Student Spotlight: LaBreonna Bland

Degree: Ph.D. in Criminology, Law and Society

Expected graduation: 2021

Hometown: Saginaw and Flint, Michigan

Why did you choose the School of Social Ecology?

The School of Social Ecology offered an interdisciplinary focus on criminology, which suited my research interests and working style. Throughout my academic career, I have always appreciated multi-dimensional perspectives and solutions. Given that my interests lie broadly in race and inequality within the criminal justice system, it was important for me to complete my studies in a program that emphasized a less traditional approach than other programs.

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

As an African-American woman from the inner city, I have witnessed and continue to witness the gross injustice people of color are subjected to from their entry into the system to their perceived exit and beyond. I began to understand the structural issues that are sustained in a myriad of ways and began to critically look at how black and brown bodies are punished versus white bodies. I discovered the CLS program and decided to apply thinking I would get waitlisted, at best. The most exciting day of 2016 was telling my family that I was accepted to a highly ranked doctoral program on the other side of the country. 

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

My most significant experience at UCI to date has been forming connections with the students in the School of Social Ecology. The vast array of backgrounds that are brought together result in many thought provoking conversations. I have been challenged essentially everyday as I connect with students and discuss social problems and possible solutions with others who have a completely different perspective than I have. What is most significant about this experience is the personal growth that comes along with it.

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

I think that obtaining my Ph.D. in Criminology, Law and Society will allow me to not only do the research I want to do but will ensure that I have the access to different avenues of implementing actual solutions to social issues. It’s important to me to be able to contribute more than scholarly papers to the world; thus my career is not pre-determined. The interdisciplinary emphasis throughout the School of Social Ecology gives me an edge when I enter the job market that other students from more traditional programs will lack. 


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