ASU New College Recognizes First Graduates of Growing Doctor of Law and Psychology Program

July 14, 2022

This summer, Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences recognized Emily Denne and Kristen McCowan as the first two graduates of the burgeoning law and psychology doctoral program.

“The fact that we were able to recruit such high caliber students in our first year has been key to the growth and reputation of our doctoral program,” said Nicholas Schweitzerfounding director of the Law and Behavioral Sciences Initiative and associate professor at School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “We are so proud of Emily and Kristen, not only for their success in our program, but also for how they use their experience and training to tackle such important issues.”

This summer, ASU’s new College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences recognized Emily Denne (left) and Kristen McCowan as the first two graduates of the growing law and psychology doctoral program.
Download Full Image

The program, which was created in 2017 as part of the university’s Law and Behavioral Science initiative, merges the fields of law and psychology to help explain how human behavior interacts with the legal system and is affected. by this one. The program aims to train students in taking a broad, interdisciplinary approach with the goal of encouraging them to use this knowledge to address understudied areas where the legal system needs empirical psychological research.

“Emily and Kristen were wonderful students who started together as part of the first cohort of the PhD program,” said Tess Neel, associate professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “They learned leadership and mentorship skills, honed their craft of empirical methodology and statistics, and enriched the lives and labs of students and faculty in the Law and Behavioral Sciences program. We are proud of them and will miss them as they take the next steps in their careers, continuing their quest to improve the understanding and functioning of the justice system. »

Here, Denne and McCowan share about themselves, their experiences, and what to expect.

Emilie Denne

Denne was born in England and moved to the United States when she was 6 years old. She grew up in a small town in Indiana and earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Evansville.

“It was there that I began research into child abuse under the mentorship of Professor Margaret Stevenson,” Denne said. “His work on child care coupled with my own lived experiences sparked my interest in child abuse research more broadly.”

She began studying law and psychology at ASU in 2018 and received a National Science Foundation Fellowship to fund her education. She successfully defended her thesis on understanding children’s reports of grooming in child sexual abuse cases.

Question: What inspired you to pursue the Doctor of Laws and Psychology program at ASU?

Answer: I met Jessica Salerno, a professor in the Department of Law and Psychology, at the American Psychology-Law Society conference in 2018. At the time, I had just withdrawn from a doctoral program in school psychology and I struggled to find direction for my research interests. She introduced me to the work of Professor Neal and Professor (Stacia) Stolzenberg at ASU. Both areas of work were exciting and interesting to me and directly aligned with my own research interests – the investigation and prosecution of child abuse. It was Professor Salerno who introduced me to this exciting work and gave me a foot in the door at ASU. I am very grateful for the opportunity she gave me.

Q: What was your favorite part of this program?

A: I have many fond memories of the program. I have truly enjoyed the meaningful connections and relationships I have made with my mentors and fellow students in the program. It has been exciting to learn with them, from them, and to grow as an academic.

Q: How does this PhD help you achieve your goals?

A: I am deeply grateful for the rigorous law and psychology program that the ASU faculty has established. I learned so much about myself, about my ability to do challenging and challenging things, and about developing expertise in the area of ​​child abuse. I had so many opportunities and so much support for my advisors. When I started grad school, I hoped to publish 10 peer-reviewed papers before I graduated. By the time my degree is conferred, I will probably have achieved that goal. I could not have done this without the incredible support and guidance of the faculty in the Law and Psychology program.

Q: What did you learn at New College — in class or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: At New College, I learned so many things that challenged my outlook and pushed me to really value being an everyday consumer of science. One thing that stood out to me the most was something I learned in Professor Neal’s lab. She continually challenges us to engage with the opposing point of view, consider conflicting collaborations, and critically evaluate both sides of an argument. This idea of ​​adversarial collaboration, or direct engagement and working with those who would have opposing points of view, has been something I have worked to achieve in my personal and professional life. It really helped me develop my own opinions and positions, but also challenged me to be open to changing my opinion in light of new and different evidence.

Q: What are your post-graduation plans?

A: I hope to spend time working as a forensic child interviewer. I study how forensic investigators collect child abuse reports, so I really hope to immerse myself in the field and learn more from those who do this work directly. I am also currently pursuing a post-doctorate at Griffith University in Australia at the Center for Forensic Interviewing. If I get the postdoc, I will have the opportunity to study with Martine Powell and Sonja Brubacher at the center.

Kristen McCowan

McCowan is originally from Chicago, Illinois, and has lived in Phoenix since she started attending ASU. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

She first became interested in legal psychology after taking a course in psychology and law and learning the limitations of our criminal justice system. After learning more about the field, she became involved in research on jury decision-making in sexual assault cases, which sparked her interest in jury research and how people weigh different types of evidence and the effect of bias on judgments throughout a case.

“Knowing that I wanted to do this type of work, Professor Tess Neal’s research stuck with me, and I liked that the program placed a strong emphasis on the intersection of psychology and law, with specific courses to this area of ​​research,” says McCowan.

She successfully defended her thesis on predictors of jurors’ understanding of the strength of evidence.

Question: What was your favorite part of this program?

Answer: My favorite part of this program was expanding my areas of interest and working closely with Tess and the rest of the faculty and students. The program occasionally received other researchers in the field to present their work, and it was a great opportunity to get to know people better in an academic and social setting afterwards. The classes we were able to take, specific to the intersection of psychology and the legal system, also taught me a lot about the field, and the classes being smaller and discussion-based, it was great to hear each other’s views on the research we read. .

Q: How does this PhD help you achieve your goals?

A: Overall, the program’s emphasis on research methodology and writing helped me in the job market to pursue a research-oriented position. Tess’ research lab gave me the opportunity to take on leadership roles in the research process — which, as a research analyst, taught me skills that I continue to use in day by day. The faculty also encouraged students to attend lectures and give research talks which helped to network and engage in the field.

Q: What did you learn at New College — in class or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I learned a lot about the various career opportunities that opened my eyes to ways to effect positive change in the legal system through research without necessarily having to pursue strictly academic work.

Q: What are your post-graduation plans?

A: After graduation, I will continue to work in the field of forensic psychology, as a research analyst for the Center of Integrity in Forensic Sciences, researching forensic evidence reform.

Comments are closed.