The first offering of criminology courses at FSU began in the early 1950s in the Department of Criminology and Corrections in the School of Social Welfare. By 1973, the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice offered Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees. Over the course of the College’s history various research centers have been established and developed. In addition, there has been a history of individual professors pursuing their own external research funding. Some of these projects operated in affiliation with the College and the University while others were conducted through outside consultation arrangements.
Beginning as early as the late 1960s and early 1970s, the then School of Criminology and Criminal Justice successfully competed for several externally funded projects that were available through increased funding from federal agencies, such as the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA). In 1968, the School received a Ford Foundation grant to establish the Southeastern Corrections and Criminological Research Center. The Southeastern Center worked with the North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida Departments of Corrections. Faculty involvement in the Center primarily involved Drs. Gordon Waldo and Ted Chiricos and was initially housed on campus in the Bellamy building. Supplemented by other funded research grants the Center grew to nearly 40 staff and moved to an off-campus location. The Center existed until approximately 1976. A few years later, under Dean Eugene Czajkoski, the College received a large LEAA training grant. This grant established the Southeastern Criminal Justice Training Center led by Drs. Thomas Blomberg and Fred Faust. The Training Center provided program evaluation training throughout the country to various criminal justice policy and practitioner groups. Although the College did not maintain an official research center during most of the 1980s and 1990s, various criminology faculty members conducted funded research as consultants. Based upon their individual areas of expertise, the faculty offered a wide range of research-related services to policymakers and practitioners around the country including expert witness testimony, program evaluation, statistical analysis, forecasting training, and survey research.
The Center’s Establishment (1998 – 2010)
The current Center (The Center for Criminology and Public Policy Research) was officially established in 2004 with the purpose of expanding the College’s scholarship into the public policy arena. During the time of the Center’s establishment the College was reorganized under new leadership, namely Dr. Thomas Blomberg upon his appointment as Dean. Prior to his position as Dean, the then Provost Larry Abele charged him with elevating the College into one of the top Criminology programs in the country. Blomberg felt that an important element of the College’s quest to be among the top Criminology PhD programs would be a research and public policy focus. During this period, the College was rebranded with the tagline “Research Brought to Life.” This tagline embodies the establishment and purpose of the Center.
The official designation as a Center in 2004 was the result of an already active externally funded research agenda within the College. Beginning in 1998, the then Associate Dean, Thomas Blomberg was awarded a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract from the Florida Department of Education for the Juvenile Justice Educational Enhancement Program (JJEEP). From 1998 to 2010, JJEEP developed, implemented, and maintained a research-driven accountability system that monitored all of the juvenile justice educational programs in Florida. Initially, the Center was housed off campus, employed over 30 full-time professional staff, supported numerous graduate students and interns, and was fully supported by external funding. Other major Center projects during this time period included the Florida Safe and Drug Free Data Quality Management Project, a Congressional Earmark titled the Juvenile Justice No Child Left Behind National Collaboration Project, a Consumer Fraud Institute, an Assessment of the Effectiveness of Electronic Monitoring on Supervision and Post-Supervision Outcomes, the Agricultural Crime Initiative, Educational Policy Research, and the Palm Beach County Youth Violence Reduction Project.
Current State of the Center (2011 – Present)
Today the Center is housed on the fourth floor of the historic Eppes Hall as part of the College. The Center’s current administrative structure includes an Executive Director (the Dean of the College, Dr. Thomas Blomberg), and Co-Directors (Dr. George B. Pesta and Dr. Julie Brancale, research faculty members).
In early 2018, the Center established numerous Institutes supported under the Center’s administrative umbrella. The Center’s current Institutes focus the expertise of faculty and staff in various areas.
By promoting current, relevant, and innovative research, the Center attracts noteworthy government and industry partnerships and funding that contribute to FSU’s Top 20 (2020) National Public Universities placement.
National and University Context
The Center is largely supported by soft money, and is the research arm of the College providing administrative structure and assistance to College faculty who wish to pursue research funding. More specifically, the Center facilitates locating potential sources of research funding, assists with applying for funding, administratively manages research projects, and assists Principal Investigators (PI) with conducting their research. Center projects often provide opportunities for accessing typically unavailable criminal justice organizations and data, opportunities to publish using these data, and opportunities for graduate students to receive funding and conduct research. Cumulatively these various research projects have and will continue to provide opportunities for elevating the number and quality of faculty and graduate student research and publications. As documented in Kleck et al.’s three prior studies of research/publication productivity over the past 14 years, FSU’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice’s faculty rose nationally in research productivity from 7th (2000-2004) to 1st (2005-2009) and 2nd (2010-2014).
Additionally, the Center plays a vital role within the larger University context and aims to assist the university with meeting its goals and fulfilling its mission. In early 2013, then University President, Dr. Eric Baron announced the goal of being ranked within the top 25 National Public Universities by the US News & World Report university ranking system. Among numerous other items, universities are ranked based upon the amount of external research funding received, number of funded research projects, prestige, and number of peer-reviewed research publications. Later in 2013, the Florida Legislature indicated the importance of establishing FSU as a top institution of higher learning and research by passing the Career and Professional Education Act, which awarded FSU, along with the University of Florida, and the University of South Florida, “preeminence” status within the State of Florida University System. Along with this status, the law provides FSU with $15 million a year for the next five years to escalate research through faculty recruitment and retention. By promoting current, relevant, and innovative research, the Center attracts noteworthy government and industry partnerships and funding that contribute to advancing FSU’s goal of being ranked as one of the top 25 National Public Universities.
Finally, the Center is also influenced by the national context within the field of criminal justice research. Today, perhaps more than ever, criminal justice research is influencing policy and practice. Although the divide between academia and policy and practice still exists, questions of resource allocation, cost effectiveness, and “what works” have begun to bridge this traditional divide. This larger context is often influenced by the intersection of research and public policy. For example, Center faculty have provided a number of state legislative and U.S. Congressional briefings on the policy applications of their research. Numerous scholars and researchers have called for criminal justice research to be more influential in federal, state, and local policy and practice. Other scholars, particularly in the field of juvenile and adult corrections, have discussed the emergence of an evidence-based movement in criminal justice. Furthermore, both public and private funders of research are encouraging research designs that include researcher-practitioner partnerships and multi-disciplinary collaborations. NIJ has embraced the publication of scientific peer-reviewed publications over a funded project’s final technical report. Understanding these national trends and contexts is critical for the Center as research designs that employ researcher-practitioner partnerships, interdisciplinary collaborations, and mixed methods approaches become increasingly viewed as favorable to both public and private funders of research.