Undergrad on the Fast Track to Research


Dr. Brandy Blasko and three students earn FAST grant to develop assessment tool for sex offenders.

Three criminal justice undergraduate students will spend the summer working on a new assessment tool for use with sex offendersto measure attitudes and beliefs about women.

Dr. Brandy Blasko received a Faculty and Student Team (FAST) award to work with Alex Pettyjohn, Kymeri Morales, and Emily Aguirre to develop a survey to help identify attitudes toward women as part of ongoing studies on sexual offending. According to research, distorted attitudes about women play a role in initiating and maintaining violent, sexual behavior, but the last instrument developed to assess those beliefs was done in 1973.

“Rape victimization can have many negative psychological and physical consequences for victims,” said Dr. Blasko, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. “In order to reduce rates of sexual assault, research has focused on understanding the risk factors associated with sexually violent behavior. One of these risk factors is underlying distorted schemas about adult women.”

The students will start with conducting a literature review to discover key elements to include in an assessment instrument. They will then spend the summer testing the instrument among three samples, including students, convicted sexual offenders, and the general community. The team will publish their work and also collaborate on an article that will be submitted to the Journal of Criminal Justice Education for consideration. The latter article will describe the faculty-undergraduate student collaboration.

The project is one of several that are part of Dr. Blasko’s Criminal Justice-Psychology (CJ-PSY) Research Lab, where students volunteer to assist her with various aspects of research. Some of the current studies Underway in the lab include statewide surveys of Pennsylvania prisoners and staff, and studies on teacher perpetrated sexual assault, sexual offender treatment, and prison suicide. Thirteen students currently work in the lab and this summer they will begin conducting a study on jail mental health at the Walker County Jail in Huntsville.

These three students are part of the research lab and have an interest in continuing their education to advance their skills for graduate school. “It was like killing two birds with one stone,” said Aguirre. “It was something I was interested in doing, and it provided experience for skills I would need in graduate school. Research is something that is important for advancing policy and practice in our field.”

Morales, a forensic chemistry major, said she is interested in doing any research in criminal justice and said it will be a good experience to interview sexual offenders. Pettyjohn said he hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice and Criminology at Sam Houston State University, and he would like to get research experience now.

The FAST award at Sam Houston State University is designed to encourage undergraduates to participate in discipline-specific scholarly or creative work.

Member of The Texas State University System