A WCU criminal justice professor is honored as one of the state’s top educators


Lisa Briggs ’87 MPA ’89, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at Western Carolina University, has been named one of the best teachers in the University of North Carolina system. Briggs is among 17 recipients of the UNC Board of Governors Awards for Excellence in Teaching. A faculty member at WCU since 2002, Briggs is known for her eagerness to work with, by and for her students, and for extending learning opportunities beyond the classroom walls.

Regina Cline ’12, a criminal justice major from Gold Hill, said Briggs was more than just a role model to her. “She is like a mother to me,” said Cline who graduated in May. “She has supported me in all of my endeavors, and she has created and provided countless opportunities for me to grow as an intellectual and as an individual. Dr. Briggs has mentored many students in both career choice and graduate studies. She sponsors undergraduate research on an annual basis and has spent untold hours with students in experiential learning and community service projects.”

Lisa Briggs ’87 MPA ’89 works with students in the classroom.

Briggs’ students assist organizations committed to preventing child abuse, elderly neglect and animal abuse, and helping victims of domestic violence. She and her students dedicated more than 100 hours to helping open a local domestic violence shelter by getting the facility ready by moving in furniture, stocking supplies, assembling beds, hanging pictures, caulking bathrooms and hanging curtains. Students who participated said they gained a better understanding of what it takes to run nonprofit organizations and on how much such agencies rely on donations, said Briggs.

Her students’ projects have included reopening cold homicide cases in cooperation with the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office; becoming certified in “From Darkness to Light,” a child sexual assault prevention advocacy program; and participating in educational activities aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving and reducing the risk of date rape and sexual assault.

“Students leave her classes not only with a firm knowledge foundation, but also with a strong sense of what a difference they can make to strengthen the justice and fairness that fellow citizens experience,” said Stephen E. Brown, professor and head of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Briggs has served as the field studies director and is the faculty sponsor for the university’s chapter of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society. In the last three years, she has taken more than 40 WCU and high school students to 10 countries to study abroad. She also recently worked with federal agencies to host a human trafficking training conference at WCU titled “Life Under the Surface: Human Trafficking.” Students participated and had the opportunity to share their research with career professionals.

“She truly exemplifies Western Carolina University’s engaged mission,” Cline said.