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How Mitchell College connects criminal justice students to the field

Career seminars and internships close the gap between theory and practice, better preparing students for criminal justice careers

Criminal justice internships

A recent Mitchell College graduate participates in an internship with a local police department.

Photo/Jenna Curren

Mitchell College is a small, liberal arts school in the heart of New England that focuses on a holistic learning experience for diverse learners. It is an applied-liberal arts school with seven abilities that students are assessed on in addition to the content-based learning that takes place within the classrooms. These abilities have been designated as transferable skills that students will need to master in order to be successful in their chosen fields.

At Mitchell College, the Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB) actively partners with members of the community at the local, state and federal level to integrate students into internships and prospective criminal justice careers. Partners include the New London Police Department, the Connecticut State Police, the Connecticut Department of Correction, East Lyme Police Department, Fellowship House Ministries, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, Connecticut Probation, New London Emergency Management, New London Youth Affairs, New London Superior Court and Root Center for Advanced Recovery.

The CJAB has over 60 members holding current positions in the criminal justice field, including police officers, probation officers, parole officers, attorneys, public defenders, police sergeants and lieutenants, correctional captains and lieutenants, correctional wardens, chiefs of police, correctional counselors, addiction services counselors, and case management workers.

Networking opportunities

In addition to staying in constant contact throughout the year, the CJAB meets once a year for a working luncheon complete with guest speakers on current events and topics from the field. The CJAB chair chooses 10 criminal justice students in their senior year to join the luncheon as an opportunity to network and share their knowledge and skills with the partners in an attempt to build their references or secure an interview for a job opening. It is an excellent space for the students to work on the transferable skills they have become proficient in over their last four years.

Sophomore career seminar

The CJAB and its partners also provide support to students in their sophomore and senior career seminar courses. In the sophomore career seminar, students are tasked with setting objectives and how they plan to meet those goals related to their top three internship site choices. In addition to the coursework, students can do a mock interview with a possible internship site a year prior to them actually applying for an internship.

Students receive timely, constructive feedback from the interviewers and complete reflection assignments where they self-assess their strengths and the things they need to work on to become better at interviews.


Students are required to complete at least one internship to fulfill the career readiness component of their academic experience. It is the students’ responsibility to find and secure their internship. This process begins shortly after the completion of their sophomore career seminar.

Once registered for the internship course, students contact the instructor for the course to discuss their internship interests. A list of possible internship sites is provided to the student as well as the contact information. Students then meet with the college’s Office of Integrative Career Development to refine their resume and cover letter as well as final interview preparation. The student then submits the internship application to their desired site and sets up an interview with the site supervisor.

Many of the internships that the CJAB partners with have multiple spots available so that more than one Mitchell College student can intern with their organization each semester. Once the student gets confirmation from the site supervisor that they have been selected for the internship, the student completes their internship proposal paperwork, which is signed and approved by the internship course instructor and the academic affairs office.

The internship course is comprised of 100 or 200 hours of field experience, depending on which class the student registered for. In addition to the field experience hours, students are required to meet bi-weekly with the course instructor, complete reflection journals and career-readiness assignments, submit a final paper, and do an oral presentation where the student shares not only their favorite components of their experience but chooses a theory to tie in from the classroom. For example, students who intern with police departments often discuss community policing and how the police department implemented that practice.

Senior career seminar

The senior career seminar features a guest speaker from the criminal justice field every week. Students are encouraged to ask questions to provide them with insight into the position, as well as the many paths that can be taken to secure a career in the criminal justice field. Additionally, the students work in groups and use their internship experiences to educate each other on how they reached their objectives by the end of the internship. This classroom exercise allows students to share first-hand experiences and receive peer feedback.

The CJAB at Mitchell College strengthens the ties of the college to its community, as new members are added on a yearly basis. It provides a space for students to build connections with entities in the field as early as their second year in college, closing the gap between theory and practice.

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Jenna Curren, Ed.D., is an assistant professor in criminal justice studies. As chair of a CJ advisory board, Jenna actively partners with members of the community to integrate current students into internships and prospective law enforcement careers. Prior to working in academics, Jenna held various custody and treatment positions and was a lieutenant for the Connecticut Department of Correction. Throughout her tenure, she supervised men, women, youth and mental health offenders. A C.E.R.T and honor guard member, as well as a training officer, Jenna has 10 years of experience in the criminal justice and human services fields.