Associate Professor of Criminal Justice in the College of Liberal Arts Matthew Leone was awarded with one of this year’s Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents’ Teaching Awards. This annual award honors outstanding instructional contributions to the NSHE system.
Teaching at the University of Nevada, Reno for over 30 years led Leone to develop his own unique and effective teaching style, which he calls “edutainment.” Educational, yet interesting, is how Leone describes his instructional method. He teaches through analogy.
Leone not only explains the history and background behind criminal cases in his criminal justice courses, but he also shares the theory and information about the theorist.
“All these theorists are actual people, and they’ve done other cool things that make them real,” he said. “If I just talk about the name, it’s dull – but if I tell you about the person, it’s more memorable. That’s the whole goal is to get you to retain it.”
Leone was very surprised to learn that his teaching portfolio rose to the top of the statewide competition pool for this regents’ award.
“To stand out in this department is a challenge because I’m surrounded by great teachers,” he said.
He was proud of the moment he got a call from one of the regents personally congratulating him – the very same regent who was a student in the very first class Leone taught at the University.
Teaching today, though, is wildly different from 32 years ago. Since returning to in-person classes after the COVID-19 pandemic, Leone said he has picked up a few tips along the way, such as the use of multimedia. After learning the importance of keeping students engaged in online lectures, he now always includes plenty of imagery to complement his lectures.
Another characteristic specific to Leone’s graduate classes is that food is usually available.
“I noticed students were coming straight from work, and they were hungry and getting restless in class; so, I started bringing food,” he said. “Now students bring in food to share, and we can gather around and eat and have a conversation around the topic of the evening.”
Besides teaching, Leone is involved in a number of research projects. He has been working with Nevada parole and probation officers on a job stress and satisfaction survey. He also is working with the Human Services Agency on the effectiveness of different treatment modalities to keep kids stable while in foster care.
Leone is a professor with students at his heart. He strives to make an impact in every individual student he comes across (and arguably he has). From mentoring a handful of graduate students each year to helping a young student (whom he later tried to recruit to the criminal justice major) find their lost driver’s license, Leone is a faculty member to be inspired by.