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WVU Scholar Spotlight

NolanJames Nolan, PhD 
By Robert Nicewarner

Dr. Nolan is one of the most caring, fun, creative, insightful, and approachable professors at West Virginia University. He has been teaching at WVU since 2000. Prior to coming to WVU, Dr. Nolan worked as a unit chief at the FBI and focused on police reporting of hate crimes. Prior to his job at the FBI, Dr. Nolan was a full-time police officer in Wilmington, Delaware. It was during his time as a police officer that Dr. Nolan began to work on his secondary degrees, obtaining a Masters of Education and a Ph.D. from Temple University. His police and FBI experience inform and shape both his pedagogic perspective and his research agenda. Dr. Nolan is a key executive board member of the Research Center on Violence here at WVU. A major contribution to the study of violence is Dr. Nolan’s 2016 book publication titled The Violence of Hate: Understanding Harmful Forms of Bias and Bigotry which he co-authored with Dr. Jack Levin.

While still a graduate student at Temple University, Dr. Nolan was working as a police officer. It was at this time he began to look at things differently – moving from a “cop mentality” of identifying “criminals” to arrest towards a more sociological view of context in shaping dispositions, world views, and habits in thinking. Dr. Nolan was drawn to academia because of the intellectual freedom it allows. Dr. Nolan shared that at WVU he is able to focus on those research topics most aligned with his personal interests and he is able to discuss freely his opinions without the oversight of supervisors, as was the case while still working at the FBI.

Dr. Nolan specializes in police procedures and processes, crime measurement, organizational behavior in the criminal justice system, social psychology/ group processes, and hate crimes. An overarching theme of his research is his interest in group behavior and how individuals influence the group and vice versa. In fact, Dr. Nolan is one of four Master Facilitators for a program called ADVANCE at WVU. This program focuses on institutional transformation in higher education with programs that address supportive academic culture, institutional policies and practices, under-representation of women in faculty and leadership positions, support for work-life satisfaction, and more.

Dr. Nolan is an excellent professor and mentor to the criminology students here at WVU and has the awards to prove it: in 2010 he won the Carnegie Professor of the Year award for the state of West Virginia; in 2009 Dr. Nolan won the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teacher award and the West Virginia University Foundation Outstanding Teacher Award. I, myself, was drawn to this discipline due to Dr. Nolan’s teachings. While an undergraduate here at WVU, I made a point to take as many courses as I could with Dr. Nolan. His courses introduced me, and I’m sure many others, to the topic of neighborhood dynamics. Currently Dr. Nolan is using neighborhood dynamics measures in the first ever Quality of Life Survey of West Virginia residents and is already seeing some exciting findings.

Dr. Nolan’s teaching is not bound only to this university. He has been critical in implementing and expanding the Inside-Out Program here at WVU where students go to state and Federal prisons in West Virginia and have classes there alongside incarcerated individuals. If you talk to students who take this course they tell of how insightful it is.

The Research Center on Violence thanks Dr. Nolan for his continued effort as a member of our executive board and as a crucial aspect of the research that we do. You can learn more about Dr. James Nolan here