Texas Tech students receive award for work in criminal justice reform


Three Texas Tech University students recently won the Jan Hart Black Volunteer of the Year Award from Unlocking Doors, a Texas nonprofit committed to reducing crime and helping formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reenter society.

The winners are:

Haleigh Albrecht, a senior psychology major

Maria Cullum, a senior sociology major

Kailyn Edestrand, a senior political science major

In 2020, the Department of Sociology, Anthropology & Social Work launched its first attempt at all-virtual internships. The first cohort was so successful the department was able to establish summer 2021 virtual internships with Unlocking Doors and other sites. Albrecht, Cullum and Edestrand were honored for the work they completed this summer with Unlocking Doors.

“Managing the internship program, I knew these students would have a real challenge ahead of them, as we were creating a completely virtual experience,” said Andrea Button-Schnick, the internship coordinator and an assistant professor of practice for the sociology program at Texas Tech University at Waco, housed within Texas Tech’s College of Arts & Sciences.

Students had to undergo multiple rounds of interviews to be selected for this highly competitive internship as well as pass drug tests and background checks due to a demand for high-security clearance.

“Our interns spent the summer analyzing data that will be used to create programs in the future,” Button-Schnick said. “In addition to programs, we hope this data will be used to inform law-making and better arrest policies. Many of the individuals who return to prison are there for technical violations, not because they broke a law. Sometimes someone does not obtain a valid driver’s license in time, and that is a violation that can send them back to prison.”

The data the students compiled focused heavily on demographics, access to housing and employment and other factors that, when properly analyzed, could potentially reduce the number of reincarcerations in Texas.

“These young women set the bar high for this internship,” Button-Schnick said. “Unlocking Doors already has asked for another group of Texas Tech students.”

The Volunteer of the Year Award is named after Jan Hart Black, a former Dallas city manager and member of Unlocking Doors’ Advisory Council who has dedicated her life and career to civic engagement and civil responsibility.

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