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Growing up, if you told rising junior Kristen Gressley she was going to major in criminal justice (CJ), she would have thought you were crazy. Now, Kristen says she’s found her perfect fit in OC’s criminal justice program and can’t wait to begin her career helping young men and women find their fit in the world.

Kristen Gressley: Future Juvenile Probation Officer

Kristen’s ultimate goal is to become a juvenile probation officer, and she’s well on her way to reaching it. In addition to her CJ major, Kristen has a dual concentration in law enforcement and corrections and a minor in psychology, ensuring she is well prepared for all aspects of her future career. If it wasn’t for OC, Kristen says she doesn’t think she would have big goals, let alone the tools and resources to reach them.

“I know I would have gotten lost at a big school,” Kristen said. “At Olivet College, I just feel at home with my professors. I have my regular parents and school parents, with Professor Regina Armstrong as my mom and Professor Phil Reed and Professor Mike Sherzer as my dads. I know I can always turn to them for support and they also make sure I’m on track doing what needs to be done.”

Unrivaled Support

It’s this support that Kristen says makes Olivet College special. Shortly before Move-In Day, Kristen’s father was diagnosed with a serious illness, leading her to question how she could support her family and have a successful college experience. Despite her worries, Kristen jumped into her first semester and was quickly reassured by the feeling she got at Olivet – it was home, and her professors, friends, roommate and others made sure she never had to face a challenge alone.

In fact, Kristen credits her support system in helping her realize criminal justice was her true calling. She originally declared a biology major before realizing it just wasn’t the right fit, feeling unsure what her next step would be.

“I used to babysit for a prosecuting attorney near my hometown and remember always loving the chance to go in the court house,” Kristen explained. “I was inspired to look into criminal justice and started by taking CJ 111: Corrections, Punishment and Crime. I absolutely loved it and felt like the subject came naturally to me. It also opened my eyes that right and wrong is not always clear, but rather there is a large gray area in between and I want to play a part interpreting that. From that first class, all my professors have worked with me to lay out my four-year plan and even future career path.”

Skills – Action

This fall Kristen’s passion and hard work will pay off when she begins an internship at the Calhoun County Youth Home. She’s especially excited to be putting the skills she’s developed in the classroom into action, and simply serve as a positive influence in boys’ and girls’ lives.

“It can be challenging to work with juveniles,” Kristen admitted, “But it’s all worth it when you connect with that one boy or girl who sits down with you, admits that they regret their actions and asks for your help in bettering themselves. I often share with the kids I work with that getting off on the wrong foot doesn’t mean you can’t get back on the right one, and one mistake doesn’t define you forever. This seems to resonate with them, and even if I only make a small impact, I am thankful for that. I’ve realized this is where I’m meant to be and Olivet College has helped me get here. The OC criminal justice program has changed my life for the better.”

Comet Family

Not only are the criminal justice faculty members experienced teachers, but they each also have years of experience working in the criminal justice field as detectives, lieutenants, commanders, wardens and in other roles. In addition, the faculty to student ratio – 1 to 16 – allows students to directly connect with professors and learn from their firsthand experiences. Kristen says it’s that experience, paired with the fact that she can always count on Professor Armstrong for a hug when she’s having a bad day, that makes being an Olivet College criminal justice major so unique.

During the remainder of her college journey, Kristen is excited to get hands-on in the field and continue diving into her studies. She especially looks forward to the annual Criminal Justice Honor Society fundraiser, often a Relay for Life event. While she never wants to leave her Olivet College family, Kristen is most excited to begin her future career and help as many girls and boys as possible create successful futures.

Learn more about OC’s criminal justice program by visiting campus and connecting with faculty members, like Professor Armstrong, Professor Reed and Professor Sherzer. Contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu for questions.

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