Jaclyn Schildkraut, students try to make sense of 'senseless' shootings 

In this issue’s Spotlight, meet public justice faculty member Jaclyn Schildkraut, whose scrutiny of media representations of school shootings and other rampages has drawn significant national attention as she settles into her second-year teaching career at SUNY Oswego.

Q. Where are you from originally?
A. I was born downstate, just outside of New York City. I grew up in South Florida.

Q. Where did you go to college?
A. I have a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. My degree is in interdisciplinary studies with a dual concentration in criminal justice and social and behavioral sciences.

Q. How about graduate school?
A. I did my master’s, as well, at Central Florida, in applied sociology. My Ph.D. was at Texas State University in San Marcos, in criminal justice. It seemed like a natural progression from my earlier studies.

Q. What was the focus of your dissertation?
A. It was on the media representation of rampage shootings in a post-Columbine era.

Q. What was the genesis of your interest in this subject?
A. My interest started about the time of Virginia Tech. I had taken some time off from school. I was really captivated by Columbine and Virginia Tech and how the media portrayed the perpetrators and the victims. I decided I wanted to somehow give back to people affected by these massacres. Since then, my research has continued to evolve, not only from media studies, but also in respect to people’s reactions and the idea of mass shootings as a moral panic.

Q. When did you come to SUNY Oswego?
A. I started here last fall. I had applied to a number of places. When I came here for interviews, I had a great feeling. The faculty in public justice was so amazing, so supportive. If you like whom you’re coming to work with every day, it can’t help but have positive impacts on students.

Q. What do you think of the Oswego students you’ve met and worked with?
A. I think we have a really great group of students. I have been blessed to meet quite a few who are so engaged and so eager to learn. It makes your job so much easier when you have students like that, where it’s not a chore for them or for you as a professor, just to share information and have conversations and to see how students are really understanding, not just the textbook concepts of criminal justice, but understanding it in action. Last semester, we had some amazing talks in my Courts (“American Criminal Courts/Judicial Process”) classes about current events, understanding the issues in Ferguson, Missouri, or in North Charleston with the Walter Scott case. Just seeing them making connections for themselves, I think, is really, really rewarding.

Q. You mentioned your colleagues earlier; how do you view them?
A. I’m very, very lucky. I have a phenomenal group of colleagues. What’s very interesting about our department, and one of things that attracted me to it, is it’s a very interdisciplinary department. We all come from different backgrounds, but we all bring something different to the table that I think benefits the students. For instance, Professor (Diane) Brand used to be in law enforcement, so she can provide a different kind of insight than I can, having never worked out in the field. Our chair, Professor (Margaret) Ryniker, is a lawyer. Not only do we have a strong core faculty, our adjuncts are working professionals who bring something to the table that gives our students that extra little edge or that extra understanding about what it is they’re studying.

Q. What is your current research interest?
A. My research pretty consistently is in the realm of mass shootings, school shootings. My research partner (H. Jaymi Elsass) and I just finished our book, “Mass Shootings: Media, Myths, and Realities.” It’s in review at the publisher, Praeger, and available for pre-order at Amazon.

Q. How have media received your critique about the attention paid to shooters?
A. Collectively and individually, the media seem very open to understanding there’s a different way to go here, that there is much to be gained by refocusing attention on the victims. For us, we’re very grateful the media have provided a platform to put information and the latest research forward.

Q. What comes after the book?
A. My research partner and I received data from the Boston Marathon, pre- and post-bombing data on perspectives of victimization, feelings about the likelihood of more attacks and so on. We went through the Ph.D. program together. About four years ago, we sat down to talk and this crazy idea about testing moral panic theory came up. Our research projects have grown by leaps and bounds since then. We’ve still got a few projects that are in the works coming out of my dissertation. We are looking at regional differences in perceptions of mass shootings. We still have work to do with the Boston Marathon data. Just working on the book, about 8,000 new ideas came up. There’s no shortage of things for us to do and to keep us busy.

Q. What else do you do on campus?
A. I serve as the adviser for Public Justice Club. I’m really excited, because we’re taking it back to the ground level and strengthening the foundation and trying to make it something that’s going to be a lasting experience for our students. I do hope to get involved in a couple more activities on campus this year.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re off the job?
A. I am still trying to figure that out (laughs). I bought a new house, got a new puppy and wrote a book this summer, so I really haven’t had time to enjoy all that the area has to offer. But I really enjoy—especially coming from South Florida and when I went off to Texas—the more outdoorsy aspects, checking out the different state parks and going hiking. A couple of weeks ago, a couple of the other professors and I went to Watkins Glen and we hiked the whole thing. That was such an accomplishment for us!