Student’s Gift Honors Professor, Criminology Research Group

Danny Acton, a graduate student in sociology, is one of many donors to the Student Foundation.
“The University has done a lot for me,” he said. “I thought I would do something to give back.”
Specifically, Acton decided to make a gift in honor of his advisor, Dr. Dusten Hollist. A professor in the Department of Sociology, Hollist leads the Criminology Research Group in the Social Sciences Research Lab.
“Dr. Hollist cares about people learning, participating and contributing to what’s going on,” Acton said. “All the professors I’ve worked with are invested in student success. It’s an encouraging environment.”
Acton serves as a research assistant and project lead for the Criminology Research Group, which focuses on projects related to juvenile justice. The group, which consists of three faculty members, eight graduate students and two undergraduate students, has completed 16 grant-funded studies since 2011.
Sociology student and advisor
The criminology program makes a difference — for both students and Montanans. For example, its work has helped probation officers assess whether a juvenile offender might be a public safety or flight risk. The work has also explored what factors determine whether a police officer places a juvenile in detention or releases him to his parents. It’s a decision that can have an especially big impact in rural areas where an unnecessary arrest not only uses valuable time and money, but the nearest juvenile detention center may be hours away.
“We are helping improve the process of how organizations do risk assessments,” Hollist said. “I’m proud of our work. I believe UM has a responsibility to support research in our state and community.”
The program helps UM students succeed, too. There are ample opportunities for students like Acton to get involved with research.
“An applied research experience is an important part of the student learning process,” Hollist said. That importance goes both ways. “I would say students are imperative. Without students to serve as research assistants we couldn’t do a fraction of the work we do.”

Acton plans to continue his own research this fall at the University of Florida, where he will pursue a Ph.D. in sociology.
“I hope to study biosocial criminology, which incorporates environmental, genetic, neurological and evolutionary factors into traditional sociological and criminological theories,” he said.
To learn more about supporting the Department of Sociology, please contact Senior Director of Development Marci Bozeman at 406.243.2646 or by email at

Pictured: Dr. Dusten Hollist, left, with graduate student Danny Acton, right.