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It's not every day that someone gets to make an appearance on national television. But for University of Wisconsin-Superior graduate Dr. Justin Patchin, being sought out by newspapers and television news programs of all sizes is becoming a regular occurrence.
Patchin, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, has focused his academic research on cyberbullying. He's co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and has become an expert source on the lesser-known form of bullying. Most recently, he was featured on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" news program. He's also had a commentary article published in the New York Times and was interviewed for the National Public Radio program "All Things Considered."
A recent rash of teen suicides caused by online bullying has pushed Patchin into the media spotlight, but he has been doing research on the subject for years. Since graduating from UW-Superior with a major in criminal justice in 1998, he earned his doctorate degree in criminal justice from Michigan State University in 2004. It was there he met his research colleague Dr. Sameer Hinduja.
"When we first started very few people knew what cyberbullying was," Patchin said. "Because we've done seven or eight formal surveys of different populations over the past years, the media is now looking to us for guidance to figure out what this problem is."
Hinduja was originally interested in cyber crimes such as identity theft, while Patchin was more involved in studying traditional school-yard bullying. The friends combined their interests to form the Cyberbullying Research Center, and are co-authors of the book, "Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying." They also travel around the United States giving presentations to students, parents and community groups about the dangers of cyberbullying and what can be done to prevent it.
Helping kids and parents
Patchin said they're trying to use their research in a proactive way.
"I want the research I'm conducting on an everyday level for parents, teachers and the kids themselves," he said. "If what I learn can prevent cyberbullying, I think then it becomes useful. Basically trying to translate the research into meaningful."
While Patchin lived what he describes as a "pretty typical childhood," he's always felt the need to help at-risk youth.
"I think everybody has had some experience with bullying either being the victim or being a bully or seeing it. Everybody has their experience and I'm no different."
Work at UW-Superior helped
His interest in helping kids was fostered early on. Patchin coached tee-ball, and during his last year at UW-Superior worked at the Arrowhead Juvenile Detention Center in Duluth. He attributes his success in cyberbullying research to the solid foundation he got from his education at UW-Superior.
"The criminal justice program at UW-Superior was strong enough that it prepared me to do very well in grad school," he said. "The course work was challenging but not impossible. It prepared me well for grad school. I had a good foundation of information so I certainly attribute that."
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