An Interview with Anthony Madias
“Everyone loves to procrastinate, but the less you do so, the easier it will be for you to succeed.”
Anthony Madias is in his final year as a Master of Arts in Criminology student. He attends University of South Florida, which is located in Tampa. Before entering his masters program, he earned bachelors degrees in anthropology, sociology and criminology.
Anthony chose to pursue a masters degree in criminology because he enjoys the interdisciplinary nature of the subject, which he feels allows him to gain a more diverse body of knowledge than a social science degree would. With his masters degree in criminology, he hopes to one day work in law enforcement as an intelligence officer.
In your own words, what is criminology?
Criminology is an interdisciplinary field which studies crime, deviance and anti-social aspects of human behavior. It also examines the corrections processes that society uses to deal with individuals who exhibit deviant behavior, such as criminals and those with extremely anti-social tendencies.
Within criminology, I specialize in the cases that have to do with deviant children, such as juvenile delinquency, juvenile diversion and rehabilitation programs. It is a relatively uncommon specialty. In fact, only 1 other person in my department shares it. Some of the other specialties in the department include mental health, policing research and narcotics and crime.
Why did you choose to study criminology?
I chose to study criminology because I like the broad spectrum of subjects that criminology unites. Criminology is highly interdisciplinary. It draws from social sciences such as sociology, anthropology and psychology as well as natural sciences. I enjoy the diversity of knowledge that I gain through this program.
Another reason I chose to study criminology is that it seemed like a good complement to the work I had already done in the biological and social sciences. Before I became interested in criminology, I researched the field of behavioral genetics, which required me to become well-versed in topics like the human genome and brain structure. It turns out that many criminologists have backgrounds in the biological sciences, especially neuropsychologists who look at crime and deviance. When I learned that, I thought it might be an interesting new academic path.
When you first considered studying criminology what were your expectations?
When I started my masters program in criminology, I expected that my original research may not produce adequate data to fully support my thesis. However, I thought that I would still manage to receive my degree if the research that I performed was well executed. I had to write a survey and figure out how to measure the results of that survey in a way that had not been done before, so it was quite challenging. In the end, I have been surprised by the quality and validity of my research results. My survey was consistent and internally valid, and those surveyed who self-reported a level of delinquency had higher crime scores in a consistent way.
What do you find most and least enjoyable about studying criminology?
One thing that I especially enjoy about criminology is its focus on science and quantitative data. I came into the masters in criminology program with a background in religious studies and politics, which I enjoyed less than what I am studying now. As an undergraduate I enjoyed the process of gathering data, but now I enjoy the process of evaluating my research for validity and significance.
I also find it immensely interesting to think about what a researcher can learn about the character of a given society by examining its laws and how it treats deviant citizens who break those laws. For instance, the Puritans who first came to America were attempting to escape the moral degeneracy of European society, yet their colonies experienced its own crime waves. To deal with the matter of crime, Puritans created systems of dealing with deviancy within their colonies. Those systems eventually led to unique phenomena like witch trials and burnings.
What kinds of classes have you taken in your criminology program?
For my criminology program, I have taken a wide variety of classes that seem to span my school’s course catalog. For instance, I have taken classes in virtually every area of social science including sociology, anthropology and psychology. I also have taken methods courses like statistics and theory courses that form the core of the criminology knowledge base.
Because my program requires such a broad range of knowledge, there is not much room for specialization. I only get to choose 3 elective courses, so I have chosen classes that related to my thesis, which investigates the way that juveniles assimilate and neutralize the values of their culture.
Which of these classes do you think will be most valuable for your future goals?
I would say that the courses I have taken in statistics are very important for my career goals. I plan to continue to research, and it is impossible to do quantitative research without a basic understanding of statistics. In my opinion, undergraduate students sometimes suffer in graduate studies because they are not well-versed in the principles of statistics.
What is your weekly schedule?
My weekly schedule requires me to juggle my coursework, my thesis work, my research assistantship and my personal life, which can get very difficult. I spend about 10 hours each week on coursework, and an additional 10 to 12 hours per week writing my thesis. The coursework for my program follows a strict schedule, but my thesis is self-paced, so I have to work at finding that balance. I also have an academic job unrelated to criminology. Finally, my girlfriend and I run a pit bull rescue, so I have 6 dogs to take care of when I find a break from my academic tasks.
How do you manage your course load? What study tips would you give to a prospective student?
The most difficult thing about managing my course load is that I need a solid block of time to myself in order to get anything done. It is impossible for me to work on any task unless I have at least 2 uninterrupted hours set aside for it. So I try to schedule my time in a way that allows for those blocks of time, but that can be hard to manage.
What are your plans for after graduation?
After I graduate, I would like to enter the law enforcement field. Specifically, I am looking into the possibility of becoming an intelligence officer. Even though the job market is less than stellar, I feel good about my prospects since people with masters degrees are more likely to be hired within law enforcement in this tough economic climate.
If you were to redo the past 2 years of college, what would you do differently?
If I could do my masters program over again, I think I would have stuck with a single research focus. My path through the program was somewhat troublesome because I switched research projects after 3 quarters. If I stuck with 1 path, I could have graduated last May instead of this December.
What advice do you have for students who are interested in studying criminology?
The advice I have for prospective criminology students is applicable to other degrees, as well. You will need to work hard to get all of your assignments done in order to keep your head above water. Everyone loves to procrastinate, but the less you do so, the easier it will be for you to succeed. For instance, when you write your thesis, the faster you submit your drafts to your advisor, the more motivated they will be to critique and return them in a timely fashion.