Group photo 2023–24 Justice Research Fellowship nominees and Administration and Leadership Studies Research and Training Center Faculty — From left: Robert Orth, Jade Snedden, Emily Spezialetti, Thomas Oraskovich, Shagufta Haque, Micaela Jebitsch, Nicholas Ryan, and Department of Sociology faculty member Lindsay Vaughan

Indiana University of Pennsylvania has selected its second student cohort of Justice Research Fellows at the Administration and Leadership Studies Research and Training Center at IUP. 

Micaela Jebitsch, 2023–24 Justice Research Fellow (Economics and Actuarial Science)

Thomas Oraskovich, 2023–24 Justice Research Fellow (Sociology and Political Science)

Emily Spezialetti, 2023–24 Justice Research Fellow (Sociology and English)

Micaela Jebitsch, a mathematics-actuarial science and economics major from Hellertown, Northampton County; Thomas Oraskovich, a sociology and political science major from Homer City, Indiana County; and Emily Spezialetti, a sociology and English major from Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, have been selected for the project. All three are juniors at the university.

Jebitsch, Oraskovich, and Spezialetti were selected from a pool of exemplary candidates in the Sociology and the Finance and Economics departments who were nominated by department faculty in recognition of the students’ “superlative academic talent,” ALS-RTC Director Christian Vaccaro said.

The Justice Research Fellowship allows the students to participate in “real life,” practical mini-research projects with IUP faculty during winter and the spring 2024 semester. They will be immersed in activities of IUP ALS-RTC faculty currently positioned at the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency in Harrisburg. Justice Research Fellows will also travel to attend training and experiential learning opportunities.

The Justice Research Fellowship program is supported through an IUP Council of Chairs and Office of the President Strategic Plan Grant, the Department of Sociology (College of Health and Human Services), and the Department of Finance and Economics (Eberly College of Business).  

ALS-RTC Director Vaccaro said that the experience will have multiple beneficiaries.

“We are so excited to be in our second year of providing this undergraduate research experience to serve the public good,” Vaccaro said. “We are already seeing how it will be a talent pipeline of our best and brightest from IUP to Pennsylvania’s state public agencies. We know our partners at PCCD also are excited about continuing this experience.”

 “All of the student nominees that we interviewed for the position showed a clear passion to learn, assist, and someday be a change agent in the system,” Robert Orth, IUP-PCCD principal investigator at the ALS-RTC, said. “I wish we had the resources and time to extend the opportunity to all nominees,” he said.

Nominees for this year’s Justice Research Fellowship included Lorel Bartlebaugh, Shagufta Haque, Phynn Rundle, Nicholas Ryan, and Jade Snedden.

In future semesters, the Administration and Leadership Studies Research and Training Center hopes to work with other departments across IUP to extend eligible majors for the Justice Research Fellowship and develop a standing “for credit” clinical opportunity that deepens the opportunity, Vaccaro said.

For more information about the program, contact Dr. Vaccaro at

Jebitsch is the daughter of Hilary and Kurt Jebitsch and is a 2022 graduate of Saucon Valley High School. She is a dean’s list student, is a resident assistant, is a member of the IUP Ambassadors student-alumni group, and is president of the IUP Resident Hall Association.

Oraskovich is a member of the IUP Cook Honors College. He is the son of Thomas Oraskovich and is a 2021 graduate of Apollo-Ridge High School. He is a dean’s list student and provost scholar, participated in the Undergraduate Summer Opportunity for Applying Research program, and served as vice president of the IUP Student Government Association and vice chairperson of the IUP University Senate for the fall 2023 semester. He has been selected for early admission to IUP’s public affairs master’s program.

Spezialetti is the daughter of Amy Spezialetti and Jim Spezialetti and is a 2020 graduate of Montour High School. She is a dean’s list student and a member of Phi Eta Sigma honor society, Alpha Kappa Delta, the Creative Writing Club, and the Sociology Club.