Student Spotlight: Alyssa Cisneros

Degree: Criminology, Law and Society

Expected graduation: spring of 2021

Hometown: Highland Park, in Northeast Los Angeles

Why did you choose the School of Social Ecology?

I have a son and when I was considering Ph.D. programs in Criminology, Law and Society location played a huge role. As a single mom I wanted to keep him close to both sides of his family and our support system. After location, I decided that UC Irvine was my top choice school because aside from being a top-two Ph.D. program in the nation for the field, the department has amazing faculty to work with. There were a few faculty members in particular whom I could really see myself working with. It is important to me to have not one, but several faculty members whose work I was familiar with and respect as students have to eventually need to start thinking about our dissertation committee — this included faculty in and outside of my department.

How did you grow interested in your current field of study?

It actually happened by accident! Although in hindsight there were various life experiences and exposures to various literature in my early to late childhood that informed my interests well before I could articulate that. In addition, and perhaps more tangible, during undergrad I was able to take a graduate-level course on political theologists. I regularly met with the professor and he recommended a few books after learning about my interests. These books helped inform what would later become the foundation of my graduate work.

What has been your most memorable or significant experience so far at UCI?

As an incoming doctoral student I was selected to participate in Competitive Edge. This is a program geared toward diverse incoming doctoral and M.F.A. students. There I met incoming students from various departments across campus. These people have become some of my closest friends, and we still regularly meet! Additionally, I have two great advisors who provide a great sense of support and guidance. They allow me to grow and explore as a researcher and student, but also care about me as a person too.

How do you envision your degree from UCI opening doors for you or benefitting your career?

I think UC Irvine will open doors in the future as we have well-known faculty in our fields. It is a small academic world, and other researchers know which campuses faculty are at. Additionally, among these faculty are my two advisors who have made important contributions to our field. I know that training under this department, and with my two advisors, will open lots of doors for me in the future. I feel like I am receiving the best training I could be in our field. As a student at a UC, we have the ability to take courses outside of our departments, which broaden and encourage multi-disciplinary work and study. Adding on emphases or taking classes outside my department will also allow me to meet others outside my department. All of this will greatly add to who I will have been exposed to, and who I have been able to train or learn from while here.

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