Forensic and Legal Psychology, M.A.
A dedication to lifelong learning has brought Connie DeFranco to the front of the classroom.
Once a non-traditional adult student working full-time while pursuing a college degree, in spring 2017 she began teaching forensic psychology to undergraduates as an adjunct faculty member at Marymount.
Connie’s journey back to college began in 2000 when she earned an associate degree in legal studies at Northern Virginia Community College. “Because of my work as a legal assistant for a domestic relations law firm, I thought there must be a field of study which traverses the psychological and legal issues in family law.” Connie spoke at a career night the National Capital Area Paralegal Association held at Marymount and discovered the University’s forensic psychology program.
“I came to work at Marymount in 2005 in the Department of Forensic Psychology and Counseling as an administrative assistant and began taking classes to complete my degree. I have been fortunate to meet professors and world-class speakers who have piqued my interest in various areas that are impacted by the work of forensic psychology, namely advocacy and wrongful conviction.” While working full-time, she finished her bachelor’s degree in 2010 and then began taking one course per semester toward her master’s degree in forensic and legal psychology.
It was during her graduate studies that Connie began working with a retired police detective and a retired FBI Special Agent on projects that support wrongfully convicted prison inmates. “I’ve worked with criminal case attorneys and law enforcement experts, including the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, reviewing cases for possible wrongful convictions. My field experience has included case analyses of adult sexual assault, white supremacist drug murders, Mexican drug cartels, Asian gang murders, drive-by shootings, child sexual abuse, arson murders, and juvenile murder and burglary.”
She also has collaborated with MU faculty members on social justice issues related to mental health and the justice system. Marymount’s Wrongful Convictions class takes on real-time cases. The students review and analyze police reports, evidence, court transcripts and psychological evaluations to determine if a client may be factually innocent. To date the class’s work has led to one exoneration and three recommendations for the client to receive much needed services.
“I have been so fortunate to be mentored by extraordinary faculty and staff who care deeply about others, especially those who have no voice. I am grateful for the tuition remission, the professor and staff mentors who have supported me on my journey, and the opportunity now to stand in front of my classroom of students and say, ‘Yes, you can do it.’”