Lauren Sykes Supports Criminal Justice Students Through Real World Exposure and Experiences — Faculty HighlightShare
By Dani Moritz-Long
A professor and program chair of criminal justice technology on the West Campus, Lauren Sykes believes in experiential learning. That’s why she draws on her 30-plus years of experience in criminal justice to provide her students ample opportunities to learn through hands-on experiences and exposure to people in the field.
For example, students in the Criminal Justice Club, which Lauren advises, along with select students from her classes, recently toured multiple area facilities, including the Orange County Jail, Orange County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) unit and the Central Florida Reception Center, which holds inmates from area jails sentenced to prison before they arrive at their final corrections destination.
“I want to expose them to corrections and other opportunities for them in criminal justice,” Lauren explained, noting students find the tour of Orange County’s real-life CSI unit to be of particular interest thanks to the popularization of the CSI television series.
Also a part of Lauren’s teaching and learning philosophy is introducing students to an impressive network of criminal justice professionals, ranging from cold-case homicide detectives to criminal justice recruiters. Next week, her class is even hosting Casey Anthony’s lead detective.
These introductions serve as exposure to the field, an opportunity for the students to ask questions and reflect, and a unique chance to leverage Lauren’s expansive network to connect with future colleagues.
Lauren also supports her students’ goals by developing additional programs designed to meet her students’ needs. For example, when she realized that many of her students wanted a career in law enforcement but might not be ready for the physical fitness requirements of the academy, she partnered with her college partner in the Physical Education department, Teaching Lab Supervisor Ron Owens to develop the Get Fit campus-wide initiative, which ultimately benefited the entire West Campus community.
She also partnered with West Campus faculty and staff to create another unique opportunity for criminal justice students to get involved — a Jail & Bail Fundraiser held in November 2018 to benefit the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida. Through the fundraiser, her students jailed campus personalities like Terry Allcorn, dean, business and hospitality, for “making too much cents” and Melonie Sexton, professor, psychology, for “playing mind games” and raised $1,634.58 and collected needed supplies to help Central Florida’s hungry and homeless.
Her inspiration for going the extra mile? “Passing the torch” to the next generation of criminal justice professionals and, as a Valencia alumna herself, supporting her alma mater.
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