Seniors Devin Gatto, Kristy MacDougall, and Bella Shields will add the title academic author to their resumes this spring. The three joined Dr. Jen Balboni to research and publish a new analysis of the deaths of Philandro Castile and Ahmaud Arbery that will be featured in the 2022 edition of the Encyclopedia on the History of American Racial Violence.
The new publication will feature two articles by the students including one on the 2020 death of Arbery, who was shot while jogging through a Glynn Country, Ga., neighborhood, and another on the 2016 event and resulting trial where Castile was fatally shot during a traffic stop by a police officer in Falcon Heights, a suburb of Saint Paul, Minn. "What was different about this case was that there were multiple videos, and as a result, the narrative of his killing didn't follow the typical storyline with disputed facts about what transpired," they wrote in the article on Castile.
As part of an independent research project, the undergraduates dedicated up to a year to help research and write the publication working as often as three nights a week. "We started researching in early January (2020) by reading articles and listening to podcasts. Then, each of us chose a different area to focus. It took us another month to gather enough where we could start writing a draft," says Shields, who has plans to attend law school in the fall. "I've learned so much through the process, including how to write differently. It's made me a better writer overall."
MacDougall agrees. "I love to expand my knowledge, and the more I invest in this publication, the more I learn. My writing and research skills continue to grow and have shaped me into a stronger student."
Dr. Balboni, professor and interim chair of the Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology, is a leading criminal justice scholar who publishes work regularly contributing to key academic and policy developments. As part of this work, she often partners with undergraduates at the College to write informative essays for a variety of publications.
“Curry is such a special place. The small classes and low advising caseloads allow me the space to get to know my students well and to work with aspiring students to build information literacy and writing skills in depth. Many of the students I’ve authored essays with in the past went on to law school or graduate studies. Mentoring these students has been a true joy.”
For Gatto, MacDougall, and Shields, the work represents more than a boost on the resume. They all feel passionate that the publication will contribute to an important social issue. "Not only did I get to learn from Dr. Balboni and find new friendships, but I was also able to write a piece that meant a lot to me. Writing this piece makes me feel like my words have real meaning," adds Gatto.