NIU professor of sociology and criminology Keri Burchfield is this year’s winner of the Presidential Engagement and Partnerships Professorship award.
“As a sociologist, I am trained to examine the effects of community, so this award which acknowledges community outreach and engagement is all the more meaningful to me,” Burchfield said.
Burchfield earned her bachelor’s degree from University of California, Santa Barbara, master’s degree from Florida State University and doctorate degree from Pennsylvania State University. Her primary research interests include communities and crime, specifically investigating the effects of neighborhood structure and community organization on crime prevention and control.
An NIU faculty member since 2005, Burchfield’s work exemplifies a commitment to fostering reciprocal partnerships, undertaking socially-responsive research and engaging others to bring awareness to regional, national or international problems.
“When I started my career in academia, I imagined myself working on research projects, writing articles and teaching classes,” Burchfield said. “I never imagined that I would be running a program to help youth and dogs, or that I would be connected to such amazing community partners like the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles, Aurora Animal Control, Kane County Jail or that my university would so generously acknowledge and reward such work.”
Burchfield has been lauded for successfully piloting Safe Humane Chicago’s Lifetime Bonds program in Kane County which provides opportunities for at-risk dogs to be matched with adults and youth who are incarcerated.
“The Lifetime Bonds program is mutually beneficial dog training program that helps teach patience and positive reinforcement as well as foster empathy and compassion to young men in juvenile detention,” said Anna Payton, director of Aurora Animal Care and Control. “This is a population that is oftentimes forgotten, however Keri is very passionate about the program.”
Josh Osborn, a former student of Burchfield and current deputy director and program manager for Kane County Court Services, shared the sentiment.
“We have had long struggles with providing justice involved youth with programming that addresses thinking errors, accountability and coping strategies,” Osborn said. “Dr. Burchfield sought to provide a viable solution to this problem by piloting the Lifetime Bonds program to this jurisdiction.”
Osborn said Burchfield has long demonstrated a commitment to creating opportunities for learning at all levels and solving real-world problems collaboratively.
“Keri consistently looks for ways to connect people and organizations for the betterment for all those involved,” Payton said. “She always has an open-minded and positive approach when finding ways to work together. It has been honor and a pleasure to work alongside her.”
Burchfield credits her students for being an integral part of her engagement activities over the past 15 years.
“We have such a wealth of experiences and competencies across campus,” Burchfield said. “The work I have engaged in with undergraduate and graduate students has been mutually beneficial; we’ve conducted research examining dog breed stereotypes, compassion fatigue among animal shelter workers and developed and observed psychoeducational classes in my Lifetime Bonds program.”
In her spare time, Burchfield is an active volunteer with Aurora Animal Control and spends a lot of time training and cuddling her own shelter dog, Sue.
The Presidential Engagement and Partnerships Professorship includes a $5,000 addition to base salary and a $5,000 grant renewable annually during each year of the four-year award period.