Joanne DeCaro, left, and Khirad Siddiqui are pursuing doctorates in criminology, law and society
For their superior academic achievement and commitment to a career in teaching and research at the university level, graduate students Joanne DeCaro and Khirad Siddiqui have been awarded Ford Fellowships.
DeCaro and Siddiqui are pursuing a Ph.D. in criminology, law and society. Each will receive $27,000 a year for three years.
DeCaro has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English from Northeastern University. She also studied photojournalism at Brooks Institute of Photography and worked as a photographer for a decade before starting her doctoral studies at UCI in 2018. She plans to complete her studies in 2024.
She helps run a legal clinic for current and former prisoners with life sentences and works with the Restorative Justice Fund, and while she plans to pursue research and teaching upon graduation, DeCaro said: “I would like the opportunity to continue my research in a way that centers the voices and needs of the community I study.”
For her dissertation, DeCaro is using oral histories, ethnography, and survey methods to research trauma and incarceration, specifically the areas of life-course accumulation of trauma, moral injury, coping and adaptation and trauma-informed care.
“I am currently conducting a mixed-methods study of lifers in the re-entry process in Southern California,” she said. “My research examines how preexisting trauma is rearticulated in sites of incarceration, how these compounded traumas are emotionally processed post-incarceration, and how methods — from clinical interventions to the act of storytelling — can be applied to aid in recovery. I make use of my past training in visual journalism and digital humanities to tell the narratives of the incarcerated using multimodal techniques, such as: documentary shorts, interactive mapping, and searchable archives.”
Siddiqui earned her bachelor’s degree in applied psychology from New York University last year. She expects to complete her Ph.D. in 2025 and pursue a career as a university faculty member.
Her dissertation research is focused on the experiences of incarcerated Muslims, the process of converting to Islam in prison, and state surveillance.
“I plan on interviewing currently and formerly incarcerated Muslims to inform national conversations on radicalism, surveillance and incarceration,” Siddiqui said.
She and DeCaro said they chose to pursue their doctoral studies at UCI because of the university’s focus on interdisciplinary research. They cited the supportive faculty and strong graduate student community as the School of Social Ecology’s strengths.
“I have an amazing team of faculty mentors from three different departments within the School of Social Ecology and, in general, I have always found faculty from all our departments to be receptive and excited to discuss their research and my own,” DeCaro said. “I have been supported in the various aspects and methods of my research, even though they don’t fit neatly in a single discipline. And, I have found such a wonderful community with my fellow graduate students, especially the support I receive from our Ethnography Lab.”
Mimi Ko Cruz