Jessica Villareal recently received her bachelor’s in criminal justice at Winter 2014 Commencement. She recently had an internship at the San Benito Police Department summer 2014.
Jessica Villarreal, a December 2014 graduate of The University of Texas at Brownsville, felt a sense of danger when she participated in a late-night ride-along with the San Benito Police Department through her own neighborhood.
“It’s a lot different for a woman patrolling the streets at night,” said Villarreal, who received her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice at Winter Commencement. “My neighborhood is considered one of the worst, and at night I got scared.”
Upon receiving her degree, Villarreal hopes to apply her newly acquired skills as a juvenile probation officer. She believes this will enable her to have a positive impact on troubled teens in the community.
In December of 2014, 54 students graduated from UT Brownsville with a bachelor’s in criminal justice. This degree will be part of the curriculum at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley that was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 in a historic move, UTRGV will combine the resources and assets of UT Brownsville and UT Pan American. The institution will also be home to a School of Medicine. UTRGV will enroll its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine will open in 2016. The degree in criminal justice offers multiple job opportunities in the field of law enforcement ranging from corrections and keeping the peace for multiple agencies to dealing closely with the court system and the community.
“We like to give students an overview of the system. The components involved are law in the justice system, parole or probation officers, corrections in jails and prisons, as well as law enforcement, encapsulating district police, local, state and federal agencies,” said Ben Brown, Chair of the Criminal Justice Department at UTB.
Brown stated the importance of students recognizing the mechanics behind enforcing the law. He stressed that students need to learn how to properly research and understand the method in which statistics are calculated.
As with most degree plans, sometimes students need to take a few courses to understand if what they are taking is the right academic path. “At first I tried nursing, but it didn’t interest me one bit,” Villarreal said “It wasn’t until I started my internship at San Benito Police Department in the summer of 2014 that my eyes were open to reality.”
She urges students to take advantage of programs their school has to offer, such as early college courses or certifications.
Brown’s advice to aspiring law enforcement students or students currently in pursuit of a life in criminal justice is to learn how to write. He highlighted the relevance of documentation in this line of work. For every ticket, citation or arrest someone makes, paperwork must be maintained. While most cases may be thrown out for various reasons such as a plea bargain, these documents may end up being court records one day.
“Very smart people like lawyers or judges are going to be looking at your writing. So, it better hold up and make sense,” said Brown.
Many students aspire to land a spot on a federal agency such as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security.
For more information, contact Ben Brown, Chair of the Criminal Justice Department, at 956-882-8813 or firstname.lastname@example.org