Pioneer Academics has introduced two new research areas in criminology and gender studies, offering students an opportunity to explore subjects that are typically not covered in high school. The two concentrations were added for the first time during this year’s summer term. A total of about 40 scholars conducted research in criminology and gender studies this summer, often combining them with related fields, such as sociology and political science.
Matthew Jaskol, founder and program director, said Pioneer has not added a new research area in a while but said it decided to expand its offerings with the two disciplines based on the interest of students applying to the program and Pioneer’s observation and analysis of the challenges society faces today. “We look for applicants who aspire to be game changers dealing with the complex problems we face today,” he said. “We’ve increasingly focused on this aspirational aspect in selection of students and development of programs. Happily, among our applicant pool, we are seeing more young people who are thinking outside themselves in terms of where they want to invest their time and efforts.”
Pioneer scholars have conducted research projects that were related to criminology and gender studies in the past, exploring topics such as gender differences in entrepreneurship and the role stereotypes play in children’s development. With the new research areas, however, students can now join a cohort that concentrates on these disciplines. The new cohort in criminology, for example, focused on exploring and explaining criminal and deviant behavior from a sociological perspective. In gender studies, three cohorts were created that looked at stereotypes and prejudice, gender and conflict, and the social factors that affect how we see our own body and other bodies.
Students Delve into the New Research Areas
Connor (criminology, 2021), a Pioneer scholar from the United States, decided to focus his research on criminology because he wanted to understand why criminals engage in deviant behavior. During his research, he became fascinated by the different types of theories that explain why people commit criminal acts. “I think that better understanding why people commit these crimes would allow us to better shape our justice system around that and learn to treat and improve criminals, rather than just punish them,” he said.
Connor said his experience conducting research on criminology was a valuable experience and he was particularly pleased that his cohort was smaller than he expected. “I have never really taken anything like this that is so specific, so I didn’t have many expectations for how the course would be taught,” he said.
Before Skyler (gender studies, 2021), a scholar from the United States, joined Pioneer, she admits she didn’t know much about gender studies. But as gender identities continue to evolve, she said that gender is an important topic to understand so that society can make changes that help us reach gender equality. After participating in her group sessions, reading papers in the field and conducting her own research, Skyler became interested in examining structures in society and society itself through a gender lens. She also decided to focus on learning how an individual’s gender identity impacts his or her life experiences. “It was really valuable to discuss these topics in our group sessions with students from around the world and inspiring to hear insights from our professor, who is an expert in the field,” she said.
Another scholar who concentrated on gender studies was Olivia (gender studies, 2021), a Pioneer scholar from China. She said her understanding of gender changed during her research project and it helped her realize that she held a subconscious belief that women are weak in situations of armed conflict, while men are the perpetrators. “I didn’t necessarily have that concept in my head all day — it was rather a belief slowly built up through casual conversation, reading news headlines and seeing ads from humanitarian organizations,” she said. Though she is just an individual, she said her previous beliefs represent the expectations of society in general.
Olivia said she is grateful to Pioneer for motivating her to continue her work on gender studies beyond her research paper. She said she has already started an independent study project that aims to destigmatize menstrual periods and establish a supportive system in international schools in Beijing.