Associate Professor of Sociology
The law is “one thing,” says Malcolm Rigsby. But it must be applied with compassion.
Rigsby tells his criminal justice students that “we must have patent and objective criteria for law to protect individuals and groups from natural and social wrongs that any one of us could fall victim to, and of which society as a whole agrees to be so wrong we cannot allow it to occur without repercussion.
“But in criminal justice, as with other social and human services careers, we as professionals are dealing and interacting with human beings who, like ourselves, make mistakes, are sometimes in the wrong situation, and other times are misled or find we must do something out of what we perceive as necessity.”
Rigsby likes structure in his classroom, but admits it can stifle creativity. While he uses the more traditional lecture approach in his lower level survey courses, he seeks more flexibility with his upper level courses and with criminal justice majors.
“We discuss the facts, then I hope the students will consider how the material applies to the world and their life,” Rigsby said. “I don’t lecture from the text. Students are to read the text. There is nothing better than to have flexibility to allow students to articulate the facts and discuss how they apply in real life settings.”
Rigsby’s interest in deviance and criminology began while he was an undergraduate student at Sam Houston State University.
“A mentor faculty member inspired me to seek advanced degrees upon graduation,” he said. “I worked for the Department of Corrections upon graduation as a security officer and as faculty in the prison school system while pursuing my master’s at Sam Houston State. Though I didn’t graduate with a master’s degree, my mentor introduced me to the program director and accompanied me on several meetings to enter the Ph.D. program at Texas A&M University.”
But “family needs” forced Grigsby into the job market for a period of time. He eventually entered law school and graduated from St. Mary’s University. In 1989, Rigsby joined the Bar, practicing and working in banking until 2006. He is currently a member in good standing of both the Texas and Arkansas Bars, and is licensed in both states.
Rigsby had served as an adjunct faculty member at Ouachita Technical College in Malvern since 2000 and said he had “truly enjoyed” the interaction with students. He decided to teach full time and enrolled at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, where he graduated in 2012 with a Ph.D. focusing on criminology, identity, corrections, and shifts in identity that affect criminality and desistance from crime.
Rigsby joined the faculty at Henderson in 2011 after learning of the university’s desire to offer a criminal justice program.
“I learned that Henderson wanted to develop a four-year degree in criminal justice, and I had personal knowledge of and respect for members of the department, faculty, and staff,” he said. “I wanted to be part of a new, challenging and growing professional degree program and department."
Rigsby urges future and current students to “take as many classes that support your major as you can. Being a liberal arts institution, there is much crossover that will enhance your professional knowledge.”
The job prospects for criminal justice students are promising, according to Rigsby.
“Now is a great time of need in criminal justice professionalism,” he said. “It needs professional people with knowledge and experience.
“Our B.A. degree has two options: one offers a traditional approach focusing on academic knowledge, the other provides internship opportunities to build experience. Our B.S. has a strong focus in science and mathematics and prepares students for more technical professions.”
Rigsby said that if he hadn’t become a professor in higher education, he would most likely be practicing law and volunteering to help distressed children and social movement groups.
When not in the classroom, Rigsby likes to garden and travel.
“I love gardening. Summertime is outside time in the garden,” he said. “Travel is dear to me, not as a tourist, but as a means to broaden my knowledge of history, cultures, and getting to know people all around the world. Making acquaintances is a goal of my hobby in travel.”
Sociology and Human Services
Degree and School:
Ph.D., Texas Woman's University, 2012
• Prisoner Identity and desistance as informed by prosocial transformation
I've been at Henderson since: