Classes have resumed for Fall 2021 and you may have noticed some new faces in the College of Social Sciences. Four full-time faculty members have joined our teams in the departments of Criminology, History and Political Science.

We caught up with them for a Q&A to better introduce them to our students, faculty and staff.

Dr. Ryan Ditchfield and Dr. Kate Kafonek join the criminology department

Ditchfield is a 2016 Fresno State graduate who is extremely excited to return to campus as a faculty member. He teaches courses related to psychology and law including FBS 153 (Psychology of Crime) and FBS 155 (Biology of Crime). His research focuses on high-stakes decision making in the criminal justice system. Specifically, he examines the decision making of eyewitnesses, suspects, police officers, and other actors in the justice system. Also considering situational and cognitive factors that can potentially bias their decisions.

“My degrees in criminology and political science laid the foundation for my current research in legal psychology. Some of the topics that I have examined include eyewitness decision-making, police-citizen interactions, police interviews and interrogations, and deception detection,” Ditchfield said.

What are you most looking forward to as a professor at Fresno State?

I am most looking forward to meeting my students and getting criminology undergraduates involved in the research process.

What will your distinctive background do to elevate the Criminology Department?

I am hoping that my background in legal psychology will increase students’ interest in pursuing careers in this area. In addition, I hope that my status as a Fresno State alumni will inspire students to attend graduate school and expand our understanding of psychology in the justice system.

What was the last year and a half like for you?

The last year and a half has been full of twists and turns, as I am sure it has been for everyone. I spent this time completing my Ph.D. in Social Psychology at Iowa State University, however, so I am not sure if I would have spent any more time outside even in the absence of COVID-19!

What are your office hours?

My office hours are Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.


Dr. Katherine Kafonek teaches Victimology and Ethnic and Gender Issues in Criminal Justice. Her research involves gender, crime, and victimization.

“Primarily, I study intimate partner violence and sexual assault/dating violence education and prevention programming,” Kafonek said.

What are you most looking forward to at Fresno State?

I’m beyond excited to get to know the students, the faculty, and the close-knit community at Fresno State.

How did you become involved in your specialty area?

I have been interested in studying crime since watching CSI Marathons with my mom in 5th grade. I also grew up watching Olivia Benson find justice for victims on Law and Order: SVU and realized the importance of centering victims/survivors in the study of criminal justice. On a more serious note, personal connections influenced me to get involved with gender-based violence research and activism.

What will your distinctive background do to elevate the Criminology Department?

Prior to Fresno State, I have had opportunities to see my research efforts enact sociopolitical change. In Baltimore, my research supported the passage of a bill that implemented sexual assault campus climate surveys and program evaluations intended to improve responses to survivors of domestic violence. In Delaware, I worked closely with esteemed academics in the field to develop the Center for the Study & Prevention of Gender-Based Violence. I am hoping to continue this interdisciplinary research-based activism to Fresno State.

What was the last year and a half like for you?

The last year and a half has been a rollercoaster, and it feels like it’s been much longer than that! I just made a cross-country move in a pandemic, which I never would have imagined. Prior to that life-changing road trip, I spent quarantine interviewing high school teenagers over Zoom for my dissertation. I am very fortunate that I and those close to me have remained healthy during these tumultuous times, but it has not been easy being separated from my family and friends. I spent a lot of time in quarantine writing, reading, and scrolling through TikTok.

What’s a fun fact about you?

In 2017, I walked the Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile pilgrimage starting in St. Jean Pied de Port, France and ending in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia. I hope to do it again soon, taking the Portuguese route this time!

What are your office hours?

Tuesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.


Dr. Danny Kim joins the History Department

Dr. Kim’s current teaching areas are in East Asian History, the history of Asian Diasporas, Korean cultural history, and environmental history. His research is on the Rose of Sharon Alliance (Kunuhoe), a revolutionary feminist organization in Korea under Japanese rule (1910-1945).

What are you most looking forward to at Fresno State?

I look forward to working with a diverse campus community with a clear institutional mission in enabling social mobility for students from both the Central Valley and beyond. I am also happy to be back in the classroom. 

How did you become involved in your specialty area?

Although I started out in biomedical engineering as an undergraduate, I spent all my time studying about Japan and Korea so I knew I had to change majors, which I did down the line. One thing led to another and I ended up in a PhD program in Korean and Japanese history under a wonderful advisor, Louise Young. 

What will your distinctive background do to elevate the History Department at Fresno State?

I had unique opportunities to teach and research in Korea (Seoul), Japan (Tokyo), and China (Kunming and Yanji). Additionally, I am proficient in Korean and Japanese. As such, I hope to elevate the History Department by offering students opportunities to travel and study in East Asia by making the most of the experience and networks I developed throughout my career. 

What was the last year and a half like for you?

I spent most of the past year and a half at Korea University in Seoul as a Research Professor. The governmental response to the pandemic was pretty stringent, with limits on gathering sizes and meetings which made collaboration a challenge. Nevertheless, I had a productive year of research and got to know some wonderful faculty and experts in the field!

What’s a fun fact about you?

In a past life ages ago, I was an aspiring musician and picked up guitar, drums, piano, and trumpet. 

What are your office hours?

My office hours are Mondays and Tuesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. 


Dr. Naomi Bick joins the Political Science Department

Dr. Bick teaches public policy/administration, American government, state and local politics, and environmental policy at the undergraduate and MPA level. Her research areas are in public policy; climate change and environmental policy; urban politics; American politics and government; political institutions; women and politics; federalism.

What are you most looking forward to at Fresno State?

I’m looking forward to getting to know my faculty colleagues and students. Everyone has been so welcoming! 

How did you become involved in your specialty area?

I first became involved in climate change politics growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (right near a coal-fired power plant!). Growing up with asthma, I realized at one point that policy decisions led me and my peers to suffer this health consequence and I became involved in environmental activism as a young high school student as I learned more about climate change. I’ve been involved in environmental politics (both in terms of activism and study) since I was a college student in Southwestern Pennsylvania. 

What will your distinctive background do to elevate the Political Science Department at Fresno State?

I think my background is important, especially coming to this position as someone (who like many students) is a young, first generation college student who started off my career without a lot of knowledge of academia or how these systems operate. I can really connect with students on this level, including those of us re-learning everything now that we’re back in person for the first time in a year. I also think my passion and enthusiasm for this subject spreads really easily to those around me and I hope to encourage a lot more folks to find an interest in political science.

What was the last year and a half like for you?

The last year and a half has been intense: between finishing my dissertation online and not having access to a lot of my support network, to applying to jobs (and interviewing) all-online, to moving across the country, it has been a whirlwind! But I am excited to finally be in Fresno. 

What’s a fun fact about you?

I have a dog named Honey and she’s decided to enter a life-long battle with the neighborhood squirrels. We are learning that the squirrels here are aggressive! 

What are your office hours?

Tuesdays 2 to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

“I’m excited to be here, please feel free to stop in and say hi!”