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Duquesne Professor to Develop a Public Safety Think Tank in Cooperation with Incarcerated Men

What would develop if police officers and men who are incarcerated gathered together to learn about and discuss the most important research on crime and public safety? Duquesne University Professor Norman Conti sees improved neighborhoods and more effective police departments as a result.

After all, many of the men in prison share at least one goal with police officers: the safety of their families, who often live in some of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods, Conti observed. The training program will be developed by a prison-based think tank composed of Inside-Out alumni, Duquesne students and incarcerated men.

Conti, associate professor of sociology and in the Graduate Center for Social and Public Policy, has led the area's Inside-Out program since 2007, taking freshmen into jail, then teaching traditional and incarcerated students together to enhance their learning.

He is planning to expand on this program by piloting a class of officers and incarcerated men, with students helping to facilitate learning.

"The Think Tank Initiative is based upon a philosophy of cooperation with rather than service to communities," Conti said. "It brings that philosophy into practice by facilitating a partnership between students with experience and interest in a particular service-learning area as well as members of the affected populations. What's most important about the think tank model is that it offers an outlet for the spirit of activism that often blooms over a semester in an Inside-Out course. Furthermore, it is an outlet that maintains the dialogue that Inside-Out is founded upon."    

To move this initiative forward, Conti recently received the University's 2013 Gaultier Faculty Fellowship. Through the fellowship, he will work to increase the sustainability and generation of student-led research based upon service-learning projects. Using this model, Conti will develop an ongoing service-learning project, then produce a guide for other faculty to develop their own collaborative think tanks.

The fellowship is named after the Rev. Mathurin Gaultier, C.S.Sp, a professor of moral theology at Seminaire du Saint Esprit and later assistant general of the Spiritan congregation that founded Duquesne.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic research universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. The University is nationally ranked by U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review for its rich academic programs in nine schools of study for nearly 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students, and by the Washington Monthly for service and contributing to students' social mobility. Duquesne is a member of the U.S. President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction for its contributions to Pittsburgh and communities around the globe. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Princeton Review's Guide to Green Colleges acknowledge Duquesne's commitment to sustainability.