Stephanie Lake, Ph.D., prides herself in being accessible for her students.

It’s 10:00 p.m. Do you know where your professor is?

If you’re looking for Stephanie Lake, Ph.D., it’s most likely she’s still on campus. Known to put in long days—often into the wee hours—Dr. Lake’s affection for all-nighters rivals that of her students.

Born and bred in Garden City, and a graduate of its high school, Dr. Lake never thought her career would bring her back home.

After graduating with a dual degree in sociology and anthropology from Washington and Lee University in Virginia, Dr. Lake worked for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in San Jose, California. There she was a rape counselor, victim advocate and child protective services educator before heading back east to continue her education at the College of William and Mary and at the University of Virginia (UVA), where she earned her Ph.D. She taught at UVA for three years before accepting the opportunity to return to Garden City to teach at Adelphi.

In 2002, Adelphi offered Dr. Lake the chance to establish the curriculum of the College of Arts and Sciences’ criminal justice program. Less than a year after the terrorist attacks on nearby New York City, it presented a challenge for her.

She finds today’s criminal justice students to be interesting. Whether the traditional undergraduate student or the adult learner, they bring a wealth of experiences. Some are police officers looking to complete their undergraduate degrees, some are in the field of counseling and others aspire to go to law school. But one thing they have in common is that they all feel they have an understanding of our criminal justice system.

Why is that? “Thanks to the media, these students have come to relate what they see on the screen as how the penal system really operates. I love to debunk those myths,” she said. Her class is no episode of Law & Order, she emphasizes.

“Once we start thinking critically, the students are challenged and they end up more excited about the field of study once they discover more about it,” she added. “You take a forensics class and you realize it’s so much more than CSI on television.”

In 2004, Dr. Lake developed a course called Sociology of Terrorism. “There is a misconception about what constitutes terrorism,” she said. The goal of the class is to encourage debate about what terrorism is, why it happens and who commits it, which offers new topics for discussion as events unfold throughout the world.

Judging by the amount of time she spends on campus, the connection Dr. Lake shares with her students is obvious. A reputation for being a people person and accessible outside the classroom is a great source of pride for her. She refers to some of her students—jokingly, with a little criminal justice humor—as “repeat offenders,” describing those who take her courses multiple times.

So what does she do off campus, when she rarely is? Dr. Lake is involved with various social justice issues, such as environmental exploitation and animal rights. She finds a great purpose in rescuing animals—who often end up commuting with her to New York City to visit her mom and dad in Garden City.

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