Dr. Donnelly brings experience to Bison Hill

By Morgan Jackson, Features Editor

Dr. Paul Donnelly has a PhD in Criminology and is currently an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at Oklahoma Baptist University.  

Donnelly studied sociology in his undergraduate years at Biola University in California. He earned a Master of Science in Public Administration at the University of Texas at Tyler. Finally, Donnelly earned his doctorate degree in Criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas.  

Prior to working in education, Donnelly worked in the criminal justice field for many years. He mainly worked in juvenile field of criminal justice.  

“I had an adjunct teacher who was a juvenile probation officer, and one of the assignments was to either write a term paper, or you could volunteer with one of the kids on her caseload,” Donnelly said. “Well, that was easy for me. I didn’t want to do a paper if I could avoid it.” 

Donnelly began volunteering with one of the kids, who was eventually arrested. It was during this time that he found his calling.  

“Then I started seeing him in juvenile hall,” Donnelly said. “I was pretty good at relating to this kid. I was kind of a bad kid in my own way, not criminally necessarily, but rebellious. It was like a light came on: this is what I want to do with my life. So, that led to a couple of part-time jobs working with kids that were involved in the system.” 

Many of the children Donnelly had worked with in his early career in California were either gang members or on the path to becoming one. 

“I was really good at it and I really enjoyed it,” Donnelly said. “After I graduated from college I moved to Texas, from Southern California, and got a job working for the Dallas County Juvenile Probation Department in the detention center.” 

He thrived in his job and received many promotions. He spent this next period of his life working in positions that gave him more and more responsibility, and he also went to school to obtain a graduate degree.  

“When I finished that I got a job offer as a chief probation officer in Corpus Christie,” Donnelly said. “I was there for three years. I really love Corpus Christie. It was one of my better jobs. Then, I was hired to run the largest juvenile correctional facility on the East Coast, which happened to be in Maryland.”  

Donnelly has held numerous positions in the criminal justice field that carry great power and esteem. He spent nearly 30 years working in the field, and then made a switch to education. When Donnelly retired from the criminal justice field, he went back to school to earn his doctorate degree.  

“I went back to school and got my PhD at the University of Texas at Dallas in Criminology, which studies the correlates of crime, because I wanted to teach,” Donnelly said.  “I had always hoped to teach so that I could take 30 years of actual experience and combine it with what I learned in the sciences, and then present it to students so they can be prepared to be Christian leaders in the 21st century.” 

One of the many classes that Donnelly teaches is Introduction to Sociology, which many freshmen and sophomore students take. In addition to an introductory textbook, Donnelly employs the use of “Generous Justice” by Timothy Keller to intertwine faith and content learning. He also teaches criminal justice courses. 

“I’ve been here six years, and the first three years I was teaching sociology and preparing a criminal justice major,” Donnelly said. “For the last three years we’ve had the criminal justice and the forensic psychology majors.” 

Donnelly hopes to prepare and inspire leaders who might come out of his classes. Amber Rodriguez is a freshman political science major who has taken class with Dr. Donnelly.  

“My greatest take away from Dr. Donnelly’s lectures was the importance of diverse worldviews and experiences,” Rodriguez said. “Everyone experiences life differently and that can be a very valuable thing to consider when learning. Being aware that there is more to life than what we know is the greatest tool and lesson that Dr. Donnelly has given me.” 

Students and faculty alike acknowledge that the method in which Donnelly teaches is helpful and thought-provoking.  

I appreciate that Dr. Donnelly encourages us to learn from each other, his Socratic approach really opens up the classroom to engage in discussion,” Rodriguez said. “He really makes it easy to find a connection to the lesson on a personal level rather than feeling like it’s just test material.” 

Dr. Kaine Ezell, an associate professor of English at OBU, shares similar thoughts. 

“Dr. Donnelly is a great professor because he himself is a seeker of knowledge and wisdom,” Ezell said. “Because he is seeking, it allows him to provide his students with space to seek solutions to problems based on their own experience and observation. He does not see himself as one who lectures students on the responses he thinks are appropriate to a given question, but he encourages students to provide input into seeking solutions.” 

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