Stephanie Novak is from Morro Bay, California. She earned her associate degree in Administrative Justice at Cuesta College and her bachelor’s degree in criminology at Fresno State, with a focus on forensic behavioral sciences. Also interested in victimology, as an undergraduate, she earned a Victim Services Certificate. Novak then returned for her master’s degree in Criminology. She received the William E. and Carolyn M. Crumpacker Scholarship and the Dean’s Scholarship for Research and Study. She volunteered as a research assistant, where she helped research positive and negative interviewing techniques used by police officers on cooperative witnesses. Novak also conducted her own research on the perceptions of emotional intimate partner violence, which she turned into her master’s thesis. She is a member of a nationally recognized criminal justice honors society, Alpha Phi Sigma, and served as the vice president and president of the Fresno State chapter. She is currently employed by the Fresno County Public Defender’s Office as a defense investigative technician.
Why did you choose criminology as your major?
It took me a long time to choose criminology as my major. I attended a junior college for years. I took a bunch of random classes and switched my major multiple times. I finally wandered into a criminal justice course and loved it! I graduated with an AA in administrative justice and transferred to Fresno State for criminology. Ultimately, I chose criminology because I found it super interesting and I was good at it.
How did your academic journey at Fresno State begin?
I chose to apply to Fresno State because I heard they had one of the best criminology programs. I moved to Fresno in January of 2016 and it has been my home ever since. When I began attending Fresno State, the campus felt comfortable and I knew I had made the right decision.
What is your career goal?
My career goal is to work for the government in some capacity, either working with victims of crime or as an investigator. I did not always know that this is what I wanted to do. Figuring out what I wanted my career to be was one of my biggest academic challenges and taking the time to figure it out set me back years.
What do you think about the College of Social Sciences (COSS) and our professors?
The criminology professors are great! They are extremely knowledgeable and supportive. I just finished my master’s thesis and my thesis committee was amazing. Dr. Van Camp, Dr. Summers, and Dr. Shaw all were super helpful and believed in me every step of the way, even when I didn’t believe in myself. Dr. Hughes and Dr. Kieckhaefer have also been really supportive of me throughout my time here at Fresno State, I truly appreciate all of them.
Did you experience any challenges as a student?
Yes, there were times in my life where I didn’t think college was for me. I almost gave up a few times. I was frustrated with trying to find a major and with my inability to decide what kind of career I wanted. I envied those people who always knew what they wanted to do. My college journey was a slow one, and I experienced hurdles along the way.
What is your most memorable experience at Fresno State?
Finishing my thesis on time!!! And working closely with some awesome professors. The most memorable experience at Fresno State is also being a member, and then the President, of Alpha Phi Sigma. The APS conferences were always a blast, and the first conference I was lucky enough to attend was in New Orleans during Mardi Gras; definitely an experience I will never forget.
How do you feel about being recognized as the Graduate Dean’s Medalist?
I’m honored and grateful. I’m proud of myself and happy all of my hard work has paid off.
How do you think COSS prepared you for the future?
Well, thanks to some wonderful letters of recommendation on behalf of my professors, I have actually landed a job as a defense investigative technician for the Fresno County Public Defender’s Office. I began working there this January and I’m really looking forward to beginning my career.
What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?
Well, in ten years I’ll be turning forty, so hopefully well established in my career and out of my tiny apartment.
What is your advice for other students?
Don’t give up. Everyone progresses at their own speed and it’s okay if you take longer than four years. It’s okay to leave for a while and come back to school when you’re better prepared. With age comes wisdom.
“I would really like to give a shout out to all of those students who are also parents. You guys are superheroes and an inspiration.”