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. The sociology major is streamlined enough to allow for a second major. Some Valpo sociology students choose to increase their learning and hiring potential by double-majoring in fields such as business, political science, social work, or psychology, just to name a few.
Samyra Leonard, Sociology & Social Work, May 2019 Graduate
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 did your experience in the Sociology/Criminology department help you in your career/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:
Hannah Chapman ’17, Case Manager, Porter County PACT
Corrina Qualls ’16, Upward Bound, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Fort Worth
Tanysha Gardner ’15, Lead Teacher, Teach for America
Erica Gilbert ’15, Forensic Scientist IV, Indiana State Police
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