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The Undergraduate Criminology Society was founded by Jennifer Richards (right) and Alexandra Jackman (left). (Photos from Jennifer Richards and Alexandra Jackman)

Two Penn seniors founded the Undergraduate Criminology Society this semester after noticing a lack of networking opportunities for Penn students interested in the criminal justice-oriented field. 

The club, founded by College seniors Jennifer Richards and Alexandra Jackman, was launched to help provide connections for students and facilitate their interest in criminology, which they said is particularly difficult now that classes are being conducted virtually.

“We got very lucky in the sense that we ended up meeting professors and people who really helped guide us in terms of internships,” Jackman said, adding that she wants others to have the same opportunities she was afforded.

The club held its inaugural event on Oct. 16, when a panel of Penn seniors spoke about their criminal justice-oriented internships. The club's leaders aimed to include perspectives from a wide range of sectors, inviting panelists who have had internships in white-collar criminal defense, as well as at the Federal Trade Commission and the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.  The event drew about 20 audience members from all grade levels.

“It was intimate enough for people to feel comfortable asking questions after,” Richards said. “I think a lot of people gained from it.” 

Panelists shared their contact information with the students who attended. The club's leaders said several attendees shared their appreciation for the opportunity to learn from the panelists as well as interest in joining the club’s leadership. 

“It’s been really fantastic to get that feedback, to know that criminology majors and others feel the same way as us,” Jackman said. 

One distinct gap left by the remote classes this semester is the opportunity to form connections with professors, Jackman noted. 

“I think that is a part of the college, and Penn experience specifically, since there are so many fantastic professors here, that is hard to get through Zoom,” she said. 

The club leaders hope to facilitate this connection between students and professors, which they said have been invaluable to them as undergraduates. Approaching professors, especially in the virtual format, can be intimidating, they said. 

The leaders also hope to make the interdisciplinary nature of criminology a focal point in their programming. They hope to reach more than just criminology majors, but those in related fields such as political science, urban studies, and psychology, as well as those who have simply taken an interest in the field.

“You can be a math major and add value to so many different criminal justice fields,” Jackman said. “There are lots of ways to incorporate any skill set.”

In the future, the group hopes to host lunch discussions with speakers as well as informal events, such as a Law and Order: SVU marathon night. 

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