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The gift of real-world experience

Alumnus brings a successful career full circle, uses his expertise to strengthen IU Northwest’s criminal justice program

Monday Jun 29, 2015

While the best educations in any field are brimming with theory, research and case studies, it’s no surprise that the best career preparation doesn’t come solely from a book or lecture, but also from real-life experience.

When university faculties are filled with folks who have excelled in the very careers a student is preparing to enter, there is perhaps no better instruction. For criminal justice students aspiring to work in the federal government, for instance, nothing beats learning directly from a former federal agent.

This is what Indiana University Northwest alumnus Jeffrey Emmons is doing for his alma mater in his “retirement” as an adjunct lecturer.

Emmons, a Portage native, earned his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice in 1986 and a Master’s of Public Affairs in 1993. He graduated from IU Police Department’s Cadet Police Officer Training Program and then went to work as an Indiana State Trooper. In 1990, he joined the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) as a special agent. His role was to investigate individuals involved in illegal firearms activity.

Reflecting on his career journey, Emmons says his education at IU Northwest played a huge role in his career success. Because of that, he felt compelled to contribute his own experiences to bolster the program. Throughout his career, he had remained an active member of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs Advisory Board and, after so many years working in federal law enforcement, he felt he could add an element the program had lacked. He developed a course in federal law enforcement and began teaching it as an adjunct lecturer in 2012.

“Surprisingly, there are almost no federal law enforcement courses on college campuses,” Emmons said. “It has a lot to do with who can teach a course like this. Most federal agents aren’t in a position that enables them to teach on a college campus, and some aren’t allowed. Most agents also don’t have master’s degrees either. So, there is a limited number of people who can teach those courses, at least from a real-world perspective.”

Eventually, the ATF no longer allowed its agents to have outside jobs, so Emmons decided to retire early and give his full attention to his family, his IU Northwest students and other ventures, including the small karate school he had started in Valparaiso.

In total, Emmons brings 31 years of law enforcement experience directly to the classroom and students at IU Northwest. He brings his firsthand experience, first and foremost, with a sprinkling of textbook learning.

With solid connections in federal law enforcement, Emmons is able to expose students to a variety of professionals, environments and firsthand knowledge. He regularly brings in professionals from various federal agencies to speak to students, and takes them to visit the federal courthouse and the like.

Emmons feels strongly about returning the knowledge he’s learned in the field so it doesn’t get lost by re-investing it into education. He continues to look for new ways to do this. Now that his federal law enforcement course is fully incorporated into the curriculum, he has turned his attention to the other ways he can contribute. Most recently, Emmons brought a Karate Club to IU Northwest and for the first time this fall, karate will become a one-credit course.

Emmons did this largely because he feels it’s an essential skill for students aspiring to a career in law enforcement. Emmons teaches Ryukyu Kempo Karate, a law enforcement style which is a blend of karate and defensive tactics.

While earning a black belt in karate takes about six to eight years of study, Emmons said that through the campus Karate Club, students will have an opportunity to earn a brown belt by the time they graduate so they are prepared in self-defense tactics beyond what they can learn in a 15-week police academy.

During a recent Karate Club session on the second floor of the Savannah Center, Emmons instructed four women in how to defend themselves on the ground from an attacker standing over them. While the women all spoke of various career aspirations in the criminal justice field, they all agree that what they are learning relates to their chosen careers.

Angelica Bradford, 20, of Portage, is looking toward a career in forensics.

“I’ve always wanted to take a self-defense class but I was always a full-time student, so I never had the time,” Bradford said. “Since the university now has a Karate Club, I can go to school, do my karate and then go to class immediately. It is the best of both worlds.”

Michaela Bauman, 21, of Hobart, is commissioning as an officer with the Army National Guard and then plans on going into law enforcement.

“Not only does it prepare me for my future but it is something on campus where I can meet friends and get involved on campus,” Bauman said. “And, it helps build our confidence.”

Another contribution Emmons has brought to the SPEA program is a course in “Terrorism and Human Trafficking,” again, drawing from his own experience plus some research. He felt it is a topic that is timely and essential for today’s criminal justice majors.

“We didn’t have a criminal justice class that dealt with terrorism,” Emmons said, “and I felt we really needed to because no matter where you go, if you have criminal justice majors coming out of college and joining police departments, they should know about terrorism, what leads to terrorist organizations, how they operate, what they depend on, etcetera.”

Proud to now be in a position where he can explore his philanthropic side, Emmons feels a sense of pride about the impact his career experience is now having on the very institution that gave him his start.

“I never would have been successful in my career without the experience, degrees and connections I obtained at IU Northwest and I wanted to contribute to the program,” Emmons said. “I couldn’t have gotten where I did without starting right here.”

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