Mawia Khogali is two years away from graduating with her PhD in Psychology and Law from John Jay College, a highly competitive program that only admits five people per year, and enables her to look at justice from the lens of psychology.
Now, three years into her program, Mawia has been awarded a fellowship from the National Institute of Justice for the completion of her dissertation, which will look at the perception of force between police and civilians. Mawia says the fellowship will open up new possibilities for her career.
“Getting this award from the NIJ is the best thing that could have happened,” she said. “My ability to move forward as a researcher has shifted because the fellowship recognizes that what I’m doing is worthy in the field.”
Mawia was a strong applicant for the award, especially given her extensive research experience. As part of her doctoral program, she’s worked on a variety of research projects, including a study in which she reached out to 1,500 attorneys in order to analyze how racial stereotypes influence the way plea bargains are negotiated. “It’s a learning experience,” she said. “It’s been a lot of research but it helps me see where I want to go in my career trajectory.”
That trajectory is already starting to take form as Mawia has also accepted a fellowship at the Vera Institute’s policing program, where she looks at community policing, a method of policing that focuses on how communities can collaborate with law enforcement for innovative justice solutions. Mawia loves her work at Vera because she can see how it makes a difference on the ground. “We’re using applied research to work hand in hand with police officers to see how we can address issues without the use of enforcement,” she said.
Having these research experiences – both with the faculty at John Jay and her mentors at Vera – has enriched Mawia’s doctoral journey. “I’m still learning a lot, but I can’t imagine having the knowledge I have if it weren’t for both the academic research I’ve done at John Jay and the applied research I’m doing at Vera.”
As a graduate of Medgar Evers, and now as a doctoral student at John Jay, Mawia considers herself a lifelong CUNY supporter. She already gives back to the CUNY family by working as a Teaching Assistant in Psychology and Law at John Jay. “One of my passions is teaching,” she said. “I love my students here. They have a personal relationship with you, and they rely on you both for knowledge and life skills.”
It’s because of Mawia’s commitment to justice, both in the criminal justice system and elsewhere, that she is considering becoming a full-time professor at CUNY one day. At CUNY, where there are high rates of students of color, Mawia feels she can make the most impact. “I’ve noticed how white the academy is, and I’ve been able to see the lack of resources for students of color. I’m the only black person in my program and I want to share the knowledge I’ve gained with those who look like me.”
“I promote justice, especially racial justice, in all the classes I teach,” she said. “CUNY students want that.”