Missouri professor named new director of ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Beth Huebner, also the third Watts Endowed Professor, begins work Jan. 3

Portrait of Beth Huebner, ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice director and Watts Endowed Professor

Professor Beth M. Huebner. Photo courtesy Beth Huebner


A criminal justice professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis will be the new director of Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions Dean Cynthia Lietz announced today.

Beth M. Huebner, who starts work at ASU Jan. 3, 2023, also will be the inaugural Watts Endowed Professor for Public Safety.

“We are truly fortunate that Dr. Beth Huebner has agreed to join our college as the next director for our School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and the inaugural Watts Professor for Public Safety,” Lietz said. “Dr. Huebner is not just a prolific scholar; her work is done in collaboration with community, something that aligns with our mission to build more vibrant, healthy communities. Her leadership will secure our place as one of the most highly recognized and impactful schools of criminology in the nation.”

The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice is part of the Watts College. Huebner is a full professor in the University of Missouri-St. Louis Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, where she has been a faculty member for 19 years.

Huebner said she is thrilled and honored to be asked to join the faculty, staff and students at one of the country’s premier criminology and criminal justice schools, whose doctoral degree program is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as No. 2 in the nation for 2023 and its online master’s degree program No. 7.

“It’s a wonderful job and an opportunity to be part of one of the best programs in criminology and criminal justice in the United States,” Huebner said. “I have had the opportunity to meet many of the faculty and was so impressed with their work. I’m excited to be part of such a large and diverse team whose work impacts so much in the United States and the world.”

Huebner noted that ASU is home to a large number of first-generation college students, which she said is important, as her current job involves putting them on a path toward a high-quality education and she looks forward to continuing to serve such students at ASU.

Huebner said she was also excited about ASU’s national reputation in innovation, ranked No. 1 in innovation for seven straight years by U.S. News & World Report.

“Things move quickly at ASU. They’re excited about trying new things. We’re at a point in the criminology and criminal justice field where we can use some change,” she said. “This group (of faculty) has the resources and skills to serve Arizona and the whole United States."

This is a great time for a student to enroll in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Huebner said, because the university is dedicated to developing the next group of leaders in a profession that faces many challenges, particularly during a time when many citizens have called for policing and correctional reform.

“It’s time for a more broad and diverse representation of people and voices in criminology and criminal justice. There is an appetite for change. This school is known for excellence. Students have the opportunity to work with professors in the field, testing theories, developing real-world solutions to complex problems,” Huebner said. “It’s a real hands-on approach to reform that should be exciting for students. It is a difficult time, but at times like these, we need leaders to stand up and try new things. And that’s where innovation comes in. Good things are ahead.”

Huebner said her approach involves gathering leaders from within the criminal justice system and the communities they serve to seek long-term solutions to community problems.

She noted that school's place in the Watts College, alongside schools of public affairs, social work and community resources and development, enables natural partnerships with criminal justice.

“Watts is in the community, with people affected by the criminal justice system, such as the formerly incarcerated and victims of crime,” Huebner said. “What do they need as they go from here? We should make sure we respond to communities with what they truly need in the long term.”

Huebner said more trust needs to be built between the criminal justice system and the people it serves. She said her approach to accomplishing that involves developing partnerships and hearing the voices of people in communities, something she said is practiced at ASU and at the Watts College.

“It’s been a big part of my job to just go in and listen. I find community members often have the answers,” she said. “For me, it’s important to build the capacity of communities, to amplify their voices and to find funding and support to make sure reforms happen.”

Huebner also said she looks forward to working with undergraduates. She said she likes how ASU brings in diverse voices from the profession into academic programs to help meet issues head on.

“Students want to be active learners and to apply their skills beyond the classroom. I’d love the opportunity to build on what the faculty have already done in community-engaged research and scholarship, and work to increase ways people can use a criminology and criminal justice degree,” she said.

Huebner’s principal research interests include punishment and incarceration, inequalities in the criminal justice system, and public policy. She has worked on collaborative projects with the Missouri Department of Probation and Parole, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the St. Louis County Jail. She has received funding for her research from the MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, the National Institute of Justice and Arnold Ventures, as well as other, local funding sources. She has served as the vice president of the American Society of Criminology. She is the editor for the Oxford Bibliographies in Criminology and recently completed a term as an associate editor for Criminal Justice and Behavior.

Huebner earned her PhD and her Master of Science degree, both in criminal justice, at Michigan State University. Her Bachelor of Arts degree, in sociology, is from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Huebner will be the college’s third Watts Endowed Professor, a position supported by the 2018 family gift of Mike and Cindy Watts. In January, Lietz announced that Renee Cunningham-Williams will be the Watts Endowed Professor in Social Work in the School of Social Work and Maryann Feldman will be the Watts Endowed Professor of Public Affairs in the School of Public Affairs. Both will begin work at ASU this fall.

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