The master’s in criminal justice sciences program at Illinois State has given students many real-world, hands-on experiences. For Bothwell Piason, a graduate student within the Department of Criminal Justice Sciences, becoming a #GradBird has allowed him to explore more opportunities within his research in the criminal justice field.

Bothwell has been an active graduate student within criminal justice since August of 2021. His journey started while participating and presenting at a victimology symposium at Monash University in 2011. At this symposium, he met Dr. Dawn Beichner, professor and graduate coordinator within the Department of Criminal Justice Sciences, who was inspired by his research and invited him to study at Illinois State.

Dr. Dawn Beichner, professor and graduate coordinator within the Department of Criminal Justice Sciences.

“It was my interactions with Bothwell in the South African course that prompted me to ask him to study in the U.S. for his master’s degree,” explains Beichner. “Before joining us, he earned his undergraduate degree at Monash and returned to his home country of Zimbabwe to earn his master’s in international relations. And then, he traveled 8,900 miles to join us, and things have been going amazingly well.”

Bothwell also remembered the first interaction with Beichner and was very excited about the opportunity to travel to Illinois State. “I met Dr. Beichner, who saw a ray of light in me and invited me to study here at ISU, and I was happy to be highly regarded. The rest is history. Our program here is well-recognized. It elevates my global scope and sets me on the right path to become well equipped as a leader in issues to do with criminology and criminal justice.”

Bothwell is not only studying for his master’s degree in Criminal Justice Sciences but is also working towards a graduate certification in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) as well. He also has various research interests ranging from critical criminology, transnational crimes, corrections and offender re-entry, women and gender victimology, immigration, policy evaluation, and crimes in conflict areas to terrorism.

“My thesis work focuses on mothering experiences of women in jails, utilizing data from two midwestern jails,” Bothwell said. “My interest was drawn from the existing gap in research on the impact that incarceration/detention has on jailed women since most studies focus on prison populations. I think that the newly signed legislation by Gov. Pritzker which promises to end cash bail by 2023 is a positive step toward effectively reducing the residual effects of incarceration.”

Apart from his role as a graduate research and teaching assistant within the department, Bothwell also collaborates on numerous research projects ranging from topics like prison re-entry, rural jails, tattoos, and public perception in sports. Along with his research projects, Bothwell is also currently working on an article with Beichner and Dr. Chadley James, a professor at Fresno State University. This year, Bothwell also presented at the 2022 WGSS Research Symposium and elaborated on a topic titled, The Parental Role: Mothering Experiences of Women in Jails, together with Beichner. He expects to present this topic again in November 2022 in Atlanta at the American Society of Criminology.

This picture was taken at The Cradle of Humankind, World Heritage Site in Maropeng, South Africa. Bothwell Piason (front left) and Dr. Dawn Beichner (back row, far right) met as part of a Victimology, Victim Assistance, and Criminal Justice course held at Monash University in Johannesburg, South Africa. Also pictured are Chiara Keune (front, right), Andrew Linden (back row, left), Blessing Magumise, (back row, second from left), and Pious Maedzenge (back row, third from left).

Civic engagement also plays a considerable part in Bothwell’s life at Illinois State. In 2021, he volunteered at a #FullyFree event in McLean County. He also participated in the march demanding justice for Jelani Day. In addition, he attended the 2022 College of Applied Sciences (CAST) Connections event. Bothwell is currently working with a registered student organization called YOU, which assists orphans in northern Nigeria who are victims of terrorism. He has also been appointed as an advisor of an organization called Youth Development Initiative Trust (YDIT) in Zimbabwe, which works on various projects ranging from empowering women who have been internally displaced to anti-drug projects for youths.

Between all his research, teaching, and civic engagement work, it was no surprise that Bothwell was recognized with the 2022 Outstanding Graduate Student Award from the Criminal Justice Sciences department for the spring semester. At the ceremony, recognizing Bothwell and his accomplishments, Beichner said: “Irrespective of the country in which he is studying, Bothwell prioritizes civic engagement. He has long-term plans to be a political leader in Zimbabwe one day and has amassed an impressive service repertoire. He has taken part in projects in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Nigeria, and the U.S.—including working with me in the community on some prisoner re-entry efforts. In the history of this award, we have never had an awardee with such global dexterity and commitment to civic engagement. I am excited to see what the future holds for him.”