Discover Your Island

Island University’s Department of Social Sciences Prepares Students to Make a Local Impact

July 19, 2017

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Each year the Department of Social Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi prepares their students to make an impact in the local community. Through the criminal justice internship program opened to juniors and seniors, more than 40 students in the program work with different law enforcement agencies around the Coastal Bend.

“It’s good for our students to experience ‘a day in the life’ of a job they are interested in and a semester internship can accomplish that,” said Dr. Sarah Scott, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Public Administration at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “By the time they are graduating seniors, their expectations for jobs are more realistic.”

Scott, who joined the Island University in fall 2013, took over as Criminal Justice Internship Coordinator fall 2015. Knowing the importance of her new role, one of the ways she cultivates new relationships for internship sites is through the Social Sciences Advisory Council. The Advisory Council is a think-tank group Scott started in 2015 that helps inform the decisions made by the Department of Social Sciences, which includes the Criminal Justice, Political Science and Public Administration programs. The group, made up of 15-20 community representatives, actively seeks out alumni relationships and other community partners in the industry to keep the programs informed of changes in legislation, internship possibilities and how Island University alumni are performing in the workforce. 

“The Island University has a big emphasis on community engagement, so we incorporate that into the curriculum,” Scott said. “We are engaging our alumni.”
Nearly one-third of the members of the Advisory Council are alumni. This includes newly-elected District Attorney Mark Gonzalez, who earned a Criminal Justice degree from the Island University in 2002.

“I love the Island University,” Gonzalez said. “By fostering a relationship with Islanders, now I have smart, goal-oriented people in my office. It’s a mutual benefit.”

Gonzalez hosts multiple Island University interns in his office each semester.

By using the program to foster beneficial relationships, the Island University hopes to keep its talented alumni in the Coastal Bend.

“Local students know the community in ways others wouldn’t,” said Scott. “An internship that leads to a job can be the thing that seals the deal for them.”

One of these students is Sharra Rodriguez, who graduated from A&M-Corpus Christ in 2016 with bachelor’s degrees in both Criminal Justice and Psychology. She secured a full-time job with the Children’s Advocacy Center of the Coastal Bend just two and a half weeks into her internship. Rodriguez now acts as their Bilingual Family Advocate.

“The sole reason I recommend every person get an internship is that every agency is going to look at experience,” Rodriguez said.

Scott continues to build on the program that was originally started by Regents Professor Dorothy McClellan and Associate Professor Melissa Jarrell. With more than 10 percent of their students getting real-world experience, the Department of Social Sciences gives students realistic career expectations and is doing its part to keep Island University graduates in the Corpus Christi community.

Students in the program can work at one of 24 different sites. Internship sites include the Children’s Advocacy Center, Corpus Christi Police Department Family Violence Unit, the District Attorney’s Office, the Juvenile Detention Center, U.S. Marshal’s Service, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Texas Game Warden’s Office. Scott is working to add more sites to the program, including more federal agencies.

To learn more about the Department of Social Sciences and the Criminal Justice Program, visit cla.tamucc.edu/socialsciences.