When I decided to enter graduate school in my mid 30’s, it was a daunting undertaking. The world had changed since I had last been in an academic setting and I was out of my element.
I found it rewarding to pursue an education in something I was passionate about. However, it came with challenges. I had no clue how to do a proper research paper, had never given a Power Point presentation before and was uncomfortable with the public speaking that was involved.
Luckily, my first class was taught by Dr. Bruce Arrigo, 51, a professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at UNCC. Arrigo turned out to be a mentor to me, providing invaluable advice, encouragement and inspiration throughout my time in the graduate program and beyond.
Despite his demanding schedule, he was always available when I had a problem. Whether it was an academic struggle or a personal one, he offered support and suggestions. I received my Master’s in Criminal Justice in 2010.
He was the first person to encourage my writing and gave me some great ideas on where and how to start. Following his advice, I was able to start my writing career by publishing several book reviews in academic journals.
Arrigo comes from a family of educators and grew up in a culture where an inquisitive mind was encouraged. Dinner conversations varied from art and culture, to history. His family often has stimulating discussions, in which everyone did not always agree, but always respected one another.
Fostering thought-provoking discourse among those with differing viewpoints is a hallmark of Arrigo’s teaching ethos. He believes in Socratic learning, where deeper appreciation of exploring issues is fostered.
Arrigo is a mentor to many students, pushing them to think outside their intellectual comfort zone and to use critical thinking skills to question the conventional wisdom. He is engaged in issues of social justice, especially pertaining to the criminal justice system and believes we need to reconsider the way we treat those people we regard as dispensable or unredeemable.
He believes that “by working together, we can gain insight that has the power to change our selves and society for the better.” Arrigo has always had an affinity for the plight of those at the margins of our society. Before teaching, he worked with the mentally ill, recovering addicts and those in the criminal justice system.
A prolific writer, Arrigo has published widely, and has authored (or co-authored) and edited (or co- edited) 22 books and countless scholarly articles. Several of the books and many of the articles have been collaborations with current and former students.
He finds mentoring as the “most important part of what I do.” Arrigo has remained in touch with many students over his nearly 20 years of teaching and values those relationships.
“The world is very shallow and I’m gratified that despite all the noise in the world there are moments of clarity, and real honesty, with students,” said Arrigo.
Former student Stephen O’Neil, 28, is a legal assistant at the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office. He describes the impact Arrigo has had on his life: “The encouragement I received from Arrigo personally enabled me to achieve goals I honestly never thought I could,” said O’Neil.
Diana Bailey, 23, currently a student in the Criminal Justice Master’s Program at UNCC, works with Arrigo on a variety of projects.
“He has a way of enticing students to think outside our original comfort level. He has given me opportunities in the academic world that have taught me essential lessons that I can use to be successful.”
So many students have been impacted by Arrigo that he was nominated for UNCC’s 2012 Harshini V. de Silva Graduate Mentor Award.
Arrigo and his family live in Concord.