May 7, 2012
Criminal Justice major Laura Baldassari can firmly discount the idea that you can’t learn anything by watching television.
“It was Law& Order SVU (Special Victims Unit) that pointed me in the right direction. I wanted to work with victims,” said Baldassari, 22, from Trooper, who will graduate with a degree in Criminal Justice on May 10.
Baldassari came to Temple as a transfer student from Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) — the dual admissions agreement between Temple and MCCC allowed her to transfer all of her credits.
“After learning about the criminal justice system through Temple’s program — I think Temple is ranked as one of the 10 best universities for criminal justice programs in the country — I got an even better handle on where I thought I would fit and how I could make the greatest contribution. As a professional, I’d like to work in the corrections system,” she said. “When I was taking Introduction to Corrections it really hit home that as Temple’s budget was being cut, prison budgets in the state were only going up — I didn’t like it. Throwing money at the problem doesn’t work; the system needs to change.”
While corrections is Baldassari’s focus, just where she might ultimately land in the field is still a little up in the air.
“There are so many fields within criminal justice that my idea for my own place in it changes a lot. Last month I wanted to be a warden, then a police officer, then a probation officer,” she said with a smile. “The great thing about Temple’s program is that is has provided me with the skills and knowledge to pursue any and all of these options. Our professors either have or still are working as criminal justice professionals and they bring all of that experience and all of their connections right into the classroom — they present you with the reality of the profession and just how much of an impact you can make.”
While at Temple, Baldassari, a Campus Leadership Award recipient for 2012 at Temple University Ambler, has continued to work at NHS Human Services, a community-based, non-profit human services organization supporting individuals and families in numerous areas, from mental health and addictive disease to foster care and elder care. She has also taken the opportunity to connect with her profession outside of the classroom, joining the Criminal Justice Society and taking on the roll of vice president of the organization in her senior year.
Throughout the year the Criminal Justice Society, in additional to welcoming speakers from the profession at their weekly meetings, has hosted highly successful family events, such as a car show and Operation Safe Trick-or-Treat program in the fall and an egg hunt during the spring semester. The organization won the 2012 Organization of the Year Award at Temple University Ambler’s recently held Student Leadership Awards Banquet for all of their hard work throughout the year.
When people hear “Criminal Justice Society” sometimes “they only think about police activity and enforcement,” Baldassari said.
“A great deal of what law enforcement does is all about interacting and supporting their communities. That’s what we were trying to reflect with our community events,” she said. “As criminal justice majors, we are the future of law enforcement. We need to create strong bonds with our communities.”
As she completes her degree, Baldassari has an internship lined up at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility as her first step into a career in corrections.
“You have to take these networking opportunities when they are available to you. Our professors give us easy access to the criminal justice system,” she said. “(Assistant Professor) Cheryl Irons (Coordinator for the Criminal Justice program at Temple University Ambler) was the facilitator for our Criminal Justice Society meetings and my first criminal justice teacher — she was a wonderful advisor and great inspiration. (Criminal Justice Instructor) Susan Robinson has strong ties to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility and brought in guest speakers to our meetings, which included the warden — she arranged a field trip for us to go to the facility and was tremendously helpful in setting up this internship and helping me get this foot in the door.”
While her entrance into the world of criminal justice may have started at home on the small screen, Baldassari said she is fully aware of the tremendous impact professionals in the criminal justice field can make in the lives of individuals every day.
“My perspectives are so different now — so much more an expanded — than when I first came to Temple’s Criminal Justice program,” she said. “I’m so much more prepared thanks to my professors, the curriculum and the opportunities I’ve been given to connect with the profession. I know that I’ll be able to handle anything that the future has in store for me.”