Grad Story #20
Grad Story #20
PhD, Criminal Justice
Moussa, you are a PhD student in Criminal Justice from Burkina Faso in West Africa. How did you come to study in the United States?
I was teaching law at the university in Burkina Faso. About 3 years ago I felt I really needed to add another dimension to my law background. I decided to do more research on crime and punishment, and so I needed to further my education. I had a choice between the United States and France. Comparing the education systems I felt that the US would be the best fit for me.
So, you did your law degree in Burkina Faso. What attracted you to the University of North Dakota?
I did my Masters in Law in Burkina Faso and my initial plan was to do a PhD in International Law. But my desire to expand my background led me to do my Masters in Criminal Justice and I enrolled at St Cloud State in Minnesota. Later I discussed my wish to do a PhD with some of my professors at St. Cloud, and they encouraged me to look at UND. When I looked into the program I discovered UND is one of the best universities in the midwest, in terms of quality of education, scholarship opportunities and competitive tuition for international students.
Our Criminal Justice program here is collaborative program with Minot State University. Have you had the opportunity to work with faculties across the university lines?
Yes, we have a very good collaboration with Minot University. Some of classes, depending on the concentration, can be taken through Minot State. So you can either take them in Minot or through the live, ITV system from here. I am in my 2nd semester right now, and haven’t had the chance to do that yet, but I have seen some classes there that interest me.
Our program has two emphases Criminal Justice Administration and Criminology. Which track are you most interested in pursuing for your research?
My Interest is in the Criminology track. I always have been fascinated by the criminal phenomena and I’m interested in doing research on criminal behavior.
When I was doing my Master’s degree I was really interested in transnational organized crime and white-collar crime. But when I came to UND, which is a research university, I realized that I could take that much further – I can try to understand the substance of criminal behavior. So I am developing my interests to looking at the biological perspective of crime. We have different theories about criminal behavior. Some say it is learned, so that is the social perspective. Others say it is due to psychological problems. But when I started my program here I started thinking that criminal behavior is probably linked to some mental and biological constitution. When you look at those who commit crime, you can see that most of them didn’t want to but something drove them. So I feel like we need to look at human evolution, genetics to understand the etiology of crime.
It sounds like you need to have some expertise in a variety of disciplines, from Law to Sociology to Psychology. How multidisciplinary is the program?
Absolutely. Criminal Justice is very interdisciplinary a program. For instance, you need to know a lot about statistics to do quantitative research; also, if you are looking at the biological perspective of crime you need to understand how human behavior can be linked to certain mental, psychological, and physical conditions. Those who studies forensic criminal justice, need to know basic Chemistry to undertake their research. And since we all are human and live together in society, we need to understand social settings, we need to understand social theory. It’s very, very fascinating.
Can you describe the academic and social environment at UND for an international student?
Before coming here I talked with some friends, who told me that it’s very cold and this could be a challenge for me as an international student. But since coming to Grand Forks, the people I have met and who I work with have made me forget about the cold. When I talked to my professors about my interests and research they are very interested in helping me to get there and this helps a lot in coping with any challenges out there.
Describe the importance of mentor relationship or graduate committee
In my department, I feel every professor is like a guide to me. They talk with me about what I am doing, offer ideas and suggest best ways to do it. So when I put my graduate committee together, I feel like I will have many people to draw from.
What should a prospective student know about the Criminal Justice program?
The Criminal Justice department is very well organized. You are going to find professors with different perspectives in the criminal phenomenon, so studying in the department will give you many perspectives to develop your own interests. The second thing is, you need to be organized with your own work – classes, research, study. It’s very important to be organized and it is the key to your success.
What do you hope to do with your degree?
The first thing I want to do is teach. I love teaching. At the same time I would like get involved in helping my country’s higher education. So I would love to see a criminal justice offering in the university and give the other perspectives on crime and punishment, in my country.