December 2, 2011
"I don't think I'd have published this paper had professor Berglund not encouraged me so much."
— Cherie Congour
KANSAS CITY, Mo - -Cherie Congour started out researching a paper for a class project about Terry Blair, who went on a murderous rampage in 2002 in the Kansas City area. As she delved deeper into her research, what began as a simpler profile of a serial killer morphed into something much broader, with a much more sweeping impact.
During her research, Congour, a non-traditional student in the Avila Advantage adult education program double majoring in psychology and criminology, discovered that her subject, Blair, already had been convicted more than two decades earlier for the murder of Angela Monroe, the mother of his two children. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison, but released early after 21 years. Soon after, he was convicted of the murders of six other women and accused of killing two others.
Congour shifted the thesis of her paper to examining and reviewing the policies and procedures of the Missouri state parole board, specifically, "do the policies and procedures adapted at the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole give adequate consideration to the psychological evaluations needed in assessing the recidivism risk posed by an inmate?" Now, that research paper is going to be published in the quarterly journal of the International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology, a world-wide organization of behavioral scientists and practitioners who are concerned with the delivery of high-quality mental health services to criminal offenders.
Congour said she submitted the paper after her psychology professor, Barry Berglund, told her it was one of the best he'd read. She already was a member of the IACFP and figured she'd take a chance at sending the editor of the journal her paper in an email.
"The editor emailed me back within the hour and said they'd use it," Congour said.
The article is scheduled to be published in the April, 2012 edition, Congour said.
She hopes becoming a published author on such a complex subject will help her someday get admitted into graduate school, where she hopes to complete a master's degree in general psychology, with an emphasis in criminology. She said she hopes to complete her undergraduate work at Avila in 1-1 ½ years, "if I push it." She's previously worked in TV news and local politics, but currently works as a legal investigator for an attorney while attending classes in the evenings.
Congour said the Avila Advantage program has been the perfect fit to help her fulfill her goals while also working full-time.
"I looked at all the larger schools around (the Kansas City area), but when I saw how small the class sizes were and how convenient everything was, I knew I had to come here," she said. "I don't think I'd have published this paper had professor Berglund not encouraged me so much. I really do have the backing of the school to go ahead and think this is good enough to put out there.
"If I'd been at a larger school, I wouldn't have had that 1-on-1 relationship and openness of communication. That's so important and something Avila has that I don't think I'd find in a larger university."
Avila University is a private, co-educational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.