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SXU Criminal Justice Student Earns "Best in Show" at Research Expo


Saint Xavier University (SXU) criminal justice student Dean Tsoumbakopoulos has earned “Best in Show” for his Research Expo project, "Democracy at Risk: November 2022." Tsoumbakopoulos' project reports on a real-word experiment conducted by philosophy professor Thomas Thorp's seminar group, where students studied the history and current health of electoral politics.  

"Receiving this award means the effort I put into the research has been recognized by more than just myself and my advisor. As someone who often struggles with imposter syndrome, the award helped to dispel any notion that I might have had about my research not being good enough or worthy of a place among the other wonderful research and art pieces. I am inspired to begin considering topics for the 2024 Research Expo!" said Tsoumbakopoulos.  

For his project, Tsoumbakopoulos was inspired by his Honors 230 course, The History and Philosophy of Democracy, which he says is his favorite and most challenging course.  

"The point of the course was to accept that both sides of the political spectrum in the U.S. were spending the majority of their time declaring that democracy is under attack while completely failing to understand what exactly the idea of democracy refers to," said Tsoumbakopoulos.  

Using a combination of references from Plato, Aristotle, and the Book of Genesis, his class attempted to have a serious discussion about democracy through an examination of politics and what it means to be political. Tsoumbakopoulos' research revealed the idea that the 2022 midterm elections represented one of the few instances of Americans participating in politics in his lifetime.  

"Traditionally, people vote for candidates who most closely represent their personal interests. If you're a large business owner looking to have your taxes cut, you'll most likely vote Republican. This, as Aristotle would argue, is not politics. Politics is actually the opposite of what we see play out typically in American elections. Entering the political sphere requires that people set aside their private interests and come together to determine the common good. In the 2022 midterm elections, the idea of democracy itself is what people voted on," said Tsoumbakopoulos.  

Tsoumbakopoulos finds that conducting this sort of research as part of his college experience has helped him to advance his skills in articulating complex ideas into short-form, digestible content.  

"For an extensive project like this, there is more room for added detail and important information to be expanded upon. Condensing that paper into a presentable poster that does not feel cluttered forced me to identify the key ideas and present them in a clear, concise manner," said Tsoumbakopoulos.  

Tsoumbakopoulos, who also minors in sociology and political science, was drawn to study criminal justice because he sees tremendous value in interdisciplinary approaches to questions about society.  

"The criminal justice system necessarily captures a multitude of disciplines such as sociology, criminology, law enforcement, psychology, law, philosophy, and political science. I've had many opportunities to dabble in other disciplines so far because of my criminal justice major, which keeps the material fresh and engaging," said Tsoumbakopoulos.  

Tsoumbakopoulos greatly enjoys the atmosphere of SXU and finds that his classes are preparing him well for his future. 

"My classes require that I use a variety of skills to succeed, from taking notes to studying for exams and reading challenging texts to demonstrating excellent writing skills – all of which are helping to prepare me for law school. Plus, just about every professor I've interacted with has been willing to take time outside the classroom to set me up for success," said Tsoumbakopoulos.  

One professor in particular stands out in Tsoumbakopoulos' mind, and he credits her for pushing him to strive for more.  

"During my freshman year, Professor [Maria] Palazzolo helped me to shape my academic career and challenge me. I once turned in a paper that she said would certainly get me an A, but she knew it wasn't my best. So, I spent the next several days revising and writing, turning what started as a four-page paper into a 10-page paper. To this day, that paper remains one of my favorites," said Tsoumbakopoulos.  

Tsoumbakopoulos serves as a learning assistant in SXU's Learning Center/Writing Studio, which he believes has helped him to develop his writing and creativity. Next semester, he plans to become a writing consultant and looks forward to helping peers edit and organize their work.  

After he graduates from SXU, Tsoumbakopoulos plans to attend law school, where he will specialize in constitutional law. Once he passes the Bar Exam, he will seek employment at a law firm and look to apply for a judgeship. Ultimately, Tsoumbakopoulos hopes to become a federal judge and eventually a supreme court justice.