Ryan Tubongbanua / The Collegian
A Fresno State professor was awarded one of the highest honors in the field of criminology last Friday for his innovative contributions to help crime victims.
Steven Walker, Ph.D., received the Justice Departmentâ€™s Office for Victims of Crime Allied Professionals Award in Washington, D.C. last week. He is the third person to receive this award since its inauguration in 2006.
Walker, an associate dean of the College of Social Sciences and professor of criminology, has been working at the university for 25 years and has vastly increased the criminology program.
He was recognized for his pioneering efforts in victimology â€“ the study of how victims interact with the courts, their attackers and other groups in society. Walker helped start the Victim Services Certificate Program in 1985, the first of its kind. He also helped create the Victim Services Summer Institute, which takes place on campus in June.
The intense four-week summer courses are available for victim advocates from all over the country.
â€œIt allowed us to provide courses to those who could not take them before,â€ Walker said. â€œPeople from Canada and Mexico also come to the program; we even had a student from Italy a few years ago. It is the most crucial program we have started.â€
In fall 2009, Fresno State will begin its victimology major and joint doctorate program in criminology, which will include an emphasis in victimology. The university has teamed up with UC Davis to create the program, which was originally supposed to open this fall. However, the program was delayed because of administration issues.
The program had received 40 applicants for this year, and will be accepting 15 to 20 students to participate in the four different options in fall 2009.
The program has been in the works for a long time now. Walker wrote the first proposal in 1992. He said this has been one of his greatest professional accomplishments.
â€œStarting the major has been a tremendous hurdle,â€ Walker said.
He was nominated for the Allied Professionals Award by fellow colleague Bernadette Muscat, Ph.D., victimology coordinator. Muscat said she nominated him for the award because he has influenced the field in such a big way.
â€œHe is the epitome of what that award means,â€ Muscat said. â€œHe has been so instrumental and done so many incredible things for the field.â€
Muscat said she is honored to have the opportunity to work with Walker and be mentored by him. She has worked with him for the past five years and said he has been very inspiring to her.
â€œHe has educated thousands of people around the world to help minimize the trauma of crime victims,â€ Muscat said.
The criminology department is the largest on campus, and one-fourth of the students in the program are studying victimology. Up until 1972, victims of crime did not have a voice in the courtroom, Walker said. He is helping change that.
â€œThere were less than 100 laws protecting crime victims in â€™72, now there are about 30,000,â€ he said.
Walker has helped place about 2,000 students in victimology agencies across the country. He said most of the people in these programs would have been in some sort of criminology work or social work, but the victimology program gives them an opportunity to find a new field.