2/11/2016 4:10:47 PM

New Economics of Crime Course Engages Students

Monday, November 11, 2013

By Mark Adam

There is a new economics class at Siena this semester, bringing to life real issues of crime and employment in the Capital Region. The elective, Economics of Crime, is taught by Assistant Professor of Economics Ashley Provencher, Ph.D.
“It’s not a typical class with lectures and tests. We’re doing a lot of hands-on work,” said Conor Prunty ’17, one of 17 students enrolled in the class.
The students are working with Peter Young Housing Industry and Treatment (PYHIT) in Albany, a nonprofit with 80 locations throughout New York State. This particular PYHIT program is under contract with the Department of Social Services and assists people with securing employment with the goal of creating contributing citizens. Provencher was connected to PYHIT through Siena's Office of Academic Community Engagement.
Siena’s class received in-take survey data from PYHIT that contains basic information about its clients including past employment, criminal history, transportation and participation in other social programs like food stamps. All identifying information was removed and about half the data set includes people with a criminal history, Provencher said. The students have also used a supplemental survey with about 20-25 quantitative and qualitative questions.
The class’ goal is to create an overview of who is being helped by this program and to research policy and programs that could affect a person with a criminal history secure employment, Provencher said.
The class is a product of Provencher’s Summer Scholar research with senior economics major and Dake Summer Scholar Audrey Sabatini ’14. They developed the supplemental survey together during the summer and have seen that work implemented in the class.
“It’s a different style of learning,” Sabatini said. “If you like interacting with people and getting out into the community, it’s pretty great.”
Provencher, with the help of ACE, has scheduled nine guest speakers including PYHIT staff members, an Albany police officer, Albany County District Attorney David Soares and a gang intervention advocate, as well as six off-campus meetings. The students have also visited with clients to learn more about their background.
“ACE works very closely with the Albany District Attorney and PYHIT and we are very happy that Dr. Provencher's class is working to provide these valuable resources to our partner,” said Mathew Johnson ’93, Ph.D., director of ACE.
“It’s been a very exciting class,” Provencher said. “I’ve never taught a course like this so it’s been very interesting to see how the students respond to visiting sites within the community.”

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