A Professor with an Unwavering “Open Door Policy” is Recognized for Excellence

Julia Fishman

Associate Professor and Chair of Criminal Justice Addrain Conyers has been honored with the Board of Trustees’ Faculty Award for Distinguished Teaching.

September 23, 2020—For Addrain Conyers, it always comes back to students. He juggles numerous responsibilities as Associate Professor and Chair of the Criminal Justice Department and in his administrative role as Director of Academic Diversity and Inclusion. In the midst of managing those key positions, he has also organized two social justice conferences at the College. This year, he was honored with the Board of Trustees’ Faculty Award for Distinguished Teaching. The award was given during the virtual faculty convocation today.

“For me, it’s straightforward. I always think about what’s in the best interest of the community—I put the students first,” he explained, “I ask myself, ‘What’s for the greater good?’ I process that first. If something won’t make a positive impact, I won’t do it. I want the things I work on to be rich and potent and memorable for the people. I want the students to remember these good things.”

Conyers, who holds a doctorate in sociology from the University of Illinois—Carbondale, is a member of several professional organizations, including the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) and the Criminal Justice Educators Association of New York State (CJEANYS).

Since joining the Marist faculty in the spring of 2012, Conyers has been making his mark at the College. His teaching load encompasses several courses, including: Introduction to Criminal Justice, Corrections, Theories of Punishment, Social Justice, Race and Crime, and Criminology. He is known for an open-door policy with students—even students outside the Criminal Justice Program. “If a student comes to me, it’s for a reason. They trust me—and I can’t turn them away or violate that trust. I will give them my undivided attention,” he explained. “A few years ago, a student emailed me and said ‘you have this ability to make a person feel like the only one that matters.’ That’s a compliment I hold dear.”

For Conyers, mentorship matters. He recalled his relationship with his own mentor, the late Dr. Thomas Calhoun. “Dr. Calhoun was never my formal classroom teacher, but he did so much for me. He worked with me on my writing and helped me develop as a scholar,” said Conyers.

His connection to Calhoun helped to inform the ethos behind his own teaching. “I try to take ownership for the type of student who comes out of my classroom. I take ownership for what I teach and present in the classroom. If someone is not understanding a concept, I look at myself: do I need to change my delivery method? I need to transfer my knowledge to them effectively,” he said. “If you come through my classroom, I’m going to help you meet a standard. It’s a disservice to the student if I can’t help them meet that standard.”

“I was thrilled to learn that Dr. Conyers was this year’s recipient of the Board award. He is devoted to his students, and works hard to create a classroom climate in which sensitive, controversial, and critically important topics may be discussed with academic rigor in a safe environment,” said Deborah Gatins, Dean of the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “Students comment that he makes it easy to share varied views in his classes–and isn’t that what we strive for as teachers? He is a person of great integrity and wholeheartedly embraces the mission of enlightening youth. Along the way, he does a good job of helping the rest of us broaden our horizons too–and always with a smile.”

Addrain Conyers

Conyers is an active member of the campus community. He was co-chair of the Climate Survey Working Group in 2018-19, and he also organized the College’s first-ever social justice conference in fall 2019. Despite the obstacles posed by COVID-19, he put together a virtual social justice conference this semester. He sees it as his duty to the College community. “I see this kind of work as merging criminal justice with my diversity ‘hat,’” he explained.

Conyers also recently published the textbook/reader, Deviance Today. The book contains work by 50 scholars in the field and examines deviant and criminal behavior in today’s society—everything from cyber crimes to sexual deviance.

For Conyers, everything comes back to the student experience. “The biggest reward is seeing these students mature – from newly graduated high school students to college graduates. There’s no price tag you can put on hearing from students who succeed. I have so many photos in my office of students at graduation. Students are the reason I do what I do; their hope is everything. That’s why I will never turn away a student who wants to talk to me.”

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