Collaboration With Professors Leads To Life-Changing Experiences For FSC Student Erin Sneed
Erin Sneed in front of the McGraw-Hill Building in New York.
Pat Anderson (left) and Risdon Slate.
LAKELAND, Fla. (Sept. 4, 2011) — It all began innocently enough for Erin Sneed, just a request from two of her professors to help with revisions to a textbook they had authored. Before it was all over, she had spent a few months interviewing accused rapists and murderers, spent a summer on her own in New York City working for a Fortune 500 company, and changed her career plans.
“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” says Sneed,21, a senior criminology major from Leland, Mich.
About 18 months ago, Professors Risdon Slate and Pat Anderson of the Criminology Department were collaborating on a new edition of Anderson’s textbook, “The Decision-Making Network: An Introduction to Criminal Justice.” They decided it would be good to get a student’s perspective and asked Sneed for help. She readily agreed.
“Erin gave it a fresh set of eyes. Pat and I are Southerners, and we get longwinded. Erin would tell us where we needed to shorten it,” Slate says. “She just did a fantastic job. Anything we asked her to do, she did it.”
Sneed also assisted with preparing the PowerPoint presentations and test banks for teachers that would use the textbook. She worked with Slate and Anderson through that summer and into her junior year. Then she applied for an internship through American University in Washington, D.C., and spent last spring working for the U.S. Superior Court, the criminal court for the federal district. She was assigned to pretrial services and given the task of gathering background data from defendants to prepare reports for a judge.
“Everything I worked on with that textbook, I was living,” she says. “I interviewed people accused of murder, rape, stalking, arson, and assault. I learned a lot about myself. I matured a lot. Even if you’re scared, you can’t show it. They’ll walk right over you and run the interview, and you can’t let that happen.”
Sneed had dreamed of going to law school and becoming a prosecutor, but after hearing in intimate detail about the troubled lives of defendants, she began to have doubts.
In March, Anderson and Slate invited Sneed to join them at the annual conference of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences in Toronto to help with a presentation about how to create a textbook. Sneed gave her perspective on the process.
“She was very poised. She’s a very good communicator,” Slate says.
Afterward, Gina Boedeker, executive editor of the humanities division of the giant publishing firm McGraw-Hill, came up to Sneed and asked if she would like a summer job as an editorial assistant in her New York office.
“I got really lucky. I was at the right place at the right time,” Sneed says.
Off she went to the Big Apple. She worked with authors on revisions to first-edition textbooks, chose photos to illustrate covers and chapters and experimented with Blackboard, the website used by instructors. By the end of the summer, Sneed felt fully independent. She also had reached a conclusion about her future.
Sneed is considering an offer from Boedeker to return to McGraw-Hill after graduating, but only as a way of earning money for graduate school.
“Dr. Slate and Dr. Anderson inspired me to become a professor. I want to be the professor Dr. Slate was for me. I want to do the same for someone else. They’ll always be part of my personal success story,” she says.
Anderson retired at the end of the spring semester. Slate notes that FSC emphasizes collaboration between faculty and students and is pleased it made a difference for Sneed.
“I think it’s wonderful she’s thinking about wanting to be a professor. We are in a unique position to help others,” he says.
For Sneed, the relationship was the key.
“The message I want to tell people is all this started because of my relationship with the professors. There’s no way I’d have been able to do what I did without them. That’s something at Florida Southern I wouldn’t trade for the world,” she says.