“What do professors do all summer?”

At the start of every academic year, I and other faculty members have to field a number of questions from students that boil down to “what do professors do all summer since we’re not in school?” Some ask out of genuine curiosity while others ask out of frustration that their “urgent” summer emails weren’t returned in less than fifteen minutes. Motivations aside, I try to answer those questions so that they understand that professorial work is a year long endeavor.

Students may not realize that our educational obligations are less than half of our work responsibilities. Research is a central part of our mission and the reason that many of us choose to go into the profession. While we work on our studies every week during the school year, the summer offers us opportunities that the strict academic calendar does not, particularly with student mentorship and the dissemination of information. For example, during each of the last two summers I’ve mentored a student in the CRS program. The summer offers us that chance for one-on-one interactions that aren’t possible during regular semester when we instruct 110 students. I traveled to Colorado to spend time touring the licit marijuana industry in 2015 and to New York to present to multiple practitioner audiences on how they should respond to their “K2 crisis” in 2016. These trips help to inform our research and spread knowledge so that practitioners base policy responses on scientific research rather than on assumptions and anecdotal evidence. The summer also offers us the chance to spend countless uninterrupted hours working on significant projects (e.g., Ronald Akers and my drug book with Cambridge University Press). We often also teach an extra online course and mentor grad students, but, as good citizens of the Charlotte area, we also often volunteer and give back to the community.

13700143_10207486262447122_6116692778322298128_nI spent some time this summer volunteering with Operation Summer Exposure (OSE), an organization founded and operated by a friend of mine from Salisbury, NC. River Lewis chose to develop OSE because he was the beneficiary of a gift during his childhood; an unknown party with his church paid his fees for a summer camping experience. River describes his experiences during that summer as life changing. His quest to “pay it forward” led him to seek donations to design and implement a similar program for youth that might need guidance to reach their potential. He has focused on youth from his two home communities, Rowan County, NC and the West End community of Atlanta, GA. He and his team of student volunteers largely recruited from Morehouse College work with those that may benefit from mentorship and challenging outdoor experiences in the same way that he did. His program specifically targets African American young men between 9 and 12 years-old that live in economically challenged environments or single parent households.

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OSE Founder River Lewis and one of the program’s participants.

River collected funds and designed a program that included an array of outdoor experiences that the young men may have never gotten to experience otherwise. He set up opportunities to fish, kayak, canoe, paddleboard, swim, and sail. They learned to climb and rappel and also did some high ropes activities. They shot arrows and learned to use a shotgun to hit clay targets. They visited a transportation museum and rode a steam engine train. They held snakes and learned about poisonous plants.

OSE participants also learned about camping and wilderness survival. That’s where I came in. Charlotte’s best DJ (fine print: that’s my opinion as I am no way qualified to make a judgment there) and I taught them a variety of outdoor skills. Craig taught them to set up a campsite, operate a camping stove, and cook over an open flame while I taught them how to build fires even in poor conditions and offered several pioneering lessons. Surprisingly few had ever built or even been around a campfire, reinforcing the importance of River’s program that taught self-reliance and broadened their horizons. They picked up many of the skills quickly and made excellent progress on others.

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Some OSE participants learning to build a campfire for the first time. It’s obviously not a necessary skill when the temperature was near 100 degrees, but they had fun and will be prepared for winter camping and outdoor cooking.

I’m certain that the youth benefited from their week in the wilderness and will grow greatly from the continued mentorship of the Morehouse students. The youth were provided school supplies to help them in the upcoming year as they return to school, continue to communicate with the Morehouse team, and look forward to their next outdoor experience with OSE. Of note, none of the donations made to OSE were used to pay for salaries– River and Mercedes operate the program as volunteers. The Morehouse students spent a week camping with the youth just to serve their community.  The retired teachers, cooks, DJs, professors, and so forth all freely assist with the program just to put their time off to meaningful use (and because it’s tough to refuse a favor to River). There are numerous outlets for charitable donations, but this makes OSE is an excellent choice; 100% of the donations go to supplies, food, transportation, and equipment/ site rental for the boys (River Lewis and OSE may be contacted here).

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During this OSE group’s pioneering sessions, I taught them to tie clove and timber hitches as well as use square and diagonal lashings (with help from the other pictured volunteers of course). This was one of their projects using those skills- a small signaling tower frame. It was a little wobbly, but they’ll master the skill before using rope and timbers to make larger structures!

When I’m asked “What do professors do all summer?” I’ll jokingly answer that we take time off to go to the beach. That’s generally accurate, but it’s not the full story. That textbook you’re putting off reading was probably partially authored in the summer. The research study you’re reading for your 4000-level class may have been edited during the summer. That classmate that seems to have come back from summer vacation way ahead of everyone else may have been mentored in a REU or CRS-type program. That being said, we also spend our time doing things as educators, but in ways unrelated to our academic expertise, that may have a positive impact on the community.

Stogner elected 2019 SCJA President!…

The Southern Criminal Justice Association (SCJA) just announced the results of the 2016 election. I am proud to say that I’ll be serving as the organization’s president in 2019! I’ve always valued SCJA and it’s contributions to the field and the broader academy. I’ve been an active member of SCJA since my time as a graduate student at Florida and I look forward to continuing to attend its meetings as long as I work in criminal justice. It an impressive organization and I hope to do it justice during my term.

Students reading this may be curious why the election is held three years before the term. As planning a large academic conference is one of the most important roles and that task is quite time consuming, the president must be selected well in advance. I’ll start planning immediately– working with the board to select a site in the next 12 months. This will be my main role in 2017 as 2nd Vice President (along with overseeing awards committees). I’ll continue to work on the conference in 2018 during my year as 1st Vice President while also creating the program for that year’s conference. In 2019, I’ll oversee the organization and conference. My final year as an officer will be 2020, when I will complete a number of tasks associated with the Immediate Past President position.

Southern Criminal Justice Association

On another note, my three-year term as a member of the executive board is ending in just 18 days. I’d like to congratulate Dr. Christina Policastro of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for winning the election for that position. She’ll make an excellent addition to the board.

JDI accepts novel drug arrest study…

The Journal of Drug Issues recently accepted a manuscript titled “The arrest and novel psychoactive drug (NPD) relationship: Observations from a young adult population” authored by Bryan Miller, myself, Mitch Miller, and Isa Fernandez. We are very excited to see this study appear in print.

The work focuses on the relationship between novel psychoactive drugs (NPDs; emerging drugs which generally mimic the actions of commonly abused substances) and arrests. Anecdotal evidence pointed to these substances (e.g. Spice, K2, bath salts, etc.) being used as substitutes to avoid positive drug screens.  The study explores the relationship between being arrested and NPDs using self-report survey data obtained from 2,349 young adults. The author team hypothesized that being arrested was linked to an increased likelihood of NPD use since that arrest may result in criminal justice oversight and regular drug testing. Propensity score matching was used to create a comparison between similarly situated groups of individuals with and without a history of arrest. These models indicate that those who have been arrested are more likely to use NPDs than peers with similar behaviors that avoid arrest. It appears that criminal justice involvement is not simply a correlate of NPD use, but may in fact be driving some individuals, motivated by the desire to continue using substances while still avoiding a positive drug screen, to experiment with NPDs. Look for the study in the JDI!

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Wild dagga and Charlotte Research Scholars Program…

A student I mentored this summer as part of the Charlotte Research Scholars program just presented his research titled “The context and psychoactive effects of “lion’s tail” (Leonotis leonurus) use: An unobtrusive exploration.”

CRS Poster

CRS is an excellent summer opportunity for promising UNCC undergrads. It pays them a reasonable salary for ten weeks to work on a project under the guidance of a faculty mentor. The selected CRS scholars also get to attend special workshops one day each week that are intended to prepare them for their future as graduate students. This summer I worked with Kevin Johnson. His worked this summer focused exclusively on wild dagga (or “lion’s tail”), a minor psychoactive. He observed and coded videos of substance users before, during, and after wild dagga administration. Kevin plans to expand his work in the future by exploring wild dagga’s effects when used in combination with other “legal highs.” He will present this expanded work at the Southern Criminal Justice Association’s conference in two months.

New Strategies for New Drugs…

I was offered the opportunity to speak in New York as part of a program titled New Strategies for New Psychoactive Substances: A Public Health Approach on June 9th and 10th. This conference was sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and The New School for Social Research. As part of this program, I spoke at a symposium at John Jay on one day and then at The New School the next afternoon. The program’s goal was to counteract some of the misinformation related to novel drugs that has fueled social and policy responses to NPS with facts and arguments based in scientific study. This summit also covered strategies for intervention, new forms of drug regulation, and how messaging and media about NPS can become more constructive.

A diverse and impressive lineup of speakers took part in the program. I specifically spoke on the etiology of NPS use (why people choose to use novel substances) and later on policy revisions that could less the harms associated with NPS. Overall, I believe the audiences found the presentations insightful and the panels stimulating. Julie Netherland and her team designed an excellent event for New York’s community leaders to learn more about NPS and how to handle them.

You can read live tweets from the event under #NS4NPS and the program has been posted here. One of the photographers snapped the photo below of me on one of the debate panels.

Photo By @AverieCole www.averiecole.com

Photo By @AverieCole http://www.averiecole.com

CJS Special Issue…

I’ll be guest editing the 2017 special edition of Criminal Justice Studies titled “Management of Drug Offenders in the Criminal Justice System.” If you’re working on anything that fits the topic, please consider submitting it to CJS. Submissions are due by November 30, 2016 and will undergo blind review. Feel free to email me if you have any questions. Please note that both full-length papers and research notes will be considered. Click here for the call for papers..

Submissions may be related to any of the following:
• Drug treatment courts
• Sentencing for drug offenses
• Substance use treatment within institutional settings
• Substance use among probationers
• Correctional drug treatment outcomes
• Drug-related criminal justice policy and political agendas
• Discrimination (gender, race, orientation, etc.) as related to the management of substance users.
• Management of juvenile substance users.

 

ACJS Teaching Award…

I recently received one of the ACJS and Sage Junior Faculty Professional Development Teaching Awards.  Sage seems especially dedicated to undergraduate education and funds these awards. They sponsored a teaching workshop at the conference and provided free admission to all of the award winners. It was well attended and very informative. One of the highlights was Dr. Rennison’s session on teaching research methods and statistics. It explored some very creative ways to present methodological/ statistical information; I can see working some of it into my classes. Thanks again to Sage for sponsoring the program and to the committee that selected the winners!

Tales from a Colorado grow…

Here’s an interesting slideshow that I shared with my classes recently. It’s an interesting look inside a “legal” grow in Colorado (the quotation marks refer to marijuana being federally scheduled under the CSA, but being a regulated legal business in Colorado). Most of it will make sense without my narration (you’ve got to enroll at UNCC for that). It has a lot of great pictures and is pretty informative. If you click the grow tour slide below, it should open a full file with about 20 slides. Enjoy!

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“They were getting high on what?” at ACJS…

At the recent ACJS meeting, I presented our team’s work titled “They were getting high on what?” A qualitative evaluation of novel psychoactive drug knowledge among practitioners. The study actually appeared in print before the meeting (access it in AJCJ here). I really enjoyed presenting this piece; it was the first academic presentation I delivered “freestyle” (i.e. without MS Powerpoint or other visual aids). The qualitative material was perfect for this style as there was no need to display complex figures or extensive data tables. The audience seemed a little more engaged than the standard presentation where an academic slowly narrates as he/she clicks through slides. I may deliver more presentations in this way when the opportunity allows. Thanks to my coauthor for snapping the nice photos below.

ACJS Drugs Section Steering Committee…

The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences recently received a petition signed by over 100 of its members to create a section focused on “Drug and Alcohol Studies.” This section will operate like the others within ACJS to promote research, collaboration, and policy reform related to its focus, namely psychoactive drug use. The section hosted its first meeting at the recent Academy meeting in Denver, CO. The attendees were tasked with selecting a steering committee that is responsible for recruiting additional membership and drafting by-laws and policies for the full group to consider and debate at the 2017 Academy meeting. I was honored to be nominated and selected for this steering committee and look forward to helping the new drugs section be as instrumental as ACJS’s other sections.