"She is one of the most impressive undergraduates I've ever worked with, and her research capability compares to many of our current graduate students."
FSU College of Criminology and Criminal Justice Assistant Professor and Director of the Hate Crime Research and Policy Institute, Brendan Lantz, does not mince words when describing the motivation and work ethic of Rachel Strickland.
"She's driven to seek out research opportunities, and most importantly, she strives to do the research the right way." Rachel's determination has undoubtedly served her well.
Currently, a junior-level student in the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Rachel participated in a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded summer research grant at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
"I remember crying when I got the acceptance letter. Opportunities within the NSF's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program are highly competitive, and I really wanted to be a part of this", she said.
Over 150 undergraduate students from around the nation applied for this program, and Rachel was one of only ten students picked to participate. She was also the only FSU student in attendance.
The NSF awarded the $324,987 grant to UA at Little Rock as part of a 3-year study on hate crimes and discrimination against the Muslim community in Arkansas.
During the eight-week session, from June 4 to July 29, Rachel and her colleagues interviewed Muslims living in Arkansas about their experiences. Students participated in research workshops, transcribed/analyzed interviews of participants, and wrote/presented a research brief about the group's findings.
Rachel admitted that the journey to pursue this specific research opportunity in Little Rock began during her time in the classroom of Assistant Professor Lantz at FSU and taking part in the Florida State University Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP).
She said, "I've worked with Dr. Lantz for almost a year. I took his Hate and Bias Crime class and had the privilege to assist with his research, collecting open-source data to create a database on hate crime offenders and their backgrounds. It allowed me to immediately see the value in studying these topics. I credit his research instruction and coursework for inspiring me to apply for additional research opportunities."
“She is one of the most impressive undergraduates I've ever worked with... She's diven to seek out research opportunities, and most importantly, she strives to do the research the right way.”
— Dr. Brendan Lantz, Director of the Hate Crime Research and Policy Institute
The UROP program provides first- and second-year students with various opportunities to gain research experience, promote one-on-one access to faculty, and introduce faculty to the next generation of researchers.
Rachel participated in a UROP Social Psychology lab led by FSU Assistant Professor David March. Rachel said that this lab was the first opportunity Rachel had to be involved in every aspect of the research process.
She said, "I loved it! We were doing 5 to 10 hours of research each week and attended scheduled colloquiums where we received instruction on everything from research basics to research ethics. I knew I was doing something important and that this was what I wanted to do."
The knowledge she gained from Dr. Lantz, and the training from the UROP program gave Rachel the confidence she needed to pursue and eventually participate in the National Science Foundation research project at UA at Little Rock.
With the summer program in her rearview, Rachel is back on the Florida State campus for the Fall semester and preparing to present her research at the Southwest Association of Criminal Justice's (SWACCJ) annual meeting in late October. As she discussed her personal "road to research," she stressed to fellow undergraduates that there are numerous opportunities out there for you.
"Applying is half the battle. Many research programs are highly competitive, but you will never know until you try. I have never had regret for applying to other projects which rejected me. Through success and failure, there is always an opportunity to learn. So many opportunities are out there. You have to go get them."
Dr. Lantz, for one, cannot wait to see what she will do next.
“Applying is half the battle. There are so many opportunities are out there. You have to go get them.”
— Rachel Strickland, Junior at FSU College of Criminology and Criminal Justice
He said, "Any undergraduate who can work on two separate research studies is good, but in Rachel's case, she assisted on two significant studies at two prestigious universities and continues to progress and improve her studies and research capabilities. She is an exceptional student".
UA Little Rock plans to publish a report on the findings from its first year of research at the end of the year. After completing the following two summer research studies at UA at Little Rock, the more extensive study will inform avenues for improving the relationship between the criminal justice system and the Muslim community.