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ASU student is honored again as school's Outstanding Graduate

Cassie Harvey is 1st in family to earn master's degree

Cassie Harvey, criminology and criminal justice, outstanding graduate, spring 2023

Cassie Harvey is graduating with a Master of Science in criminology and criminal justice from the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and a Master of Legal Studies from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Harvey also was an Outstanding Graduate in May 2017, when she earned bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and in public service and public policy.

April 28, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

Cassie Harvey has navigated academia as both an Indigenous person — she is Navajo and Zuni — and the first in her family to pursue a graduate degree.

“That whole experience of moving away from home, seeking financial assistance – aid and scholarships – and learning all that,” said Harvey, the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice’s spring 2023 Outstanding Graduate. “I would not be here without the support I’ve had in my journey.”

Harvey also was an Outstanding Graduate in May 2017, when she earned a bachelor’s degree from the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, along with a bachelor’s degree in public service and public policy from the School of Public Affairs. The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice is part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Harvey’s journey has led to her work addressing the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples, or MMIP, whose numbers in Arizona have increased over the past 40 years.

Harvey is from Lechee, Arizona, a small Navajo Nation community outside Page near the Utah border. She is graduating with a Master of Science in criminology and criminal justice from Watts College and a Master of Legal Studies from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

Harvey said her master’s thesis is about “the resilience and protective factors of people who experience violence,” such as MMIP, which was a part of a larger research project within the Research on Violent Victimization Lab.

She said she is still learning about her own tribes and of others, including backgrounds, teachings, traditions, ceremonies and how culture is used to help people deal with negative experiences.

“It’s humbling. I’m in awe of all the students who participated in the research. One of the lessons, learning points, that even as a Native American, myself, I learned is we are very different, but in a lot of ways we are the same,” she said. “It involves fighting those stereotypes and dealing with people who don’t know anything about Indigenous populations. There are still a lot of people who don’t know or don’t understand. I try to enlighten people any way I can.”

Harvey said being involved in MMIP research has helped her become stronger and more patient.

“It helped me shape my craft and think of different ways to have conversations and address issues in positive ways to counter the negative experiences,” she said. “I am a reflective person. I obsess about conversations. I think about ways to make a conversation more effective. That helps me in where I am in life.”

Harvey said several organizations helped support her graduate journey, including ASU’s Academy for Justice, Navajo Nation Graduate Scholarship, ASU Law Scholarship, Frank and Thelma Caverly Scholarship and AmeriCorps National Service Scholarship. 

Read on to learn more about Harvey’s ASU experience:

Editor's note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I always had an interest in law and criminal justice. After receiving my dual bachelor’s degrees in policy and criminal justice, it was just a matter of when I would come back to school. I chose my Master of Science in criminal justice program because as an undergrad, I knew I wanted to pursue research in this field, so that I could focus on Indigenous populations, youth and addressing violence within our communities. I also chose my Master of Legal Studies program because I have always been intrigued by law, business and policy. I eventually did an emphasis in business to learn the legalities of business organization, legal research, criminal procedure, contract law and employment law. I figured taking those classes would be beneficial in the future once I get over my fear of starting something of my own.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I am thankful I got to see a whole research project through, from beginning to end, from the development of the instruments to the institutional review board process, to the collaborative recruitment efforts with student-serving organizations, to the analysis, writing and the dissemination.

Being a first-generation college student and the only one in my family that is involved in the world of academia, I was not sure what to expect. But I was completely in awe of the work, dedication, diligence and team effort it takes to do research with Indigenous populations. This process helped me learn so much about myself, the research process and my passions. I learned I am particularly interested in the dissemination process and finding ways to take traditional research (i.e., reports and manuscripts) and incorporate innovative, creative and culturally competent ways to tell stories using the data. At times this process was discouraging, but I continued to keep an open mind.

As an Indigenous person in criminal justice, I have always been a bit uncertain of research due to the history between Indigenous peoples, academic institutions and lack of representation in the field and the literature. However, being exposed to the world of research and academia has definitely been an empowering experience that broke down those barriers of uncertainty.  

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of the research opportunities I knew I would have here. So many of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice faculty are doing amazing things, which did make it hard to narrow my research focus, but I managed to get into the Research on Violent Victimization Lab, which is where I am now. There were other schools on my list, but my primary decision for choosing ASU for grad school was because I knew I wanted to conduct research in my home community of Arizona.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: This is a hard one. Even though this may sound like a politically correct response, each of my course professors has taught me important lessons and has had an impact on me. How do I know this? Because I’m an over-thinker. I most likely obsessed over assignments, their feedback, and did some self-reflection after the course was over. So, for that, I’m sure each has taught me a lesson in one way or another.

Additionally, several professors in the school took time to provide opportunities, guidance, support or words of wisdom. This list includes Kate Fox, Stacia Stolzenberg, Shi Yan, Adam Fine, Cody Telep and Ed Maguire. These faculty members, among other ASU faculty and staff, have taught me valuable lessons about research, navigating academia and life.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give students?

A: Develop a routine that prioritizes your health and surround yourself with a supportive network of people who understand your responsibilities.

Q: What was your favorite spot to study, meet friends or to just think about life?

A: When I was on campus for meetings, work events or class, it was almost always in University Center – sixth floor.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Where do I even begin since there is so much that I would like to do? Immediately after graduation I will start a certificate course on data visualization. I want to merge my skills, creativity, passions for research and desire to be community-embedded by honing into data visualization. Being able to effectively visualize data enhances the meaning of the research and makes it digestible for the community outside of academia, which is why I want to further my expertise in this area.

I see myself continuing the work I have been involved in regarding missing and murdered Indigenous peoples and support research that address other issues impacting Indigenous communities. I also have ideas brewing regarding a possible nonprofit that focuses on providing victim support or court-related services for those who experience violent crime or domestic violence. Like I mentioned, there is just so much I would like to do, but I am confident that it will happen, because I have an amazing support system and people behind me that have similar passions.

Overall, I am open to new opportunities, connections and experiences in this next chapter of my life. Eventually, I do see a PhD on the horizon, but I just want to make sure I am in the right headspace and have the financial capacity to take on that commitment.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would tackle the issue of violent victimization. I did my thesis that focused on resilience among Indigenous college students who have experience with victimization, because I am particularly interested in the ways in which people overcome and cope with violence.

So, if I had $40 million, I would love to start an evidence-based program that provides support services for Indigenous people impacted by violent crime. I would have various components to this program, one part that focuses on building resilience and dealing with the impacts of victimization. Another area would focus on helping survivors navigate the various systems (i.e., criminal justice, child welfare, social services, etc.), including tribal entities. Indigenous peoples face unique systemic and cultural barriers to address crime due to the complexities of jurisdiction, geography and overall lack of knowledge of Indigenous peoples by non-Indigenous professionals. Although this plan is not completely fleshed out, this would be the first problem I would tackle.

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