Norwich professor receives historic fellowship for work on female murderers


July 21, 2016

Norwich University Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Elizabeth Gurian has earned a prestigious research fellowship to support her work on women murderers. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) awarded Gurian a 2016–17 AAUW American Fellowship.

American Fellowships, AAUW’s oldest and largest funding program, date back to 1888, making them one of the oldest and most prestigious fellowships in the world exclusively for women. AAUW American Fellowships support women scholars who are completing doctoral dissertations, conducting postdoctoral research, or finishing research for publication.

“The 2016–17 American Fellowship is a great honor for which I am extremely grateful,” said Gurian.

Gurian plans to explore the adjudication patterns of homicide offenders, including use of plea bargains, convictions, and sentences. Few researchers have explored this topic, because the general assumption is that offenders convicted of murder will be sentenced harshly by the criminal justice system. Although women make up a small percentage of homicide offenders, statistical analysis of the data Gurian has already collected shows that women are still less likely to be sentenced to death than men even for crimes of murder.

“With this article, I hope to more accurately challenge or support the theories of chivalry justice and paternalism, which attempt to explain the treatment of women by the criminal justice system,” Gurian said.

Gurian earned her doctoral degree from the University of Cambridge and then worked as a consultant for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on a global homicide report. She is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at Norwich University, teaching undergraduate research methods, courts, the death penalty, and criminal violence. Her current research also aims to enhance the understanding of homicide offenders beyond traditional case studies and descriptive statistics through the use of empirical data analysis, which can aid in the development of more accurate classifications and definitions.

As someone who completed her bachelor’s degree in the field of medicine, Gurian said she is grateful for the mentors who helped guide her to her current position, and strives to return what she has learned by becoming a mentor herself. To that end, she has helped to create (with former AAUW grant awardee Gina Sherriff) a general mentoring program at Norwich University. The GUIDE (guidance, understanding, instruction, direction, and education) mentoring program aims to utilize faculty and staff to mentor students in academic, welfare, social, and career choices.

In 2013, Gurian received the Peggy R. Williams Emerging Professional Award given by Vermont Women in Higher Education (VWHE).

“We have a long and proud history of supporting exceptional women scholars through our American Fellowship program. This year’s group includes women who are leaders in their institutions and their fields working on issues related to sexual violence, race, and other topics of importance to women and girls. They aren’t just brilliant, they are agents of change,” said Gloria Blackwell, AAUW vice president of fellowships, grants, and global programs.

For the 2016–17 academic year, AAUW awarded a total of $3.7 million to more than 230 scholars, research projects, and programs promoting education and equity for women and girls through six fellowships and grants programs. AAUW is one of the world’s leading supporters of graduate women’s education, having awarded more than $100 million in fellowships, grants, and awards to 12,000 women from more than 140 countries since 1888.

Read AAUW’s announcement about this year’s awards. To find out more about this year’s exceptional class of awardees, visit AAUW’s online directory. To reach an award recipient, call 202.728.7602 or e-mail


The American Association of University Women (AAUW) empowers women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research. Our nonpartisan, nonprofit organization has more than 170,000 members and supporters across the United States, as well as 1,000 local branches and more than 800 college and university partners. Since AAUW’s founding in 1881, our members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic, and political. Learn more and join us at

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Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation’s six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) 

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