Caitlyn | Class of 2011
Hometown: Madelia, Minnesota
Major: Criminal Justice
Involvements at UNW: Criminal Justice Club, Psy Chi Honor Society
Why did you choose Northwestern, and why did you choose your particular major?
I guess you could say I “stumbled upon” both Northwestern and the Criminal Justice field, as I really didn’t plan for either of the decisions. Someone nonchalantly mentioned University of Northwestern, so I applied, not knowing much about where I was applying, nor realizing what I was getting myself into! I was accepted, so I decided to visit. From the moment I stepped on campus (before talking to anyone), I was overwhelmed with a feeling of being “home” that I have yet to feel anywhere else. I haven’t wanted to leave since! God has since strongly aligned my footsteps directly toward the field of criminal justice (a field I definitely never considered on my own). God has filled me with a deep passion for serving and empowering those who are oppressed, and He has led me straight to a field that is filled with lost and hurting people. I don’t feel like I had much part in the decision, apart from obedience—so all the glory goes to God, who clearly knows me far better than I know myself!
When/how did you decide what major you wanted to study?
When I came to Northwestern I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to major in, but I had most of my generals completed already and needed to decide fast! I was considering ministry, so I took “Intro to Ministry” with Professor Thoman and absolutely loved every minute of it! I settled on Ministry as my major, yet still felt like something wasn’t quite right. As I explained this to my new advisor, Professor Young, he asked me if I had ever considered criminal justice (to which I replied, “no way!”). He shared with me that there was much more to the field than Law Enforcement and swiftly led me down the stairs to talk to yet another advisor. By some miracle only God Himself could have planned, Ghlee Hanson happened to be in her office and had a few minutes to spare! As she shared her heart for working with the justice system, I was sold, completely. I knew then that criminal justice was exactly the major I was supposed to be in, and God has confirmed this over and over again since that day.
Why is Northwestern a good place to study psychology/criminal justice?
Why isn’t Northwestern a good place to study psychology and criminal justice!? Since arriving at Northwestern, my worldview has been completely turned upside down, and the criminal justice program has challenged me in ways I never knew were possible. Both my criminal justice classes and my Bible classes have challenged me to think outside of my comfort zone, examine my beliefs, and truly claim my identity in the Lord, which is truly what sets Northwestern apart from nearly all other schools. The opportunity I have been given to deeply challenge and examine by faith while here at Northwestern has resulted in a tremendous growth both in my confidence as a child of God and in my knowledge of the system I will be encountering. As if this is not enough reason to study at Northwestern, all of my criminal justice professors are either currently working in or have much experience in the field of criminal justice and therefore are able to provide wisdom that can only be taught from firsthand experience. The program has truly equipped me to become an individual who is set apart in the criminal justice system, thorough academic excellence, character, and faith.
Most influential class so far?
"Deviance" with Thomas Olson. This class challenged me and forced me to get beyond my comfort zone, which is something I really needed to learn. Turns out, as a daughter of the King, I am called to be deviant! The world we live in is lost and, as I believe Jesus quite clearly demonstrated, we are called to be set apart and to deviate from the norms of this world. I am so extremely thankful that I was given the opportunity to take this class and truly challenge what I have always thought to be true and take hold of my faith in a way I wish each and every student at Northwestern could experience.
Most influential psychology/criminal justice professor?
Ghlee Hanson, Lyle Larson, and Thom Olson. I can't choose just one! Each has inspired me in his or her own way. Ghlee's passion for social work, and her obedience to leave the system she so clearly loves to work within in order to teach her students what it takes to be effective within the system, has inspired me from the day I first stumbled into her office. I am so thankful for her desire to teach her students what they need to know to be set apart within the system, not waste time with unnecessary information. Lyle's humor and laid back way of teaching has inspired a realization that although the the criminal justice system is filled with pain and chaos, those who follow Christ can have a peace that sets them apart from all others. I am truly thankful for the patience and faith he expresses through is clear deep desire to see true freedom in the lives of the prisoners that he counsels. Thom's intensity and desire to pack as much wisdom as possible into his students has taught me more in six credits than in all other classes I have taken in my life, combined (no joke!). I am extremely thankful for his desire to teach character above and beyond what he is required to.
How have you changed as a student at UNW?
I am a completely different person from who I was when I first arrived at Northwestern. I will be graduating as a much more confident, strong woman of faith. The opportunity to spend this season of my life in a God-honoring atmosphere such as Northwestern has blessed me tremendously.
What do you value most about UNW?
The community and encouragement I have found at Northwestern.
What would you like to do when you graduate from Northwestern?
I already use the education I have received thus far from Northwestern in my everyday life. Although I am not entirely sure what I would like to do after I graduate, I would like to work with troubled youth in crisis, children and families finding themselves faced with the criminal justice system for various reasons, or any job that challenges me to put myself in the shoes of another in order to truly empower a positive change in their lives!
What is something that surprised you about Northwestern?
The fact that, at least within the Criminal Justice program, Christianity at Northwestern most certainly is not equal to ignorance about the world in which we live. The Criminal Justice program has really taught me that as Christians, we can see the world as it is and not be so quick to judge, but to really know what it means to show those we encounter the love of Christ.
What would you share with other prospective students considering your major at UNW?
The Criminal Justice field is very broad—don't be afraid of not finding an area that fits your strengths and passions. Come to Northwestern with an open mind and willingness to challenge beliefs you have held your entire life. God can and well use this school to truly transform you, if you take hold of the opportunity!