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Jennifer Balboni - Criminal Justice Faculty
It is a word that Professor Jennifer Balboni constantly uses when describing her Criminal Justice classes at Curry College.
"I tell my students at the beginning of each semester, 'In my class, I need you to bring your 'A' game...everyday.' We really do take it to another level."
Balboni, who has been challenging herself and the criminal justice system for most of her adult life, expects nothing less from her students.
"I like to keep things constantly moving and changing in the classroom. I also like to push my students, in a non-confrontational way of course, and challenge them to think critically. CJ is a social science, so unless you figure out where people are starting from - background, biases and experiences - you're never going to be able to push people to think critically."
She encourages healthy debate and respectful disagreement in her class, preparing her students for real world situations. And often, Balboni gets to see the positive results before her eyes.
"It's always nice to see the reactions as students walk out of my classes. I can hear them talking all the way down the hall about what just transpired. That's when I know I've got their attention."
Whether it was working in group homes, running outreach tracking programs for the department of social services or working with youth services on behalf of both juvenile offenders and victims, the New Britain, Connecticut native spent much of her adult life using her voice to fight for those who had none.
And no matter how much she helped, she always felt the urge to do more. So early on in her career she realized not only did she want to carry out the law, but to actually have a say in making policy. So she continued on to graduate school.
During that time, she was a member of the team that would eventually author the report which became a part of the highly publicized Hate Crime Bill in the 1990s. The success of the report earned Balboni and her colleagues a trip to the East Room of the White House during a visit with President Clinton back in 2000. Recently, after several years in limbo, President Obama finally signed the bill into law.
She takes pride in the fact that her body of work has always been and continues to be relevant in the field of criminal justice. And the small class sizes at Curry enable her to relay that experience to her students.
"I don't think it would be very satisfying for me to teach in one of those large auditoriums you see at other schools, addressing 200 students at a time. That's why I love Curry. I love the fact that I get to know my students, their backgrounds and where they are coming from. It enables me to assess who is getting it and who needs a little extra help."
She also stresses the importance of internships to her students, and the role they play in preparing young adults for professional life after Curry.
"I am constantly on my students and advisees about securing internships. They are invaluable. Recently one of my students, who had done several internships while at Curry, ended up with 4 job offers right after graduation."
Balboni is heavily involved with the Curry Pre-Law Club and is also the co-advisor of the Curry chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma, the National Criminal Justice Honor Society. Through these outlets the department hosts round tables and networking events throughout the year, bringing professionals and alumni working in the field back to campus to share their experiences with current students.
"It energizes me," Balboni beams. "These programs help to build community within the criminal justice major here at Curry. The students who get involved in the extracurricular activities are high energy and want to affect things right away."
"Also, since many of the seniors share their stories (through the Pre-Law Club) of preparing for the LSATs and eventually law school, it's a good way for younger students to see the process through those experiences."
In 2011, Balboni published her first book, a dissertation on the infamous clergy sex abuse scandal, which includes interviews with the victims themselves.
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