Monday, May 20, 2024
kennedy space center
Kennedy Space Center

Joanna Frazier hails from Florida’s “Space Coast,” six miles from the Kennedy Space Center. “We’d always watch the shuttle launches,” she says. Growing up with her father who was a police officer shaped how she understood danger and risk. She was raised to be hypervigilant and to anticipate risk. “My upbringing was more like exposure therapy,” she says. 

Crime was something she thought about from an early age. Trying to understand why people behave in bizarre ways is endlessly fascinating, “trying to make sense out of nonsense,” she says. “I’m wired for problem solving, so crime with its paradoxes sustains my interest.”

Joanna studied for her bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. There was a 10-year pause during which she owned and operated a private music academy—she is a classically trained pianist. Her interest in criminology never wavered, however, and she returned to UCF to pursue her passion. There she became convinced that theories in criminology could advance more rapidly with new theoretical approaches, and many of the theorists she found useful were trained as sociologists. For that reason, the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Iowa appealed to her. She is also excited to incorporate theoretical approaches from the department’s highly ranked program in social psychology into her work on crime target decision-making.

Joanna feels well suited to advance theory in criminology because she is unafraid to take risks. “I’m willing to be controversial if it means I’m committed to science and ideas and do that with integrity,” she says.

She found her first year in a PhD program to be challenging and valuable. “It’s been busy but so nice to focus on my studies 24/7 that it feels selfish,” she says, and then laughs about trying to stay balanced, “We all know how that goes.” 

Exposure to the different approaches in criminology and sociology have helped advance her own work and she feels properly supported to complete it, perhaps for the first time. “Nobody here wants anything from me except for me to succeed,” she says. 

Joanna has formed supportive relationships with several professors in both criminology and sociology in her first year. She was attracted to the program for the chance to work with Mark Berg, who has helped her develop a thesis project. She is also excited to work with Alison Bianchi on theory testing in the Group Processes Lab. She appreciates the theoretical insights of Mike Sauder and the critical perspective of Amber Powell. Joanna’s work as a teaching assistant for James Wo and Jennifer Haylett also has been positive and influential. She had expected to emphasize research over teaching but thinks she has a knack for teaching and communicating as well. 

Joanna Frazier has found the right place to launch a career that transforms criminology.