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Rochelle Stevenson

Love of animals sparked criminology career

May 28, 2009

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By Helena Bryan

What does one loveable mutt have to do with the career path of SFU’s most recent Gordon M. Shrum undergraduate gold medal winner?

It was her love of animals—including said mutt, Tane—that got Rochelle Stevenson thinking about animal cruelty and its connection to criminal behaviour.

"You hear about animal abuse all the time, especially the fact that serial killers often start out abusing animals," says the Oakville, Ont. native. "That kind of cruelty is so foreign to me, I had to know why people do it."

Stevenson was serious about finding answers. And she moved to B.C. specifically to get them, at SFU’s School of Criminology in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences where she spent the past four years earning an honours BA.

Hers is a university career characterized by achievement—a 3.91 grade-point average and several scholarships—and the maturity that comes with life experience. Now 33, Stevenson returned to school after a decade or so away figuring out what she wanted to do.

Her academic accomplishments already include guest lecturing at the university and presenting an original research paper and a position paper at two separate annual Western Society of Criminology conferences. She also organized fundraising events and helped establish a criminology student association community service award.

In Stevenson’s mind, though, her crowning achievement was her selection as a peer educator at the Student Learning Commons, where she helped other students prepare for exams, manage their stress and edit their own work. "I really enjoyed helping others become successful."

That’s something she wants to continue in the future, after she receives her graduate degree from the University of Ottawa, followed by a PhD from SFU.

When asked where she sees herself in 10 years, Stevenson doesn’t hesitate: "Back at SFU teaching, contributing to my students’ academic careers the way my professors have to mine."

Of course, future SFU criminology students will have a certain loveable mutt to thank when she returns.

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