social Research Lab that is housed in the University of Northern Colorado's sociology department. The research lab provides students with real-world experience to assist with evaluations. I also worked as a graduate research assistant.

 

What skills or experiences does the Criminal Justice Research Initiative look for when hiring employees?

Employees should have some experience providing research support, including: data management, data collection, literature reviews, etc. At a minimum, this person should have experience successfully completing at least one research or evaluation project, which can include a capstone or thesis project. Data collection and analysis skills are necessary (both qualitative and quantitative), and any experience using applied evaluation methodologies is considered exceptional but is not required.

What are the best outlets to learn more about a career in your type of practice?

When I pursued a degree in sociology during my junior year of college, I joined the sociology club, the Social Research Lab and attended sociology conferences to learn more about sociology career choices. I also networked with professors and graduate students to explore different employment opportunities in the field.

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