Posted: 7/01/21

TAMIU Faculty Member Dmello Receives Academy of Criminal Justice Award for Innovation in Teaching



A project led by a Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) faculty member recently received a national award for innovation in teaching from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS), one of the most prestigious national professional associations in the Criminal Justice field.

Two years ago, a group of TAMIU senior Criminal Justice students enrolled in a seminar class, led by Dr. Jared Dmello, TAMIU assistant professor of Criminal Justice.  Together, they undertook a project centered around PhotoVoice, a participatory research technique that involves taking photos of one's community to document, represent, empower, and enhance it.

Specifically, the students' project involved photographing key areas of North and South Laredo to witness and study first-hand Social Disorganization Theory, an idea linking crime rates to a person's physical and social environment.

Examples of photos students took as part of their project compared and contrasted North and South Laredo and challenged their preconceived notions of one side of the city being "better" than the other. Students' photos captured graffiti in South Laredo as opposed to commissioned art at a North Laredo park, for instance. They also took photos of a North Laredo school with no fencing in its perimeter in contrast  to a school in South Laredo, with barbed wire fencing around it.

As students embarked on their project, Dr. Dmello was inspired by the impact that the project was having on his students' learning.

Based on student conversations in class about what they were observing in their photos and how they connected to the formal education they received throughout their experience as TAMIU students, he decided to document how to implement PhotoVoice study into an undergraduate course as model for others to use.

He and a colleague, Dr. Kimberly R. Kras, assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs at San Diego State University, published an academic paper on PhotoVoice and students' learning in the Journal of Criminal Justice Education.

Titled, "PhotoVoice as a Research Technique for Student Learning and Empowerment: A Case Study from a South Texas Border Town," Dr. Dmello and Dr. Kras' paper concludes that using PhotoVoice as a method in Criminal Justice research courses is a promising tool for providing students a multi-faceted learning experience that illuminates their unique positions as both residents of their communities of study and researchers.

The project Dr. Dmello led received a national award for teaching innovation from the ACJS and Dmello said he’s humbled by the recognition.

"I was so humbled and honored to receive this award from ACJS," Dmello said, "My pedagogical approach has always centered on providing active learning experiences where students are empowered to take their education into their own hands. I also strive to infuse technology into my courses, since our students are living in a hyper-connected world."

 Dr. Jared Dmello

 Dr. Jared Dmello


In their paper, Dmello and Kras  note that PhotoVoice encourages creativity, diversity, equity, and inclusion by empowering students from under-represented populations to challenge biases about their communities, justice systems, and develop strategies for social change.

Dmello said that being recognized for the PhotoVoice project through the ACJS Award is extremely exciting because it means that other teachers and scholars in the Criminal Justice field also recognize the opportunities this type of project could present to students, particularly those nearing completion of their degrees.

"The PhotoVoice project provided a fun and engaging opportunity for students to integrate everything they have learned from across disciplines including Criminal Justice, language, and art into an applied learning experience," he said.

He continued, "I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my friend and colleague, Dr. Kimberly Kras, who is collaborating with me on this project. We are very excited at the prospect of integrating Phase 2 of the project, adapted based on lessons learned from my PhotoVoice class implementation here at TAMIU, into one of her courses to study a second border area."

For more information on the continuing PhotoVoice project, please contact Dr. Dmello at 956.326.2623, or email jared.dmello@tamiu.edu.

TAMIU’s Fall 2021 plans are focused on a return to a full and vibrant on-campus experience for all students, faculty and staff at its 300-acre northeast Laredo campus. Classes begin Monday, Aug. 23, 2021.

This Fall at TAMIU, degree-seeking students will be the lucky beneficiaries of a pilot program, TAMIU Books IncludED, providing all TAMIU required textbooks and course materials free of charge.

TAMIU Books IncludED delivers course materials to students in multiple formats, including E-book (digital), open educational resources, and print.  Students who opt not to receive free digital textbook and course materials will be able to purchase physical materials. 

For more information about Registration, contact the Office of the University Registrar at 956.326.2250, email registrar@tamiu.edu or visit offices in the University Success Center, suite 121.