Fulbright scholar Dr. Katalin Parti is spending the academic year at the university, working with Dr. Elizabeth Englander, director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC).
A native of Hungary, she graduated from the University of Miskolc, pursued a legal career as a lawyer and prosecutor, and is presently a research fellow at the National Institute of Criminology in Budapest.
“While growing up, I had two goals: I wanted to be a police officer and I wanted to be a writer,” she said. “Criminology seemed to be an ideal field because I could work in law enforcement and, simultaneously, I could do research and share my findings through writing. After I graduated from the university, I spent four years as a government prosecutor in the district attorney’s office in Budapest and this experience gave me the background to continue to explore this aspect of human behavior.”
Initially, Dr. Parti focused on women in prison and the circumstances that brought them there; later, she took a different path and began to research issues involving cybercrime.
What specifically drew her interest was the rise of child pornography on the Internet and associated cases of child abuse. In 2008, she wrote her PhD thesis on the ways the Internet influences how people think about criminology, and how the whole notion of criminology changes because of the opportunities the Internet provides for those engaged in child pornography to establish a world-wide audience.
She came to Bridgewater, she says, to gain experience in a field much related to her research interests, and that is cyberbullying.
“As the Internet continues to evolve, it’s not only about sexual predators approaching little children. It’s no longer the biggest issue,” Dr. Parti said. “Now we see a dramatic increase in communities and in schools and colleges where people are using a wide variety of technological tools to bully other people, usually their peer groups, who are often children and young adults themselves targeting other children and young adults.”
In January, she will begin visiting area schools that are working with MARC to conduct interviews with principals and teachers to find out how they are dealing with issues of cyberbullying – the practices they have introduced to combat this, and ask how MARC can better assist them in the effort.
While there are cyberbullying projects underway in Eastern Europe, Dr. Parti came to the United States because “this is where the most important work is being done today and we have a lot to learn. I look forward to returning home next year and sharing there what I’ve discovered in America.”
Back home in Hungary, she will teach and continue her research. “This is a topic of immense urgency for us and it’s changing all the time. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to come here at a relatively early stage of my career and acquire the kind of background and experience that I’m exposed to here every day. Every person I’ve met at Bridgewater has been enormously helpful to me.” (Story and photo by David K. Wilson, ’71, University News)