Jim Nolan

Jim Nolan with student. Credit: WVU, Greg Ellis
Jim Nolan with student. Credit: WVU by Greg Ellis

In the early 1980s, 2010 West Virginia state winner Jim Nolan entered the police academy in Wilmington, Del. He became a patrol officer and detective in the drug, organized crime and vice division, working undercover to infiltrate criminal networks. From his earliest memories, he recalled, he only wanted to be a police officer. "Our work was consistent with the ideology of the time: drugs were bad and those involved with drugs were criminals," he wrote in his personal statement.

"As the 1980s came to a close, I was very disgruntled about the war on drugs and the impact I could see it was having on local communities," he continued. "I was also very interested in a new strategy for policing, called 'community policing,' which involved residents and police working together to solve local problems that were linked to crime. I was really excited to learn more about this subject so I decided to go to graduate school."

After a brief stint as an FBI criminologist in the late 1990s, Jim became a professor at West Virginia University. He designed a project there where students can work in local neighborhoods, conducting surveys and analyzing data to help residents and police provide safer communities. In 2007, Jim received a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to study this issue.

"In every class and in every aspect of his work here at WVU, including research and service activities, [Jim] works to create shared teaching-learning experiences for students," wrote a colleague. "His orientation as a teacher brings to the forefront action and reflection for improving social conditions."

Jim also designed the Inside Out Justice Roundtable where undergraduates and inmates discuss topics on restorative justice. One former student wrote, "The experience brought out another perspective in criminal justice, a more utilitarian one. I gained the unique insight that the criminal justice system isn't simply about detecting crimes and preventing them through punishment."

Another former student added that, "The Inside Out prison exchange program was the more rewarding learning experience I had throughout my undergraduate studies ... In efforts to push his students to excel, Dr. Nolan is more than your standard educator—he is a facilitator, a delegator and a consultant."

Jim is now a member of the ADVANCE IT impelementation team where he will lead a social science study of the department-level change processes, work with faculty members to develop diversity plans and conduct a study relating to organizational change in higher education.

"My greatest satisfaction has been seeing people move forward, facilitating interactions that lead to visible changes and letting others own those changes—whether it be in how community residents and police view local situations or in how undergraduate students [and] members of the community perceive and respond to crime and justice."


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More on Jim Nolan

Article in WVU Today about the 2010 award.

Jim Nolan's faculty page.