Photo by Amina Lampkin
Dr. Bianca Bersani, associate professor and director of the CCJS honors program, is this year’s Winston Family Honors Faculty Award winner. This award is the highest teaching honor that the Honors College at UMD bestows, established by alumni Roger and Karen Winston to recognize outstanding faculty advising, mentorship, and supervision of Honors students at the university.
In her nomination package, Dr. Bersani was described as designing the honors program in a way that combines “making research accessible and facilitating student potential.”
“To this day, Professor Bersani is someone to whim I report my academic highs and lows, and someone I know I can trust for advice and support. I don’t know where I would be without her, but I can tell you that I am only where I am now because of her,” said CCJS honors alum Rebecca Shankman, currently a sociology doctoral student at Ohio State. “It is because of her that I, and other members of my [CCJS honors] cohort, have found success across multiple career pathways and still thank her over two years later.”
Skylar Johnson, an honors alum who is now a University of Maryland law student, said, “Dr. Bersani is the amazing kind of professor that can guide and assist you, while also showing full confidence in your abilities. She was supportive, kind, and understanding, but still pushed myself and the rest of my cohort to hold ourselves to the highest standards.”
At the conclusion of this academic year, Dr. Bersani will have guided and advised 4 cohorts of honors students.
“Directing the program is an honor and rare opportunity to watch a student’s research curiosity develop over multiple years,” she said last year. “Students enter the program with little direct experience with research but a lot of passion. The honors program gives them an opportunity to bring these things together.”
Over a two-year sequence, CCJS honors students learn the fundamentals of the research process, then use those skills to initiate their own research projects and proposals.
“By the end of the program, [students] not only have deep insight into their [chosen research topic], but have engaged with a broader base of criminological research, theory, and methodology,” Dr. Bersani said. “Through the completion of independent research (the honors thesis) students develop analytical skills, scientific literacy, and research capacities that set them apart from their peers.”
Students emphasized Dr. Bersani’s commitment to and investment in their success, and they eagerly voiced enthusiasm for her receipt of the Winston award.
“Very few professors go above and beyond for their students the way that she does,” said current UMD CCJS doctoral student and honors alum Jordan Pierce. “Even fewer continue to be a resource for their former students after they’ve moved on from their class, which is something [Dr. Bersani] does regularly. I know that without her, I would not be in the position I am today as a graduate student, and I know that this is true for many others like me as well.”
Read more about the undergraduate honors program here.