Ryan Spohn

When it comes to community quarterback, Dr. Ryan Spohn has served this role with some of whom society would consider unlovable groups. Restrictive housing, delinquency, perpetration and victimization in correctional facilities, sexual assault and child maltreatment are some of the societal health challenges Dr. Spohn has tackled with his team. As the Director of the Nebraska Center for Justice Research, housed within the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, he leads the work with state and local community groups including Project Safe Neighborhoods, Nebraska Connected for Youth, Douglas County, and the Nebraska Crime Commission. Since beginning as the Director in 2014, Dr. Spohn has progressively increased the number of publications, grants, and contracts within the Center and thus he continues to increase his impact.

Dr. Spohn through his leadership of the Center, has created an evidenced-based approach for determining efficacy of programs being implemented in correctional facilities and through various community programs. Oftentimes the outcome of the contracts will be an evaluation report that provides specific information to the community health partner. It is evident that Dr. Spohn’s approach has more widespread applications as he frequently publishes his work so other communities can use the same approach to evaluate and improve their own justice programs. As he attested to in a recent news article about Project Safe Neighborhoods, Dr. Spohn and the Center’s work has led to a new model of crime reduction, which focuses on establishing positive relationships between interested parties, which included law enforcement and individuals in at-risk communities in this example.

Despite having access to limited resources, Dr. Spohn has been extremely productive in completing funded work and finding additional ways to help the community. Other initiatives he has spearheaded include training the state’s correctional officers, training local community organizations working with youth re-entering society, and providing webinars to Justice related centers across the country. Dr. Spohn serves the community by lending his expertise through legislative testimony, participating as a panel discussant in the community and at universities, and through local board membership. All of this for problems many are afraid to talk about, much less try to solve and for individuals who are often forgotten or dismissed.

I have such respect for Dr. Spohn’s work that impacts the psychological, emotional, and physical health and safety of vulnerable and underserved groups in our community throughout Nebraska. His Center has a well-deserved reputation in Omaha’s community because of the responsiveness to community issues. It is obvious that Dr. Spohn and his team desire to use their expertise to help society because it is the right thing to do. His work in the community is having a big impact for public health and safety, which is why I wanted to nominate him for this award. Dr. Ryan Spohn emulates the idea of a community champion and he is most deserving of the Community Engagement and Outreach Core of the Great Plains IDeA-CTR Network’s Collaborator of the Year award.