What began in the 1970s as an academic path to a career in law enforcement has grown and changed at Ferris State University. Ferris’ School of Criminal Justice is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022.
Success stories from across that program’s history are many, including graduates of the Master of Science in Criminal Justice leading municipal public safety departments and in key roles with the Michigan State Police and various other agencies.
The following are examples of professional excellence and career fulfillment that began with studies in the Ferris Criminal Justice program.
A Class of 1986 Criminal Justice alumnus, Pete Auger is adjusting to a slower pace in his work life after 28 years in municipal administration. Recently, he retired as city manager in Novi, a suburb northwest of Detroit. Auger came from Pontiac Township, now the city of Auburn Hills, and was a football varsity letter winner while he completed his bachelor’s degree in three years.
“Our classrooms were intermingled across campus,” Auger said. “I got a well-rounded education at Ferris, earning a minor in Psychology and Sociology. We also completed our Law Enforcement Academy learning as part of the degree path, which was cutting edge in its structure at that time.”
Auger found that his professional interests extended beyond law enforcement responses and duties. So, he pursued and earned a Master of Public Administration and various certificates while accepting leadership roles in governmental positions, including in his hometown of Auburn Hills, before his most recent role leading Novi’s government.
“My Criminal Justice degree set me up well to deal with challenges and issues, understanding that being proactive and emphasizing planning can be a great benefit to achieving goals in our role as city leaders,” Auger said. “A holistic view is a good way to be ahead of obstacles and bringing benefit to the communities we serve.”
Auger said he has accepted a position with the University of Tennessee as a municipal management consultant. However, he still hopes eventually honor his daughters’ request that he focus more on free time and personal comforts.
David Nelson eyed opportunities in college football and Criminal Justice as he graduated from Muskegon Oakridge High School. He maximized both opportunities as he became a contributor to Bulldog playoff teams in the early 1990s. He graduated from the Criminal Justice program with a Bachelor of Science in 1995 and returned to his home region. Nelson has been a long-time North Muskegon Police Department member, following a part-time law enforcement role in nearby Whitehall.
“Coming to Ferris allowed me to contribute to programs focused on excellence in athletics and academics,” Nelson said. “I have had significant experience as a patrol officer, but since 2016 I have been a School Resource Officer in the North Muskegon district. This allows me to interact with students and families and coach football, which I enjoy.
Nelson added, “The North Muskegon Police Department is a smaller service area than the departments that are our neighbors. We have a force of eight officers, including our chief, and a patrol area just a few miles across. It is a very comfortable situation, and I have met many good people through my work.”
Jacie Brown, of Eastpointe, also came to Ferris focused on using her Criminal Justice studies to pursue a career in law enforcement.
“I was always interested in psychology, so when my Police Psychology professor Bunnita Ouwinga showed me how these professions work together, especially in response to the stresses that officers face, that really impacted my thinking,” Brown said. “There was one particular video that stirred our emotions and was thought-provoking as to how it could impact my educational and professional journey.”
Brown earned dual Bachelor of Science degrees from Ferris in Psychology and Criminal Justice (generalist). She continued her studies at Palo Alto University toward a Master of Science.
“I am currently doing an internship in New Jersey State Prison, in Trenton,” Brown said. “I am set to graduate with a doctorate from Palo Alto University in June 2023.”
Brown is awaiting final actions on her Clinical Psychology doctorate, having successfully defended her dissertation on law enforcement subculture and how it impacts suicidality.
“It is soon to be published online,” Brown said. “It has been an intense and interesting process to reach this point.”
She said her accomplishments are founded in the Criminal Justice studies she began at Ferris.
“I could not have asked for a better introduction,” Brown said. “My professors were so bright and informative, explaining the struggles inherent in serving as a law enforcement professional. My Psychology minor is the basis for what I have learned since that time and am now achieving, because of what I was shown at Ferris about the issues that arise for those in law enforcement and their encounters with the public. I feel well versed to address and support those I will interact with in my career, to help them through their issues.”