Gabby DoVale ’20 on Combining Criminology and Criminal Justice with History

Fear has never been her weakness. Seeking independence while also wanting to keep her education local and cost-effective, Gabby Dovale of East Providence, RI, found her home away from home just half an hour south at URI’s Kingston campus. She began her academic journey studying forensic chemistry, yet that quickly changed when the Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCJ) major was introduced the fall of her sophomore year. Dovale found a new sense of purpose after deciding to combine her two seemingly unrelated interests — CCJ and History. 

While her freshman self didn’t know it at the time, Dovale’s choice to double major in History and CCJ led her to a unique opportunity. With a career in immigration law on her mind, she reached out to Harvard and Brown Universities for research opportunities in summer 2019, the latter replying two weeks before the start of their program. “They look for faculty to pair you with,” Gabby explains. “You do research for nine months, and it all ends with an oral presentation of your research at a conference in Hartford, CT.” After a few initial hiccups looking for a good mentoring pairing, Dovale found Dr. Lindsey Jones, a Presidential Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow in Brown University’s Department of Education. Dr. Jones gave her the chance to combine both of her majors’ expertise, researching the criminalization of women of color and alcohol related arrests during the Jim Crow era in Virginia. Needless to say, Dovale was over the moon. “I saw gold stars,” she says, “I got to work with the criminal justice side and the history side of things.”

Over the summer, Dovale read over 800 grainy primary crime records from Virginia dating from 1916-1924. “I was able to extract and analyze all of the data three days before the conference,” she explains, “I compared black women to white women on both the state and federal level, and I had everything all formulated and ready to present.” After keeping her nose to the grindstone, she made it through the presentation in Hartford, stating, “I didn’t know it at the moment, but everyone said that if I loved the program, then getting a PhD was for me. I’m super grateful for the program and Dr. Jones. Now I know what I want to do post-undergrad.”

As for her future plans, Dovale hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in criminal justice and go on to teach at the collegiate level after her May 2020 commencement with double major in in History and Criminology and Criminal Justice. “From my undergrad experience, I’ve been able to observe what works with professors’ teaching styles and what doesn’t,” she says. “If I don’t want to go on to a PhD program, then I want to do data analysis for the FBI for predictive policing, looking at data and analyzing it. But teaching is still the end goal.” Dovale has come a long way from her first steps on Kingston’s grounds, and, to those afraid to take those steps, she has three words of advice. “Don’t be scared,” she encourages. “My biggest problem was stressing, and I know that professors can be intimidating. I can understand being a scared freshman but networking is important. Don’t let that fear get to you; you have to advocate for yourself.”

~Written by Chase Hoffman, Writing & Rhetoric and Anthropology Double Major, URI Class of 2021