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Master of Criminal Justice

 

Adult Probation Officer, Rock Island County Court Services

“I call Ambrose the ‘little big school.’ It feels like home, and at the same time, you’re out in the world. The coursework applies to real life. You get hands-on training and internships where you do actual work. That’s a huge advantage.”

How to succeed

“The bottom line is that you’ll get everything in one package at Ambrose: diversity, friendships, academic knowledge and one-on-one interaction with professors. You leave with so much more. Just go for it!”

Maricela Guzman earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in Spanish at Ambrose before enrolling in the Master of Criminal Justice program to gain a deeper understanding, and advance in the field.

She says, “I interned at Rock Island County Court Services my senior year—an internship that turned into a job. Ambrose has done an excellent job of connecting me with opportunities to see firsthand what I could do with my career. And that’s what they do. My work entails a lot of resources and referrals—trying to get people to be productive members of society. The program is empowering me to empower them.”

In her own words

What do you do as an adult probation officer?

I’m doing the job of several officers: a pre-trial officer, a regular adult supervisor, a Spanish-speaking DUI officer and a gang officer.

As a pre-trial officer, I interview felons, perform their background checks and make recommendations about whether they should be let out or have their bond reduced. With regular adult supervision, I do case management of people placed on probation. I monitor them to make sure they don’t reoffend and help them get academic assistance and connect them with job agencies. We’re trying to get them to become productive, law-abiding citizens. As a Spanish-speaking DUI officer, I collect offenders’ information and do home visits to make sure they don’t reoffend.

As a gang officer, I go out and talk to people in the community. We’ve identified gang members, and I see them at their first appearance in court. Little by little, we get a feel for what gangs they belong to and what kinds of activities they do. In cooperation with local police departments and our state attorney officers, the program has been moving pretty well. I hope to continue to grow the gang unit and one day become a key administrator in this program.

Have you been able to apply what you’ve learned in class so far?

Everything I learn is helping me to be a better officer. My Comparative Justice Systems class has given me an understanding of the different justice systems around the world. It’s allowing me to relate to clients who come from different countries.

What are your classmates like?

They come from all over the country—the Chicago area, Wisconsin, down south. I did my work-study in the Center for International Education and got to interact with people from as far as China and India. Ambrose encourages you to experience culture on campus, from cultural fairs to diversity awareness workshops.

Which faculty members made an impact?

Dr. Sandra Quinn was my undergraduate advisor and continues to be my mentor. She’s always available to speak with about projects and for career advice. She’s knowledgeable and experienced, so it’s empowering when she tells me that as a Hispanic female, I can succeed in the field.

All the instructors have held positions apart from teaching, and they bring their personal experiences to class. It’s enlightening. Professor Waylyn McCulloh is also the director of the Residential Correctional Facility in the Quad Cities, a transitional facility for people coming out of the prison system. He shares work-related stories with us, and we use them as class discussions. It’s an effective way to absorb information.

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