25 Faces 25 Years: Shoval Dorani
By Maria Zankey
Photo by Charles Shan Cerrone ’13
February 14, 2017
Shoval Dorani has looked justice in the eye before.
Rather than diving into college after high school, Dorani left her hometown of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, to fight in her father’s native country for the Israel Defense Forces.
As a canine handler and commander in the IDF, Dorani — along with her trained military dog, a Belgian Malinois named Gula — came face-to-face with enemy soldiers in combat for three years.
So, when she left the IDF to study in Drexel’s Criminology and Justice Studies program, Dorani had one goal in mind: she wanted to “lock up criminals.”
“I’ve always been very physical, and I loved the excitement and the adrenaline, the adventure of the military,” Dorani says. “I knew I wouldn’t just be able to sit at a desk all day [for my career.]”
But shortly upon her arrival at Drexel, Dorani came to know a side of the criminal justice system she’d never expected.
She signed up for one of the College’s community-based learning courses — a class called Prison, Society and You — and says it changed the way she envisioned her future in criminology.
During the course, 15 Drexel, or “outside,” students, visited the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF) in Philadelphia, where they met with 15 incarcerated men —“inside” students — in a peer-to-peer open dialogue about social justice.
For four hours each Thursday, Dorani spoke with and listened to the “inside” students.
“We were all involved. We all shared our thoughts and opinions about the criminal justice system, and got to share things about ourselves,” Dorani says. “How many people can say they’ve hung out with prisoners and got to hear what they think? You always hear the outside perspective, but it was truly eye-opening to talk with the ones on the inside.”
The experience was so moving to Dorani that she signed up for not one, but two more community-based learning courses.
She delved into the world of political science in the course Constitutional Controversies, where she and the “inside” students at CFCF explored the First Amendment and prominent Supreme Court cases.
“It was so interesting to hear the opinions of people I would otherwise never be communicating with,” Dorani says.
Later, in the writing course Once Upon a Time (So Far…), the “outside” and “inside” students crafted personal memoirs, sharing each other’s past experiences and dreams for the future.
“I kept coming back to the community-based learning courses because, over the time I was there [at CFCF], I felt like I was learning the most I could possibly learn,” Dorani says.
“You can sit in a classroom and learn from a textbook all you want, but when you go into a correctional facility and hear the experiences of those who have been incarcerated, you realize these are smart people,” she says. “Hearing their perspectives made me see a whole different side of the criminal justice system, its issues and how deeply flawed it is.”
Dorani says the experience has inspired her to dedicate her career to helping those affected by the system.
“It introduced me to an entirely different side of the system and to the people we define as criminals,” Dorani says. “It made me realize maybe I would like to work on that side to help the incarcerated.”
As she embarks on her junior year with her eye on a spring co-op, Dorani is confident Drexel has led her where she’s meant to be.
“I know my major is right for me. I know Drexel is right for me. I’m still learning, but I know I’m in the right direction,” she says. “I’ve already seen some of the things I’ve learned come to life.”
This article originally appeared in the College of Arts and Sciences' Ask magazine feature story, "25 Faces, 25 Years." For more Ask stories, visit askmagazine.org.