During the spring 2020 semester, I worked with Alexandria, Virginia Police Department to evaluate the effectiveness of the officer peer support group program through my capstone project. Conducting research on wellness during a global pandemic was outright challenging, but the support I received from my partnering agency and faculty made it successful. Several of the considerations I offered for improving practices have since been implemented at the department.
As an undergraduate at Mason, I concentrated in Forensic Psychology and took several classes with Dr. Justin Ramsdell. Those courses sparked my interest in mental health within the justice system and still shape my work today. I also grew up in a law enforcement family and spent time working in the victim service field. I knew I wanted to work in this realm in some capacity since my sophomore year of college. The connections and topics I’ve been exposed to in the MS program confirmed this realization.
CHSS, specifically the Criminology, Law, and Society Department, goes out of their way to connect students with major figures in the field. Our Speaker Series is a prime example of this. Many of the visiting speakers, my professors, and even my peers would share job opportunities. This is actually how I found my current position.
Without a doubt, my proudest accomplishment was completing my capstone course as the COVID-19 pandemic started. While completing this research, I was working full-time and creating wellness resources through a pandemic task force at my organization. It was the most difficult four months of my entire program with so much that was unknown, but the outcome was worth it.
Drs. Charlotte Gill, Laurie Robinson, and Michelle McVicker were the professors who absolutely defined my graduate experience at Mason. All three are incredibly kind and passionate about their work. I hope to be like them as I advance in my career.
Please be honest with yourself about your capacity to handle coursework, personal obligations, and your career. I found myself burnt out far too often. Also, it might take longer than you planned to finish your program and that’s completely fine. Take care of yourself and find your support system. I owe much of my success to my family and boyfriend, my best friend in my cohort, and my best friend completing her own PhD program right now in another field. Those relationships are what help you get through the late nights and stressful moments.
After graduation, I plan to continue working at the International Association of Chiefs of Police on officer safety and wellness initiatives. I enjoy creating resources for those working in the criminal justice profession and learning about promising new programs to better support officers, victims, and community members.