Criminology Professor Stresses Teaching, Research and Service

Dr. Alex Piquero

Dr. Alex Piquero

When Dr. Alex Piquero thinks about what it means to be a university faculty member, three things come to mind: teaching, research and service. 

Piquero said he is honored to have received awards for his contributions in all three areas. 

“I’ve always been upset when people say you can’t do them all,” said Piquero, the Ashbel Smith Professor of Criminology in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences. “Yes you can. We should be doing all three, and we should be excelling at all three. That’s the privilege we have as being a faculty member at a great institution.” 

After 20 years in education, including the past three at UT Dallas, he recently was recognized with a 2014 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award.

Piquero, who has consistently been named one of the most-cited scholars in his field, said the research side of scholarship should feed into the teaching side. 

Students enjoy learning beyond the textbooks; they want to know what’s to come, he said. 

“These things aren’t mutually exclusive. There’s this perception that people have — that you’re either a good teacher or a good researcher,” Piquero said. “I disagree. I think that faculty who excel are doing both in the real world at the same time.” 

The first step of Piquero’s journey to criminology education was one of happenstance. 

Dr. Alex Piquero

TITLE: Ashbel Smith Professor of Criminology

RESEARCH INTERESTS: Criminal careers, criminological theory, quantitative research methods 

OTHER ACCOLADES: University of Florida's College of Arts & Sciences Teacher of the Year Award, University of Maryland's Top Terp Teaching Award, Fellow of the American Society of Criminology, Fellow of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

More About the Awards
Faculty Members Receive Regents' Outstanding Teaching Awards

Other Awardees
Dr. Michael Baron
Dr. Rebecca Files
Dr. Randall Lehmann
Dr. Mohammad Saquib
Dr. Jason Slinker

In his second semester as a freshman at the University of Maryland, Piquero needed to register for one more class. An introductory course in criminal justice filled his open time slot. 

The teacher, Dr. Laure Brooks, had an enthusiasm for the topic and a teaching style that hooked Piquero. He then became a criminology major, conducted research and earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the university. 

“Whenever you can get in front of students and not just interest them in a topic — I think you can make anything exciting; it’s about the delivery —  and when you show students your passion and excitement for your field, you’re instilling in them the quest for knowledge,” he said. 

Piquero aspires to create that environment in his classes. He doesn’t use PowerPoint presentations; instead, he encourages discussion and aims to get his students to love to think, learn and ask questions.  

Joseph Lim, a junior McDermott Scholar majoring in biology and criminology, recalled his first day of Piquero’s introduction to criminology class. It was Lim’s first semester at UT Dallas, and Piquero quickly eased his fears of mundane course work and lack of interaction with professors. 

“Piquero’s demeanor was calm and relaxed, and he was genuinely having fun while teaching,” Lim said in a nomination letter for the award. “His enthusiasm became contagious, and the entire class, which was comprised of more than 80 people, was attentively listening to his lecture and actively participating in class by asking questions.” 

Piquero also makes an effort to engage his students and make class enjoyable. He asks about students’ interests in music and sports, which, he said, makes them more open to learning and sharing their views. 

He takes the same approach when sharing his knowledge and research with the community through talks to University supporters, alumni and various civic groups. 

“Entertainment is part of the teaching process,” he said. “You have to hook them. You have to make it where they enjoy, not only the topic, but the process of learning. You’ve got to make class fun. If you’re not having fun when you’re learning, then something is wrong.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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