Sociology and criminology students at Valpo receive a broad education that combines the best of the liberal arts tradition with the practicalities of job-related skills. For more information on potential careers, see our Careers page.

Former Student Spotlight

Samyra Leonard, Sociology & Social Work, May 2019 Graduate

picture of Samyra Leonard


Tell us a little about your time since graduating from Valparaiso.

I am attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to pursue my Master of Social Work with a concentration in Leadership & Social Change. I am also in the process of applying to the PhD program at UI. Currently, I am a Resident Advisor at Alpha Epsilon Phi and a Program Assistant for CU Trauma and Resiliency, an organization that helps communities, organizations, and local governments adopt trauma-informed practices and policies.

How has your experience in the Sociology/Criminology department helped you in graduate school?

The Sociology/Criminology department has helped prepare me for graduate school in numerous ways. First, the department helped me discover my passion for substance use disorders and mental illnesses by educating me about sociological theories and how these individuals are affected by the criminal justice system. Discovering this during undergrad gave me direction for selecting internships and my concentration. Second, the professors helped me to strengthen my critical thinking skills and writing ability, which will translate through to your future career. Lastly, one of the professors provided me with the opportunity to assist with conducting and analyzing research, which I would not have had otherwise. We often focus solely on the implementation of policies and direct service from practitioners but having the ability to disseminate research and critically analyze data will benefit you in graduate school, especially if you want to pursue a doctorate degree.

What was your favorite course in the Sociology/Criminology department?

My favorite course was definitely ‘Criminological Theory’ because I love learning about theories! Also, the course did a great job explaining how to apply the theories to criminological behavior and deepened my understanding of how the criminal justice system categorizes criminals and attempts to use certain punishments to address crime.

What advice do you have for current students when preparing for a pathway like yours?

My advice for current students would be to take advantage of the mentoring you receive from professors, push to make your internship fit your learning needs, and if you can, get involved or learn about professors’ research. Also, value the critical feedback you receive about your writing and analytical skills because these are two of your most valuable skills as a graduate student.


Recent Sociology/Criminology job placements:

Macy Mullins ’18, U.S. Probation Officer, U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services

Abby Wichlinski ’18, U.S. Probation Officer, U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services

Hannah Chapman ’17, Case Manager, Porter County PACT

Corrina Qualls ’16, Upward Bound, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Fort Worth

Kelly Chavez ’15, Assistant Director of Civic Engagement, University of Chicago

Tanysha Gardner ’15, Lead Teacher, Teach for America

Erica Gilbert ’15, Forensic Scientist IV, Indiana State Police crime lab

Carmyn Hamblen ’15, Trooper, Indiana State Police

Andy Burns ’14, Deputy Sheriff, McLean County Sheriff’s Department, IL

Natalie Zibolski ’13, Victim’s Service Specialist, State of Wisconsin’s Department of Justice

Recent Sociology/Criminology graduate school attendance:

Samyra Leonard ’19, MA in Social Work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Megan Gilliam ’19, School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University

Kelly Chavez ’15, MA in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago