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UM Criminology Professor Wins Early Career Award

By Edwin B. Smith

University Communications

Abigail Novak, a University of Mississippi assistant professor of criminal justice and legal studies, has been honored for her expertise in the impact of childhood punishment, juvenile delinquency and labeling.

Abagail Novak. Submitted photo

The American Society of Criminology’s Division of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology presented Novak with an Early Career Award on Nov. 16. Early Career Awards recognize researchers who earned their graduate degrees less than four years ago and have already made a significant contribution to knowledge on developmental and life-course criminology.

“My work examines the impact of punishment in childhood on later punishment and delinquency and relies heavily on the labeling perspective,” Novak said. “I believe my contributions to knowledge on secondary sanctioning – how one punishment leads to another – as well as how secondary sanctioning varies among children, helped me to be selected for this award.”

Novak, who joined the Ole Miss faculty in 2020, is a welcome asset to the Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies, said Wes Jennings, a professor and chair of the department.

“It is a well-deserved testament to the high-caliber research and scholarship that she has produced in general and to her influential contributions to the developmental and life-course literature,” he said. “The fact that she has already etched her name into her area of research as an early career scientist and scholar and is being recognized for it is outstanding exposure for her and our department in the discipline.”

Novak said she was fortunate to have wonderful mentors at the University of Florida who encouraged her to pursue work in the area while earning her doctoral degree.

“Their guidance has been essential for my professional development to date,” she said. “These accomplishments have helped to improve our understanding of how punishments impact later outcomes for children, as well as differences in pathways following punishments by race and gender.”

Novak said she is honored to be recognized, but she remains focused on continuing her work.

“I’m currently working on several projects that explore how exposure to violence/trauma in early childhood impacts school suspension in middle childhood and ultimately arrest in adolescence,” she said. “I hope these findings have helped contribute to rigorous, policy-relevant research that ultimately leads to a reduction in punishment experiences for children.”

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