Madison Humphrey's interest in the criminal justice field was sparked by CSI television shows, but the experience she got this summer was very real and very hands-on.
Humphrey, a student in the St. Ambrose University 4+1 Master of Criminal Justice Program, completed two, four-week internships this summer helping incarcerated people transition to civilian life. She worked with men at a residential correctional facility and then with men and women at a work-release center.
Humphrey said the internships were valuable. She worked closely with parole officers and supervisors who provided guidance and tips about working in the field. And, she used skills she learned in the classroom, including how to question people in a way that helps her, and them, gain insight.
"I was able to get to know men at the residential correctional facility on a personal level and discuss their future goals. A few of the residents completed the program during my internship and I got to see how much they had changed. This program and all it offers can help people get on their feet, get jobs and take advantage of other opportunities," she said.
She said the criminal justice field allows her to practice her values, which include remaining open-minded, always.
"I want to consider all of the pros and cons and look at everything from all possible angles. I want to understand how someone got into the criminal justice system, but most importantly, how I can help them rehabilitate and leave the system," she said.
"Not everyone is bad and people can change. No, it is not an overnight thing. But with time and patience, you can help a person rehabilitate and change their life so they do not go back to their old ways," she said.
Past in-class discussions have focused on the need for improvements to the correctional system, and Humphrey's internships made her want to do more. "Being able to see it face-to-face, I wish there were things we could change now, but I realize it needs to be addressed on a bigger level and it will take a long time," she said.
When Humphrey learned SAU offered a 4+1 MCJ program, her mother encouraged her to take the extra year of courses to earn the graduate degree. She enrolled as a first-year student with several earned college credits under her belt and can complete the program in 4.5 years.
Humphrey balances her academic studies with student activities – she participates in Dance Marathon, Psychology Club, Positive Hearts, and is a student-athlete on the bowling team – and plans to walk in the winter 2019 commencement ceremony.
"I love how SAU's criminal justice program is hands-on. It helps me relate more to the topics we are learning and the things you see in the news," Humphrey said. She also likes the small classes. "And I've had great professors. They have real experience in the field and I love hearing their stories," she said.
Humphrey's summer internships gave her a foot-in-the-door and an invaluable opportunity to explore the professional role she wants to play in the field of criminal justice.
"I definitely have a better idea about what I'd like to do, but I am going to stay open-minded at this point. Because I am getting a master's in criminal justice, it will open up my opportunities in the field even more," she said.