Student engagement is number one priority at UH Hilo’s new administration of justice program

“Learning is a community endeavor where students can play with concepts and make it make sense to them,” says Katherine Young, new chair of UH Hilo’s administration of justice department. 

Photo of gavel with words: Administration of Justice, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

By Riana Jicha.

The new chair of University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s Department of Administration of Justice says she is centering her goals for the department around students.

Katherine Young pictured
Katherine Young

“Students need in-class engagement to work out concepts,” says Professor of Administration of Justice Katherine Young, whose areas of expertise are in environmental political theory, critical theory, and animal rights. “I believe that learning is a community endeavor and that through class discussions, students can play with concepts and work together to make sense of them.”

Young arrived at UH Hilo’s political science department in 2010, becoming chair of the new administration of justice program in July of last year. She is currently working on two books, one focusing on environmental political theory specifically dealing with animals, and the other a co-authored work on the relation of capitalism to authoritarianism and fascism.

Beginning in fall 2023, administration of justice courses—where students study, through online classes, how societies implement justice in both theory and in practice—will include policing and punishment, global crime, Indigenous justice, advocacy and criminal justice, and justice and the environment, among others. Coming in the near future is a course on animal cruelty, where students will work with local community organizations to address animal abuse issues.

“[My] main goal for the department is to support students’ engagement and facilitate their academic journeys,” says Young.

“Part of building AJ student engagement is through activities that are fun and spark interest,” she says, noting that much of the activity supports learning and encourages curiosity.

This semester, Young set her sights on engaging AJ students on social media and created an Instagram account for students to learn about upcoming events and opportunities.

Coming up on April 21 is the showing of a true crime documentary film, sponsored by the administration of justice department but meant to engage students of other majors as well in an inter-disciplinary event; Young developed the film screening with UH Hilo sociologist Ellen Meiser. The movie, American Murder: Family Next Door, covers a brutal 2018 domestic violence case that is bound to create a good discussion following the screening.

Underway already are career talks and public lectures that encourage student engagement.

“Administration of Justice Career Opportunities Talk” is an ongoing series that helps students interact with professionals in potential fields of interest, ask questions, and receive real-world advice. The department has hosted professionals from the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, giving students the opportunity to connect and engage with experienced officers in the field.

Last month, an expert in political theory from the University of Bristol spoke to students on colonialism and Marxist theory. A wildland fire technician with Alaska’s Bureau of Land Management spoke to students about AJ-related career opportunities.

The guest lectures are offered both in-person and on Zoom, which Young says gives students convenient ways to reach these resources and each other, an essential feature of learning. She believes these types of events allow students to jumpstart their engagement within their potential career communities while connecting with each other as student peers, offering positive developments for the student.

As the administration of justice department grows and students begin to graduate, Young wants to be sure they have been provided with the tools needed to develop their skills. Most of all, she hopes students find the necessary foundation during their academic journey at UH Hilo to find success in their future studies or professional work.

“My hope is for students to gain the skills and knowledge that they need to succeed in whatever they may wish to do in the future,” says Young.

By Riana Jicha, a double major in administration of justice and political science at UH Hilo.