We meet Roxana Pessoa Cavalcanti, lecturer in criminology.

What’s the best thing about being a lecturer in criminology?
Criminology, to me, is an endlessly absorbing and stimulating subject because it explores some of the most pertinent questions of our time relating to crime, social control, fear, punishment and social inequalities. Being a lecturer allows me to research and teach these topics, continuously improving my understanding of our society. More importantly, it enables me to support students to develop their own research and understandings of these complex issues. Being a lecturer in criminology offers opportunities to engage with ideas and knowledge emerging from, for example, sociology, history, geography, psychology, law, politics and international relations.

What advice would you give a student starting out at university for the first time?
Enjoy exploring your freedom of thought, take part in the wider activities that the university offers and don’t be daunted by the challenges ahead. You will have the opportunity to grow as a person and to cultivate your professional skills with the support of well-trained and enthusiastic staff. So work hard, read lots and make the most of it.

What made you want to get involved in teaching in higher education?
From a young age, I got a thrill out of helping friends at school understand material that they could not understand through conventional methods. I taught myself two other languages using games, theatre and music as learning tools. By the time I came to university I had already been a language teacher. I always relished learning and teaching. So teaching at university level seemed to be, to me, the ultimate challenge. I loved being at university from the moment I started my undergraduate degree so I began aspiring to stay at university early on in my studies. I realised that teaching in higher education would allow me to share knowledge and to continue being a learner.

What are your biggest successes?
My biggest successes have been completing my PhD and teaching and publishing in a second language while raising my son. I am also proud of achieving a distinction for my masters and a First Class Honours degree, all of which were studied in a second language. Seeing my students progressing with their work, discussing and comprehending complex ideas also feels like a great success.

What is the best part of your job?
I couldn’t choose just one part. The best parts are inspiring students to learn and to achieve, the autonomy to shape and develop teaching material and the flexibility to work on my own research ideas in my own time. Equally, when I teach I learn from my students, which gives me a lot of joy. We construct knowledge together and develop meaningful relationships. Seeing my students progress and develop is an extremely rewarding experience.

How does your research inform your teaching (and vice versa)?
I believe that seminars and lectures are more dynamic and thought provoking if people who have conducted their own research are teaching the topics under discussion. Teaching and research complement each other. People who research usually choose to work on topics that they feel passionate about, so this interest and passion becomes reflected in the teaching. My teaching approach is dynamic, interactive and grounded in the realities of our social world, rather than abstract. I draw on material from my research about firearms and policing in Brazilian favela communities, as well as examples from the media, music, film and TV to examine how our ideas about crime and justice influence our perceptions and the world around us.

What do you love about working at the University of Westminster?   
University of Westminster is an open-minded, modern and welcoming institution to study and work. I love our university’s history, its ethos of embracing diversity and promoting access to higher education. The flexibility that the university offers to its staff and the spaces it provides to expand and generate knowledge are some of the best parts of the job. I love working alongside knowledgeable colleagues and students in the heart of London. We are part of a vibrant and engaging academic community.

Find out more about our criminology courses.

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