Class of 2015 Success Stories: Criminal justice nabs motivated student

Dove inspired to take on master’s program

Class of 2015 Success Stories: Criminal justice nabs motivated student

By Ann Krebs

Senior Matt Dove, a criminal justice major from Columbus, is already planning to return to BGSU for his master’s degree in criminal justice after graduating this May and gaining some work experience in law enforcement.

“Having a master’s is very helpful in terms of advancement,” he said. “In federal law enforcement, you start two grades higher with a master’s and in some departments it applies in lieu of experience.”

"Unlike some other schools’ programs, where you learn ‘about’ criminal justice, here we learn what you’ll actually see, and we get hands-on experience."Dove was recently recognized as the 2015 recipient of the Gerald Rigby Honor Student Award that is given to outstanding students in the criminal justice program. Students must have completed at least 60 semester hours, have a minimum GPA of 3.2 overall and 3.5 in the program, commitment to the field and demonstration of excellence in academic pursuits. “The Gerald Rigby scholarship means a lot to me,” Dove said, “as it will help a great deal in continuing my education here at BGSU.”

Dove said having the new Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) facility that opened this fall on campus will add to an already very hands-on program in criminal justice.

“I’ve wanted to be a policeman since I was a little kid, and I want to eventually be a homicide detective,” he said. “Our program is so strong because of our amazing professors. They have great experience in the criminal justice field and they bring that into the classroom. Both criminal justice faculty Drs. Philip Stinson and Michael Buerger started as policemen, and Dr. Stinson went on to get his law degree. Unlike some other schools’ programs, where you learn ‘about’ criminal justice, here we learn what you’ll actually see, and we get hands-on experience.

“In Dr. Buerger’s criminal investigations class we learned the steps you’d need to take and what to look for. My courts class with Dr. Stinson was extremely helpful and a part of criminal justice that you don’t always get. We observed real court proceedings. Plus we’re required to do a 480-hour internship that’s double what most programs ask for.”

Dove’s own internships, with the Toledo parole and corrections systems, gave him a gritty look at the realities of crime and punishment. Working in a high-crime area, “we went into people’s homes, we tracked people down. And the prisons were certainly not a place that you’d want to be. It takes a certain kind of person to be able to deal with that, and I’m that kind of person.”

The internship is so valuable in landing a job, he said, because “it’s not just about having the degree but also about having the experience.”

That experience can be tough, and the curriculum addresses that. In Dove’s chosen specialization of homicides, “Once it’s happened, there’s nothing more you can do, but I want to help people by bringing some peace and some closure to the families. You see a lot of bad things, and part of our curriculum involves learning healthy coping mechanisms so you don’t become that cynical, downbeat person,” he said.

Dr. Steve Lab, professor and director of the Criminal Justice Program, is diligent about helping graduates find jobs, Dove said, sharing information about what departments around the country are hiring. And associate professor and graduate coordinator Dr. Melissa Burek, who taught Dove’s prisons class and designed the drug policy course, provided strategic guidance to him and another highly motivated student in plotting out their coursework so they could get a head start on their graduate coursework while undergraduates.

Dove recently landed a job as a resident specialist for Northwest Community Corrections Center in Bowling Green where he will help maintain the security of the building as well as watch residents and provide assistance where needed.

“Many of the things I learned about in my corrections class have been applicable to my current job, as well as a few of my psychology and drugs classes,” he said.

Dove decided to obtain his master’s because he enjoyed his undergraduate experience so much that when he discovered it would only take one more year to complete the degree, he felt he had to do it. He looks forward to returning this fall to continue interactions with fellow students and faculty.

“BGSU is a close-knit group and I enjoy spending time here,” he said. “I plan to keep my job at Northwest Community Corrections Center while I finish my master’s and perhaps for a little while after I graduate, and then hope to find another job in the field of criminal justice.”