We meet Dr Lea Sitkin, Lecturer in Criminology.

What’s the best thing about being a lecturer in criminology?
Criminology is a fascinating subject because it draws on so many different disciplines: sociology, psychology, law, politics, history and biology. In addition, because crime and criminal justice are areas that attract a lot of popular interest (particularly since Making a Murderer!), people always have something to say when I tell them I lecture in criminology. I hear some very interesting stories from the public. As for the actual teaching itself, it’s the students and the relationships I have with them that make the role so fulfilling.

What advice would you give a student starting out at university for the first time?
It is natural to feel apprehensive in your first weeks at any university, but the University of Westminster will offer you all the support you need. Don’t be afraid to ask. More generally, make the most of your time here, both academically and in terms of extra-curricular activities. There are so many amazing projects to get involved in, both within the University and across London. You will have an incredible time.

What made you want to get involved in teaching in higher education?
I absolutely love teaching in higher education and feel very privileged to have a job that allows me to help shape the minds of tomorrow. Students are in university because they want to be and that translates into an incredible energy in the classroom. I am inspired by my students, and learn something from them every day – and they make me laugh too. I’m not sure any other job really compares actually.

What are your biggest successes?
I am proud of many of my students. I feel like I’m doing a good job when I see my students enjoy themselves. I remember the teachers that instilled a love of learning in me and it’s a real pleasure to see that joy in my students. 

I find it really fulfilling when I help students to understand something that they didn’t before. It’s always obvious when the penny drops. And because we are teaching a subject that has obvious relevance to the 'real world', I feel that I’m also helping students to think a bit differently about their own lives and the society that we live in. I hope that they carry this new understanding into their lives after university.

What is the best part of your job?
It’s great when you walk out of a lecture or a seminar class, and feel like the students have learnt something and have had a good time too. I also really enjoy my one-on-one meetings with the students, including my dissertation supervisees, with whom I work closely over the course of the year. I like creating new modules and thinking about innovative ways of delivering education. And finally, my colleagues, who are both supportive and good fun to be around.

How does your research inform your teaching (and vice versa)?
Teaching is a great opportunity to disseminate the findings of your research. Furthermore, students are keen to hear about our research experiences – it brings the subject alive for them. A great lecture on our second-year module Globalisation, Crime and Control is Sacha Darke’s lecture on prisons in Brazil, because he has spent a great deal of time visiting and staying in those places for his upcoming book. The stories he tells during this class are absolutely fascinating.

My research is largely comparative. Bringing my research findings into the classroom allows students to contextualise what they are learning about one particular country or another and helps them to avoid the pitfalls of ethno-centrism.

As for the benefits of teaching for research: first, teaching offers you a great opportunity to (re)visit concepts and theories that you are less familiar with. Second, the students regularly offer insights that inform my research. Indeed, insights from our many international students have helped me to become less ethnocentric in my own research. The learning goes both ways, in other words.

What do you love about working at the University of Westminster?   
The University of Westminster is a great place to work, and I dare say, to study too. I love how diverse it is and how celebrated that diversity is. It’s right in the heart of London, which gives it an incredible – and unique – buzz. And finally, it’s a really friendly place. The students make great bonds with each other and with us, and it creates a wonderful atmosphere. Ultimately, it’s a testament to both the student population, and my colleagues, that I enjoy going into work every day. I couldn’t recommend the institution more highly.

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