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The Last Hurdle: FSSH Celebrates First Criminology PhD

April 7, 2020

A grad student in Criminology recently passed her last hurdle when she successfully defended her PhD thesis, making her the first-ever Criminology PhD defence in the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities.

On Wednesday, April 1, Dr. Kaitlin Fredericks virtually defended her PhD thesis, Finding Success in Life: The Voices of At-Risk Youth. These virtual steps were taken in compliance with the physical distancing measures put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"It's very exciting to have our first PhD in Criminology and Social Justice defence, the first of many to come," says Criminology Graduate Program Director Dr. Christopher O'Connor. "Having the defence done virtually was not what we planned for but we all adapted quickly." 

Despite not being able to celebrate Kaitlin's achievement, Dr. O'Connor is proud of her accomplishments and has said the faculty will be sure to plan something once physical distancing measures are lifted. 

Her supervisor, Dr. Carla Cesaroni is thrilled that Kaitlin has led the way for her peers in the graduate program saying, "we are very proud that Kaitlin is our first Criminology PhD, as she presents an exceptional example of what can be achieved through diligence and perseverance. Her intelligence, leadership, empathy and collegiality have made her a joy to work with."

Dr. Fredericks has been a student at Ontario Tech University for six years, having completed her Master’s of Arts in Criminology before moving to her Doctorate in Criminology and Social Justice. While completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph, one of her professors connected her with Dr. Cesaroni. It was the professor’s obvious care for her students and the opportunity to complete a community-based research project that drew Kaitlin to apply to the Criminology Graduate Program at Ontario Tech.

Since starting her journey as a graduate student, Dr. Fredericks was fortunate enough to receive many unique research opportunities with various professors and members of faculty, allowing her to delve deeper into research interests such as at-and high-risk youth, risk and resilience, and success. After interviewing LGBTQ youth, she realized she wanted to further explore how at-risk youth discuss their experiences of success for her PhD thesis.

“I felt it was so important and moving that these youth were able to discuss so much resilience and positive outcomes despite the risk and stigma they have faced,” says Dr. Fredericks.

For her thesis, she engaged in community-based research with the Child Development Institute, a children’s mental health agency located in Toronto, to determine how at-risk youth construct and characterize ideas of success and how a community program can help these youth achieve their ideas of success.​

According to Dr. Cesaroni, this research makes an important contribution to the field and shines a light on the groundbreaking work our community partners are engaged in.

As her graduate journey with Ontario Tech comes to an end, Dr. Fredericks is grateful for all that she has learned from her mentors and praises the faculty's ability to integrate each department to approach criminology in a holistic way. To her, the unconditional support, guidance, and mentorship she received from not only her committee but also from professors who taught graduate courses were second to none.

“It has been rewarding to be a part of an innovative faculty full of experts in the field who seek to push various academic conversations forward,” says Dr. Fredericks. “I am forever grateful for my supervisor, committee, and the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities at Ontario Tech for enriching my graduate experience and making a profound impact on my academic journey.”

Learn more about Graduate Studies in Criminology at Ontario Tech University.