Michael Szwaja, Criminal Justice and Psychology, Class of 2021

Why did you pick your major? 

Since I was a little kid, I have always been inspired to be a doctor or a police officer for some reason. Watching TV series, such as  “Cops” or “House,” has grabbed my attention from my childhood into my adolescent years. I believe the constant action, the excitement, and the change of pace involved with being a part of law enforcement and the medical profession have always captured my attention.

In the summer leading up to my senior year of high school, I had to look at myself in the mirror and come to grips with reality. I came to terms that I must do something fruitful and useful with my life after high school. I knew that I would not be playing division one football nor going to the NFL, so I had to prepare for the next chapter of my life upon high school graduation and into college.

I talked to several law enforcement officers, spoke to my family, teachers and close friends, and started going on police ride alongs to see if law enforcement or the criminal justice field would be right for me. While I pondered this decision for many months, I tried to think about what profession would make me happy and make me productive for the rest of my life. I also took in to consideration my personal skill sets, so I came to the conclusion that criminal justice was the field best suited for me. After that, I felt confident to pursue this with formal education, particularly starting this journey here at Quinnipiac University.

 

Why do you like it?

I have always been fascinated with dealing with people on a personal level, being engaged and challenged with my environment, and being on my feet and staying active. I kept myself busy in school by excelling academically, devoting time to sports, and taking on various leadership roles in clubs.  I knew that majoring in criminal justice would involve dealing with people on an intimate level because law enforcement officers continuously deal with the public and offenders on a daily basis.  A probation officer is another profession that persistently deals with talking and working with past offenders in an attempt to prevent them from committing new crimes. That is only a few examples of something I definitely would see myself enjoying within my profession in the course of my lifetime.

My passion for the criminal justice system and dealing with individuals on an interpersonal level originated when I was a little kid and has unequivocally grown since then, particularly upon becoming a student at Quinnipiac. My devotion to helping others out and trying to make them the best they can be in their lives has led me to the decision to double major in criminal justice and psychology. Pursuing these majors can help me acquire vast knowledge about both behaviors and the mind of individuals and learn specifically about human development and cognitive processes. I can use this acquired knowledge and translate it to troubled individuals who have been negatively affected by the criminal justice system.

It is incredible and captivating to understand the human mind and help individuals with what issues they might have that prevents them from reaching their potential in their lives. I feel that criminal justice and psychology can intertwine with one another in doing so. There is always something new you will learn about people, and every individual in our society is different and unique in their own ways. This approach makes both my journey and studying so much more intriguing and pleasurable. Incorporating my skill sets, passion, and future goals in life, I am confident that my journey through Quinnipiac and into the real world will be something I always look forward to and remain dedicated.

 

Do you have a professional field in mind? 

A profession I have in mind is either pursuing the area of law enforcement, either at the state or municipal level, or seeking a job as a correctional psychologist. I will be able to use my criminal justice and psychology background in my day-to-day work affairs, and become more successful and efficient in my job. I truly enjoy communicating with people every day, being a leader in my community, and creating strong relationships with individuals I meet. I am always inspired to make people happy and help them to become a better and more productive member of society.

 

What internships/research/experiential learning have you engaged in to help clarify areas of interest or prepare for life after QU?

Going into my first semester of Quinnipiac, I talked to numerous professors and other highly distinguished and respected individuals in the criminal justice field. Specifically, I spoke to Professor Stephen McGuinn Ph.D. regarding what is needed for me to prepare myself to become the best student in the criminal justice field, as well as what professions are out there and what skill sets are needed to become successful.

Also, talking to other students and alumni who have explicitly majored in criminal justice or have taken criminal justice classes has been very beneficial in understanding what to expect during my time at Quinnipiac and in the future. These conversations have provided me with various networking opportunities with other employers, experienced perspectives on the best professors and classes to take at Quinnipiac, and ways to enhance my resume throughout my college experience. Also by doing this, I was introduced to the idea of expanding my academics by double majoring into psychology, with my criminal justice degree. In effect, it has been very beneficial in increasing my knowledge of the criminal justice system, improving my craft, and providing me with many more opportunities of what professions are out there that would best suit my skills and what I desire.

Furthermore, classes I have taken such as “Intro to Criminal Justice” and “Intro to Legal Studies,” obligated me to go on police ride alongs and to sit in on court cases. This further sparked my interest in the day-to-day activities of being a law enforcement officer, lawyer, judge, etc. I saw firsthand what is needed to be successful in these professions, and I am more prepared on what to expect when I pursue a job related to criminal justice. Furthermore, taking classes, such as “Intro to Psychology” and “Abnormal Psychology,” has also helped me  prepare for what psychology consists of, and how it be applied to a profession in criminal justice after college

Lastly, I have been very active going to career fairs, joining school clubs (Criminal Justice Club and Society, Life, and Justice Club,) Greek life (Zeta Beta Tau,) and conducting my own research on professions in the criminal justice and psychology fields. I have thoroughly investigated through online research and in-person conversations of a variety of related fields. I have obtained an abundant amount of information about individual’s perspectives of their professions; such as pros and cons, and necessary skills sets needed for their job. During that time, I have become certain and comfortable about my decision to major in criminal justice and psychology.

 

What advice would you give to a student considering your major at QU?

The best advice I can provide for a student considering criminal justice or a criminal justice/psychology double major geared towards the criminal justice field is to be open-minded, make sure you are passionate about criminal justice and psychology or concepts related to it, and focus on working on your craft every single day in college.

When I entered Quinnipiac, I was only focused on majoring in criminal justice, and becoming a police officer after college. However, I developed to be more open-minded when I began to explore different professions, classes, and approaches to criminal justice. Utilizing resources is crucial to see what career suits you in the future. Utilizing professors, job fairs, major sponsored events and talking to other students in your major are hugely advantageous to understanding more about what the major is comprised of. That’s what I did coming to college, and it has been so beneficial for me to make sure that studying criminal justice and psychology was right for me.

I personally believe that being passionate about criminal justice and/or psychology is something you must have when interacting with these fields. Criminal justice and psychology are demanding majors because it requires a lot of critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal communication with offenders or troubled individuals. Jobs like police officers, lawyers, probation officers, federal agents, and others, all require these skill sets. By taking a few criminal justice or psychology classes and talking to classmates, professors, and individuals studying these majors, you can understand more about the majors and see if you are willing to take on its challenge. If you are genuinely passionate about these majors, the next four years of school will be gratifying for you. The professors and resources the university offers will guide you to success and being the best you can be in the field.

I firmly believe college is an excellent opportunity for a student to develop into the best version of themselves in the aspects of academics, social affairs, and exploring personal talents. Besides being a great student in the classroom, which every person should strive for, joining organizations and clubs is an excellent resource because you can take on leadership positions and learn from others on how to become a more well-rounded student, which I have done. If you can excel in and outside the classroom through your time at Quinnipiac, your experiences will better prepare you to become an excellent student, leader, employee, and a member of society.

By: Michael Szwaja

By Michael Szwaja
Michael Szwaja Michael Szwaja, Criminal Justice and Psychology, Class of 2021