Criminology student’s work earns top honors from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences

March 4, 2024
Sarah Wouters

A researcher in Florida State University’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice is being recognized by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) for her work.  

Sarah Wouters, a second-year criminology doctoral student, authored the research paper, “Mental Health Services & Violence Prevention Training: Exploring Alternative Practices for Enhancing School Safety.” The project was selected as the graduate-level winner of the ACJS Security and Crime Prevention section’s annual student paper competition. 

“It’s confirmation that I am on the right track and that the work I am doing can have an impact,” Wouters said of the recognition. “I wasn’t expecting this but it gives me confidence and it opens up some doors for future work.”  

Wouters is a native of Port Saint Lucie, Florida. She earned her undergraduate degree in criminology with a minor in education at FSU.  

Her paper focuses on how school mental health services and violence prevention training for teachers impact violence on school campuses. The study drew from a nationally representative sample of U.S. public elementary and secondary schools.  

Wouters said her findings showed that, on their own, the availability of these programs on campus had little impact in reducing school violence. 

“That tells me we need to be doing more work on evaluating the quality of those services and identifying who actually receives them,” she said.  

Associate Professor Brendan Lantz has worked closely with Wouters on her work.  

"Sarah is in the early stages of her career, but it was clear to me from the very beginning that she places a real emphasis in her work on real-world policy impacts,” Lantz said. “I am sure this paper is only the start of a promising research agenda built around preventing crime and reducing the social and mental health consequences of victimization for victims of crime. 

Once she earns her doctorate, Wouters said she hopes to obtain a criminology faculty position at a research-one institution. Awards like this will only help in that pursuit.  

“It gives you confidence when you are applying for awards and when you go on the job market,” she said.