Danielle Murdoch returns to place that kindled her passion for criminology
By Christine Palka
Criminology lecturer Danielle Murdoch describes joining SFU’s School of Criminology as “coming around full circle” to the place and people that helped kindle her passion for research and teaching.
Murdoch started in September 2016 after working two years at Boise State University (BSU) as an assistant professor in criminal justice. She attributes getting the tenure track position to the preparation she received while studying at SFU.
She received her BA in Criminology at SFU, and after completing an MPhil in Criminological Research at the University of Cambridge, returned to SFU to attain a PhD in Criminology.
“I’m grateful for the mentorship I received at SFU. As a first generation university student, I didn’t have the outside direction to recognize my potential for an academic career. It was only when several of my professors suggested I pursue graduate school that I considered the option. I wouldn’t have the career I’m so passionate about today without having received this encouragement,” says Murdoch.
That’s why Murdoch jumped at the opportunity to return to SFU when the School sought a new lecturer.
While at BSU, Murdoch determined that she most enjoyed her role in the classroom. She placed considerable attention developing her lecture materials and guiding students beyond the requirements of her position.
“Returning to SFU provided an excellent chance to give back to the community that had given me many great opportunities. The students here I find really engaged and interested, so I knew I would be happy to return to focus on teaching.”
Murdoch’s teaching practices exemplify the learning experience she strives to provide for her students: she wants university to be a knowledge, skill building experience.
“Students must be learning and not just memorizing. I provide students with the academic background materials they need to understand the issues they might encounter as professionals in the field. The knowledge that underlies policies and practices, and the dynamics that alter how these policies are undertaken.”
To achieve this goal, Murdoch ensures she provides materials from diverse perspectives, such as the viewpoints of staff, offenders and their families, and academics.
She recognizes the importance of preparing her students to face a variety of situations whether that is in other course work, pursuing graduate or law school, or careers after completing their undergraduate degree.
In addition to teaching, Murdoch is interested in corrections research. She’s had opportunities to explore this area in practice working as a special projects and research assistant with the BC Board of Parole (2005), and during an internship with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2009).
Both of her research projects while completing her graduate degrees focused on corrections: she conducted a comparative analysis of the Parole Board of Canada and parole board for England and Wales for her master’s, and examined Canada’s role in corrections reform in Kosovo for her doctorate.
While at BSU, Murdoch along with a colleague, pursued a research project for the county sheriffs office that evaluated their novel, when it was first implemented, video visitation system that allowed inmates to remotely connect with their families and friends. She is now working on a manuscript to share the results of her research findings.
“Corrections first interested me because prisons are such closed institutions, and although most of our offenders are in the community setting, I was still interested in knowing more about this environment. I realized how little we actually know about what takes place there with some of the most vulnerable and marginalized populations in Canada,” says Murdoch.
Murdoch is now connecting her interest in corrections research and her belief in experiential learning with a recent SFU Teaching and Learning Development Grant that sees her evaluating the value of prison visits for her students, and any obstacles to student participation.
“It was because of my previous corrections classes that I’m now interested in corrections. I want my students to have the same valuable experience. I think my students appreciate knowing that I was literally in their seats doing the same thing during my undergraduate studies.
I took the same courses that I currently teach. And in Introduction to Corrections, I now co-author with Dr. Curt Griffiths the newest edition of the text I read as an undergraduate in his class that they now read in my class. It feels like I have come full circle in many ways.”