Current student at Humber College Sophia Pacini always knew she wanted to work in a field where she would be helping others. This desire to make a difference on an individual and community level led her to criminal justice.
She applied to the Police Foundations diploma program with her sights set on the goal of becoming a police officer. During the two-year course, Pacini learned about the Canadian criminal justice system, ethics and policing protocols, and she also discovered her passion for qualitative research.
After realizing her change of heart, she transferred into Humber’s Criminal Justice degree program within the Faculty of Social & Community Services.
The college offers a block transfer for Police Foundations students to use a completed Police Foundations diploma to enter year three of the four-year Bachelor of Social Science degree program. This meant that she would only need to complete another two years plus one field experience at Humber before completing a degree.
“Humber really goes above and beyond for their students,” says Pacini, who is now one semester away from graduation. “The fact that they offer a degree transfer is extremely valuable and not many institutions provide students with this option.”
While she deeply enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the Police Foundations program, which includes conflict resolution simulations in Humber’s Sim Lab, she was eager to improve communities through research. In the Criminal Justice degree program, Pacini was able to work on a thesis and complete a field experience term with a community partner.
As a research assistant, she worked in partnership with the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area and the City of Toronto. Along with other researchers, she conducted interviews to investigate community members’ concerns about their businesses and personal safety.
“It was such a rewarding experience and it really prepared me for the thesis that I am working on right now. I’m looking at the communication and trust levels between neighbourhood community officers and agencies and members of the community,” says Pacini.
The majority of Humber’s programs include mandatory field experience opportunities, providing students with industry connections and practical experience. It also allows students to hone their skills, add to their resume and discover what areas pique their interest.
“Qualitative research is the type of research I gravitate to the most,” she says. “Similar to the reason why I’m in the field of social sciences, I love being able to sit down and have a conversation with somebody. When conducting a survey or questionnaire, you’re unable to get the subject’s entire story, which is important to any research. We want to know why they’ve gotten to that point and look at the intersections of the factors that led them there.”
The program curriculum is carefully developed to ensure that graduates are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in ever-changing justice-related careers. Great emphasis is placed upon understanding the perspectives of marginalized groups and members of the community who come into contact with the criminal justice system.
“In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a positive shift in both the academic and professional side of criminal justice,” she says. “We’re now understanding the root causes as to why people are committing crimes as opposed to just stating that they are criminals. Instead of learning solely what to do when a crime occurs, the courses look at the basics, deconstruct the system and challenge the field of criminal justice.”
Criminal Justice graduates can gain meaningful employment in many positions, including as a border services officer, police officer, community crime prevention worker, probation officer, and open custody youth worker, to name a few.
For Pacini, she hopes that her experience at Humber goes full circle. She is currently in the process of applying for her master’s degree at two universities. But after graduation, she would love to become a professor at Humber, sharing her knowledge with others and supporting students throughout their academic journey.
“My advice for future students would be to apply with an open mind,” says Pacini. “At first, I thought I wanted to be a police officer but now I know that I’m more geared toward research and teaching. Don’t be discouraged if you feel something isn’t for you anymore because you’ll find an aspect of the field that you’ll gravitate towards. When that time comes, pursue it with an open mind.”
For more information about Humber’s approach to criminal justice and community services, as well as career opportunities in these fields, visit communityservices.humber.ca.
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