By M. Yvonne Taylor, University Marketing
Prolific Criminal Justice Professor
Don’t be fooled by her unassuming demeanor and folksy gift of gab — Professor Joycelyn Pollock is a powerhouse. The Texas State University professor of criminal justice is former chair of the department, author of 16 books, recipient of numerous awards and “absolutely brilliant,” says San Marcos Chief of Police Howard Williams.
Williams, a student in Pollock’s doctorate-level ethics class, who also had the professor for his first master’s class, admits that when he met her, “she scared the living daylights out of me. She threw things out that I’d never heard before. And I thought, ‘I’m in way over my head.’
“She scared me, but I came to realize that she knows all this so well that it just comes off the top of her head. She’s studied hard.”
When the Studying Began
Raised in Mukilteo, Wash., Pollock was the first in her family to go to college when she set foot on the Whitman College campus in Walla Walla, eight hours from home. “Whitman had a great prison program that I’d read about in Life
magazine,” she explains. And she was fortunate to have the opportunity to study under Lee Bowker, a well-known prison expert in sociology. She even wrote a chapter in one of his books — as an undergraduate — beginning her prolific writing career.
“At the time, I was interested in prisons and drug treatment, and how people can redeem themselves,” she explains. “I wanted to be a probation and parole officer.” She tried her hand at that, taking a leave of absence from school to work as an emergency-hire probation and parole officer, taking the place of a woman out on maternity leave.
“The job was eye-opening, especially for a 20-year-old, and I really enjoyed the work,” she admits, “but I wanted a bigger platform looking into program evaluation.”
The professor with whom she co-authored the book encouraged her to continue her education. “That’s how I ended up at SUNY-Albany,” she says, “and it changed my life plans.”
The Life of a Scholar and Professor
State University of New York-Albany, as it was then called, “had the biggest names in criminal justice in the country,” says Pollock, who in 2006 received the university’s outstanding alumnus award. “I gradually moved into teaching,” she says, “and I think it’s the best job in the world. You get to explore various issues, questions and interest in topics, and you get paid for it. And you go into a classroom and create that interest in the next generation.”
After earning her PhD, Pollock’s teaching career led her to a position at the University of Houston-Downtown, which happened to be located directly across the bayou from the city’s criminal court house system. “I was always bringing my students there,” explains the professor, “and I was able to get great guest speakers for my classes.”
Her interests and research expanded from women in the criminal justice system, prisons and ethics to include law.
While teaching at UH-D, she took time to earn a JD from the University of Houston, and she believes that work truly informs what she’s able to bring into the classroom. “Obviously, you don’t learn criminal law well unless you learn constitutional law and procedural law and the law of evidence, which comes from law school, “ she explains, “so I’m much better equipped to teach the law classes.”
Writer of Note
“One of the things that I did while working on my JD,” offers Pollock, “was to write briefs for attorneys because it’s very similar to what we do in social sciences. We have a body of literature and try to organize it and make it clear to the reader. That’s exactly what a legal brief is. And I enjoyed that type of writing.”
Pollock seems to enjoy all types of writing. She’s written 16 books, several of which have gone into multiple editions, including her book on ethics, which is currently in its seventh edition. She’s even co-authored a work of fiction, Morality Stories, which holds a special place in her heart. “That book is used to tell stories” that get people to consider ethical dilemmas, she explains.
Says Quint Thurman, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, “Dr. Pollock is one of the most productive scholars on campus and just recently was recognized by Will Oliver from Sam Houston State as the one of the top five most active criminal justice authors in the United States.”
Her love of writing spills over into the classroom as well, as she not only teaches students from books she’s written herself, she teaches them to write for themselves. “I believe in high standards,” says Pollock. “My major goal is for students to learn how to think and how to write, and if you can do those two things, you’ll be a lot more successful in whatever you choose to do — even if you don’t go into the criminal justice field.”
Criminal Justice PhD Program
But Pollock works hard to see that those who do work in the criminal justice field and those who want to research it and effect change are well prepared to do so.
She and her colleagues developed the university’s newest doctorate program, in criminal justice, which enrolled students for its first class in fall 2009. “Our major interest is in having a program that prepares folks who want to go into teaching and also benefits the state of Texas through criminal justice research that can make the system better,” she says. “Most programs are residential. Our thought always was that there are plenty of people already working in criminal justice or other fields who can’t give up their day jobs, but still want to pursue a PhD program.
“And that’s going to be the strength of our program, because you have a lot of synergy that takes place when you have people around the table who have long careers in law enforcement and can bring those perspectives to the discussion along with full-time students who don’t have that experience.
“In the long run,” says the professor, who in 2006 won the Bruce Smith Sr. Award from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences for her outstanding academic and professional contributions to criminal justice, “it’s going to make this program at Texas State one of the best in the country.”