Criminal Justice Instructor Steve VanDerAa says there are many misconceptions about police. “It’s interesting the number of perceptions that some of the students have as far as law enforcement, how it works and how things go, why don’t police do this or that, how does this happen how do laws apply to me, how they should respond to police officers,” he says. “I mean, in our society today, the police are making national news, it seems like, almost daily. And young people have a lot of questions about why this happens, and sad to say, a lot of people have a negative feeling towards police, often because of misguided information.”
VanDerAa is a former Indiana State Trooper and has also served Pulaski County in various law enforcement capacities. For about 19 years, he’s been teaching at Ancilla College, currently as a full-time instructor.
Ancilla offers an associate degree as well as a certificate in Criminal Justice. Courses include topics such as Corrections, Criminal Law & Procedure, Criminology, and Juvenile Delinquency.
VanDerAa says the program prepares students not only to become police officers but also for a variety of other job opportunities. “Normally I start the class out and I give them a sheet with about 50 to 100 careers that this can lead into, anything from teaching to being a police officer, a jailer, going into all the federal jobs – just a number of jobs – working in the prosecutor’s office, probation. There’s just numerous fields they can go into with a degree in this.”
VanDerAa also works to make sure students find the career path that’s right for them. “The way I run my classes is I try to get the students involved and make them interactive,” he says. “So I bring in guest speakers in numerous fields to share with them, maybe pique their interest in something. I also have them interview people in the field they want to go into. Say somebody wants to be a probation officer. You need to set up an appointment and go and go through an interview with them. You may say, ‘Hey, this is great. It’s what I want to do,’ or it might change your mind.”
He notes that several of the current officers in Marshall and Starke counties have gone through Ancilla’s Criminal Justice program.
For more information, visit Ancilla College’s website.