Research Team

Chris Melde


Professor Chris Melde is Director of the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University. He is an affiliated faculty member of the Youth Equity Project in the College of Social Science at Michigan State University, as well as in Global Urban Studies and the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research. He is also a research associate at the Michigan Justice Statistics Center, the State’s official statistical analysis center. He serves as a subject matter expert for the National Center for School Safety, focusing on the role of law enforcement in school-based delinquency prevention and comprehensive approaches to school safety. His primary research interests include street gangs, youth violence, crime prevention, and individual and community reactions to crime and victimization risk. He is currently the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on several funded projects, including a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) funded long-term follow-up of respondents from the second national evaluation of the Gang Resistance Education and Training Program (G.R.E.A.T.) that began in 2006 when participants were in the sixth or seventh grade. He also serves as research partner for Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) programs in Detroit and Jackson, Michigan, and a subject matter expert for national training and technical assistance requests for PSN. Dr. Melde was awarded the 2015 Tory J. Caeti Memorial Award from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Juvenile Justice and Delinquency section, given in recognition of the contribution of emerging scholars to the field of juvenile justice and delinquency, for his work on gangs and youth violence prevention.

Dena Carson


Dena C. Carson is currently an Associate Professor of criminal justice in the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University in Indianapolis. Her appointment followed her Ph.D. and post-doctoral work at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. During that time Dena worked as a site coordinator for the National Evaluation of the Gang Resistance, Education, and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) Program. This included organizing survey administration with students in Nashville, Tennessee, Garland, Texas, and Chicago, Illinois between the years 2007 and 2011. Dena also served as project coordinator for the first follow-up to the G.R.E.A.T. evaluation in 2012. Currently, Dena is co-principal investigator on the National Institute of Justice funded 2023 follow-up to the G.R.E.A.T. evaluation.

Steve Chermak


Steven M. Chermak is a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University. Dr. Chermak is interested in studying terrorism, school shootings, mass shootings, criminal justice organizations, and media coverage of crime and criminal justice. Much of his work in the last ten years has focused on terrorist and extremist activity. He and several colleagues are responsible for building the Extremist Crime Database (ECDB), one of the leading databases on domestic terrorism activities in the US. The ECDB has allowed him to publish articles understanding patterns of violence of far right, far left, and al-Qaeda inspired extremists, documenting how lone wolf attacks are different than group-inspired terrorist attacks, and examining the characteristics of foiled terrorist plots. More recently, he and colleagues have received funding to build another database on fatal and non-fatal school shootings. This database is in the final stages of completion, and it will provide an opportunity to better understand the characteristics of perpetrators that commit school violence and discuss differences in schools victimized by fatal and non-fatal attacks.

Dr. Chermak’s research has been funded by the Department of Homeland Security, National Institute of Justice, and the Michigan State Police. He has published two books, seven edited books, and numerous research reports. His research has appeared in a number of journals including Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Criminology and Public Policy, Justice Quarterly, Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, Journal of Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice Policy Review, and the Journal of Crime, Conflict, and the Media.

Jalena Williams


Lena is a 2nd-year PhD student in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University. She previously earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a minor in Sociology at Wayne State University. In May of 2021, she earned an Accelerated Master of Science in Criminal Justice also from Wayne State University. Lena’s research interests are Juvenile Delinquency and Justice, the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Restorative Justice, Human Trafficking, Domestic Terrorism, and Cybercrime.

Amanda Witwer


Amanda R. Witwer is a second-year doctoral student in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University. After earning her bachelor's degree in public policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2018, she joined RTI International's Division for Applied Justice Research. As a Research Analyst at RTI, Amanda supported a diverse portfolio of projects ranging from small-scale local and state-funded studies to national surveys, program evaluations, and TTA projects funded by federal entities and philanthropic foundations. Her research interests include local criminal legal policy, use of new technology and the collateral consequences of contact with criminal legal systems.