Heather L. Pfeifer
School of Criminal Justice
Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park
B.S., M.S., University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
view Prof. Pfeifer's ResearchGate profile
I have had a lifelong fascination with the criminal justice system. When my mother was pregnant with me, her father was murdered. Consequently, I spent the first few weeks of my life in a courtroom while the trial was held. Growing up, I had a lot of questions about the specifics of the case and how it was handled by the criminal justice system. As a result, both my parents and I thought I would choose a career in law.
This fascination with the legal system eventually led me to major in criminal justice as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Through the course of my studies, I discovered a passion for research and teaching, so I decided to pursue my study of justice in an academic arena rather than the legal arena. Although this is not the path I originally envisioned I would take, it is definitely the path I am meant to follow. I love having the opportunity to show students how theory and research inform practice, and how they can become more critical consumers of information.
My research interests center around trauma-informed practices, child victimization, juvenile delinquency and pedagogical practices for criminal justice students. I am the co-author of two books, Prioritizing the Victim: The 21st Century Transformation of Victimology (Kendall-Hunt) and Successful Writing Starts With Knowing the Difference Between Write & Wrong: Writing Within Criminal Justice (Jones-Bartlett Learning), numerous book chapters, and have published multiple articles in the Journal of Criminal Justice Education, Justice Policy Journal and the Encyclopedia of Criminal Justice.
I love being out in the field and collaborating with agencies to help identify problems and to devise practical, evidence-based solutions. I have served as a consultant and/or provided technical assistance to numerous local, state, and federal agencies, including the United States Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City Family Division/Juvenile Docket, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, Fairfax County, VA, and the Prince George’s County Office of the Sheriff. In addition, I helped to establish the Roper Victim Assistance Academy of Maryland with my colleague Debra Stanley in 2003, which has trained more than 1,000 victim service professionals in the state of Maryland. And in 2010, I began facilitating the Illuminations Program which trains professionals in skills that lead to more effective service delivery to victims of crime and their families.
I am also an active member of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) and have served on its Executive Board for over a decade. Most recently, I served as President of the Academy (2021-2022) and was responsible for organizing the 2022 annual meeting in Las Vegas, NV, which focused on the integration of research, advocacy, and education to affect meaningful change in our field (view my ACJS presidential address).