PROFile: ‘The criminal justice system is a social-justice issue’

Ryan Coulling, sessional instructor, criminal justice department, U of W

Photo by Callie Lugosi

In terms of his research, Ryan Coulling – sessional instructor for the University of Winnipeg’s criminal justice department – takes an intersectional approach when exploring criminology.

“The criminal justice system is a social justice issue,” Coulling says.

With the large tapestry that is social-justice, Coulling zooms in on specific aspects like criminal justice and analyzes particular details that relate to other systemic issues.

As a result, when he encounters students who aspire to be police officers, lawyers, corrections officers and similar positions in law enforcement, he tries to introduce critical thinking to encourage his students to broaden their reasoning.

Even with the introductory courses Coulling teaches, he ensures the fundamentals are covered while leaving room for exploration of thought.

“I also try to go beyond just the course and help students with things that will help them beyond the course, even if they’re not criminal-justice majors.”

Specifically, Coulling includes opportunities for students to practice writing and research. Further, he allows them to choose their own topics for research with only a few parameters.

“The papers were great,” he says. “Even people who may not traditionally be critical... you could see, just based on first discussion forms or whatever, a shift.”

Coulling believes applying a critical perspective has tremendous value in the community, and he’s happy to have the opportunity to assist his students in cultivating their critical-thinking skills.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

“I think that I’ve learned to have more faith in humanity.”

What do you like to do in your spare time?

“Spend time with family, watch some hockey and some baseball.”

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

“The ability to act and live with empathy.”

If nothing else, what is one thing you hope your students will take away from your classes?

“The ability to know that they can actually make a small change and the ability to do so.”

Published in Volume 76, Number 07 of The Uniter (October 28, 2021)

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