Taylor Winder ’18, a Criminal Justice student from Wheeler, Ore. chose WOU after attending Criminal Justice Day during her junior year of high school. “I really liked the layout of the campus, the smaller class sizes, and knowing that I would be able to contact my professors easier than I would if I attended a larger university,” Winder said. With WOU’s CJ program and the campus only two hours away from her family on the northern Oregon coast, it was a perfect fit. “I had friends from high school who went/were going here and they all had positive experiences.”
We did a Q&A with Winder to learn more about her experience at WOU and in the CJ program.
Why did you choose the Criminal Justice program?
Since high school especially, I have been interested in Criminal Justice as a major. I initially got interested when I was younger and my aunt was (and still is) a police officer in Bend, Ore. When deciding a major it came down to criminal justice or exercise science. The first term of my freshmen year at WOU I took a Criminal Justice course and liked it so I decided to stick with it and I am glad I did!
What’s your area of focus within CJ?
Currently, my minor focus is in Forensic Anthropology. As far as focus areas for future employment, I am interested in juvenile probation or possibly pursuing research and higher education; however, I am open to other things that may come my way.
What advice do you have for anyone considering this program?
Utilizing the professor’s office hours or contacting my professors by email has definitely helped me over the past few years. In my experience, as long as you show that you are willing to put in the effort, all of the Criminal Justice professors will be more than willing to help you. Also, staying on top of things such as readings, homework and going to class are very important.
Some words of advice for the college experience as a whole are to get an adequate amount of sleep, do not wait to cram homework and studying until the last minute, utilize resources on campus such as the tutoring center, and really focus on listening to professors during lectures and less on mindlessly taking notes off the PowerPoint. Taking notes is still important, but if you listen to the way professors emphasize a certain point, you will have a better idea of what is really important to know.
What has been your favorite class so far?
My favorite Criminal Justice/Forensic Anthropology course was Forensic Archaeology and Taphonomy. I enjoyed this class because we got to go outside during the spring term and practice things we were learning about. For example, the professor Misty Weitzel set up an activity in which we got to practice a strip pattern search and locate items of “evidence” on the ground. We also had the opportunity to participate in the “Pig Dig” in which we were able to practice the archaeological excavation and preservation methods that we had learned. Not only were these types of activities fun, but they directly contributed to my learning even more than a book could.
Who has been your favorite professor/instructor so far?
My favorite professor has been Misty Weitzel who teaches the Forensic Anthropology courses here at WOU. She was always available during her office hours whenever I needed help in a class or when I just wanted to talk. She made learning interesting and/or fun in each of her courses I have taken over the years. Most her classes had some hands-on aspect to it which helped me learn.
Omar Melchor-Ayala and Vivian Djokotoe have also been great professors that I have had over the last four years here. Like Misty, both structure their classes very well, are always available during their office hours and care about the well-being and success of their students. I am not sure if he still does it, but Omar would bring his coffee pot to his Ethics in Criminal Justice class which made going to class easier and more enjoyable.
With the CJ program offering in-person and online classes, how have you taken most of your classes?
I have taken most of my classes in-person, however, I have taken a sizeable amount of classes online or that were hybrid as well. Generally, the classes I have taken in person have been more beneficial because of the interaction with others and actually hearing their ideas and what they have to say. When the design of online classes are interactive (such as through the use of discussion boards, PowerPoints, videos, voice overs or recorded lectures, etc.) then they can be just as good as classes that you take in-person. One benefit to taking classes online is that you can fit it into your schedule whenever it works best, however, you have to have self-motivation to stay on top of the work and more of the learning is on your own.
Please tell us about your experience in the Forensic Anthropology lab.
Last year I had the opportunity to work with a graduate student in the Forensic Anthropology lab. This helped me get some hands-on experience and assisted in my learning in my future osteology and reading in Forensic Anthropology courses. While working in the lab we inventoried all of the remains that were donated to WOU. After inventory, we carefully handled and labeled each bone in a way that was not obstructive to the bone. We then took non-metric and metric measurements of specific bones in order to construct a biological profile for each individual. The biological profile included estimations of sex, ancestry, stature, and age. Lastly, we recorded any taphonomic agents that have altered the bone and any signs of broken or fractured bones. Both working on this project hands-on as well as with the graduate student taught me a lot about the subject.
What makes WOU fun?
One thing that that has made WOU fun has been the extra experiences outside of the classroom that have expanded my learning such as volunteering in the forensic anthropology lab. My experiences while volunteering at Abby’s House have helped me to form new close friendships, as well as to learn about the various resources both on and off-campus to assist those in need. I have also participated in intramural sports every year which has allowed me to continue to compete and form long lasting friendships. My daily routine of going to the gym has been a great way to relieve stress and socialize with others.