MA Crim grad Sherry Bot of Abbotsford first governor general’s gold medal winner at UFV

Sherry Bot just keeps making history. She was one of the first two students to ever earn a master’s degree at the University of the Fraser Valley. Now she’s the first to be awarded the governor general’s gold medal for academic achievement at the master’s degree level.

The Abbotsford resident  was part of the first 15-student Master of Arts in Criminal Justice class at UCFV and as among the  “first past the post” in the race to graduate, meeting the deadline to qualify for the June 2007 Convocation ceremonies.

Bot had earlier earned her BA in Crim at UFV, then called UCFV. Her research for her MA degree focused on the very topical subject of crime reduction, with a particular emphasis on the role of inter-agency partnerships at the local level. She was part of a City of Surrey fact-finding mission to England, and did some comparisons between the two jurisdictions.

“Part of crime reduction looks at targeting prolific offenders,” Bot says. “Since most crime is committed by a very small percentage of the criminal population, if you focus on them and changing their behaviour, it can result in real reduction in crime rates.”

The crime reduction model encourages inter-agency cooperation, so that the education, health care, policing, probation, youth counselling, corrections, fire, and housing agencies are all working together,” she reports.

“A big part of crime reduction is drug intervention, since so many crimes are committed by addicts desperate for money to get their next fix,” she adds. “So the British crime reduction model ensures that people who test positive for drugs upon arrest can be in treatment the same day. If they refuse, they face jail time.”

Bot’s research highlighted some of the differences between the two countries with regards to information resource sharing, accountability, roles and responsibilities, and power differentials when looking at partnerships at the local level.

Now that she’s finished her MA and among the first graduates, she says that it’s “pretty exciting to be setting a precedent. The 18 months went by really quickly, and it was great to be in a class with people from so many different backgrounds. It was a discussion-based learning style as opposed to purely instructor-led.”

Since last October, she has been employed with the Canadian Border Services Agency in the Vancouver Metro District (after going to Quebec for 9 weeks of training). She is currently a border services officer, with a goal of getting into investigations or intelligence. She also remains interested in policing as a career, and still volunteers in this environment through the Abbotsford Restorative Justice Association, and works one day a week as a file quality reviewer at the New Westminster Police Service.

She sends thanks to her professors, Criminal Justice department staff, and UFV librarians for the help they provided as the first crim master’s class pioneered graduate studies at UFV.

“Receiving the governor general’s gold medal is a tangible way to recognize the commitment and work I put into the MA program, but I think the most valuable thing I took away from the program was the opportunity to network with people that I may not have crossed paths with if it had not been for this specific experience,” she says. “I have maintained the relationships I made with fellow students and faculty and I look forward to hearing about the growth of the Master in Criminal Justice program, as well as the development of master’s programs in other disciplines at UFV.”

“Sherry demonstrated how the MA program brought together practitioners and academics in a dynamic experience. She is very deserving of the governor general’s gold medal. She is consistently outstanding in her presentations and papers. We are very proud of her,” said Dr. Martin Silverstein, director of the UFV School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

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