It may seem cliché, but Kimberly Kras knows the hardest part of her move this summer will be saying goodbye to the people she’s grown so close to over the last five years.
“It’s cheesy, but I really will miss the people,” said Kras, who earned her doctoral degree in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Missouri–St. Louis in May. “It’s the people, my cohort, the faculty, that have really made this experience so wonderful. Seeing the same faces everyday, sharing conversations, it’s been a great experience.”
Those experiences are ones Kras will take with her as she begins her two-year postdoctoral paid research position in July at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
Kras, who is originally from California, came to the Midwest to attend school. She first earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Missouri–Kansas City and worked for three years as a probation officer before being accepted into UMSL’s top-ranked doctoral program in 2009.
“I enjoyed working in probation but I knew I wanted to go back to school, because you see a lot of the negative and you wonder why we do the things we do and being in academia is a way to figure those things out,” she said.
Because of her connection to corrections, Kras knew she wanted her research focus to remain in that area.
“I’m really interested in prison and parole experiences,” Kras said.
She had the opportunity to research and work with data collection on several National Institute of Justice grants, including one on sex offender residency restrictions and gang offenders.
Since Kras found a fit in both research and teaching, she decided to apply for a prestigious postdoctoral position at George Mason’s Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence.
“It was very competitive, it’s been a really hard process,” she said. “As criminology becomes more popular, those kinds of jobs become more difficult to get.”
And she got it. For the next two years she’ll have the opportunity to continue to expand her research, while also teaching.
“I would like to be a professor, I enjoy both teaching and working with students,” Kras said. “I’ve enjoyed the teaching opportunities I’ve had at UMSL, and that has been really rewarding. I love the balance of both, being able to instruct students and also engage in research.”
Kras said she’s learned a lot from UMSL faculty, not only research techniques, but how to bring that into the classroom to really engage students.
“UMSL faculty are focused on quality. I try to bring that into the classroom,” she said. “My teaching style is about making my personal research experience applicable to students. Sometimes a lot of the stuff we do (in the criminology field) can seem fuzzy or vague but I try to find specific anecdotes that are relevant to something they may go through in whatever job they may do.”