Student Spotlights

The AOJ graduate program is comprised of a diverse group of adult students. Our program is comprised of students who are continuing their education directly from their undergraduate programs as well as students who are professionals working in the field working toward their graduate degree. We have students who earned undergraduate degrees in criminal justice and others who have undergraduate degrees in related fields (e.g., social work, intelligence studies, psychology, sociology). Our students bring with them diverse experiences from all aspects of the criminal justice system (e.g., policing, courts, corrections, drug/alcohol counselors, juvenile treatment specialists, victim advocates). Some of our students are from the Erie area while other students moved to Erie to pursue their degree.

Below are some student highlights and their thoughts on the AOJ program and Mercyhurst University:

Chris CovertChristopher C. Covert

Hometown: Harmony, Pennsylvania
Undergraduate Degree: Criminal Justice, B.A., Corrections concentration
AOJ Program: 2nd year

Biography: I graduated in 2011 from Mercyhurst University with my undergrad degree. I am also currently in my fifth year as the head equipment manager for the ACHA Division 1 Hockey team at Mercyhurst, as well as playing for the Erie Rugby Football Club. Also, I am an Assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 360 in Harmony, PA and also serve as an Associate Lodge Advisor for Kuskitannee Lodge 168 of the Order of The Arrow, Scouting’s national honor society. Within the Order, I have received the Founder’s Award and the Vigil Honor. Lastly, I am also a member of the national history society, Phi Alpha Theta.

What advice would you give to prospective students?
The greatest advice I would have for a prospective student is to take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way during your academic career.

Why did you choose to attend Mercyhurst’s AOJ master’s degree program?
I choose Mercyhurst’s AOJ program for graduate school because of the small class sizes, the quality of the faculty, as well as the experiences I had at Mercyhurst during my undergraduate coursework.

What is/was the highlight of your Mercyhurst University experience?
The highlight of my Mercyhurst experience was being able to help represent the ‘Hurst at the ACHA Division 1 National Tournament last year in Cleveland, Ohio.


Alex ManeaAlex Manea

Hometown: Vaslui, Romania
Undergraduate Degree: Criminal Justice, B.A.
AOJ Program: 1st year

Biography: I graduated from high school in Romania, Europe in 2005. I just finished my undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice at Mercyhurst University while playing soccer for the school. I am excited to see what opportunities a master degree in administration of justice will bring me.

What advice would you give to prospective students?
Mercyhurst University has a very good Criminal Justice program that I would recommend to anyone interested in this field.

Why did you choose to attend Mercyhurst’s AOJ master’s degree program?
I was pleased with the program while I was working on my undergraduate degree, so I decided to continue here.

What is/was the highlight of your Mercyhurst University experience?
I haven’t had a major highlight yet, but I’ve met people that became really important to me here at Mercyhurst University and I am grateful for that.


Michael OutlawMichael Outlaw

Hometown: Erie, PA
Undergraduate Degree: Criminal Justice, B.A.
AOJ Program: 1st year

Biography: I graduated from East High School, Erie PA, in 1994. I attended Edinboro University of PA where I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice. During my tenure at Edinboro University I interned at the Erie City Mission which subsequently lead to me being hired as a Vocational Rehab Coordinator, where I assist men in finding jobs/careers and permanent housing.

What advice would you give to prospective students?
To learn, and enjoy the challenges, experiences that grad school offers. Be willing to be disciplined and dedicate the necessary time to your projects and assignments.

Why did you choose to attend Mercyhurst’s AOJ master’s degree program?
I choose Meryhurst’s AOJ because of the location and small class setting. The professors are more accessible and the interaction enhances the learning experience.

What is/was the highlight of your Mercyhurst University experience?
The highlight of my Mercyhurst learning experience would have to be the professors’ willingness to help me succeed and receiving a high quality education.


Jonathan SearsJonathan Sears

Hometown: Buffalo, New York
Undergraduate Degree: Criminal Justice, B.A., Law Enforcement Concentration
AOJ Program: 2nd year

Biography: I transferred to Mercyhurst in 2009, as a recruit for the Mercyhurst ACHA Division I hockey team, and to finish coursework for my B.A. in Criminal Justice. I graduated Magna cum Laude in 2011, and continued to pursue my M.S. in Administration of Justice directly after completing my undergraduate degree. I was a 2-year captain of the ACHA hockey team, a 3-time ACHA Academic All-American, 3-time ECHL Academic All-League selection, and a member of both Alpha Phi Sigma, The National Criminal Justice Honor Society and Sigma Alpha Pi, The National Society of Leadership and Success. While attending Mercyhurst, I have been able to participate in numerous ride-alongs with police departments in multiple cities, as well as complete an internship as a crime and intelligence analyst. I am a recipient of the Mercyhurst University James V. Kinnane Administration of Justice Fellowship for the 2012-2013 academic year.

What advice would you give to prospective students?
The AOJ program at Mercyhurst is respected and the faculty truly cares about their students. Mercyhurst and the city of Erie are great places to pursue an education. The faculty in the Criminal Justice/Administration of Justice Departments at Mercyhurst has been invaluable in helping me achieve my educational goals.

Why did you choose to attend Mercyhurst’s AOJ master’s degree program?
I chose to attend Mercyhurst’s AOJ master’s degree program first, because of the experience I had as an undergraduate. I knew that smaller class sizes, where faculty know you by name and are always willing to help you succeed, would only continue to help me further my education.

What is/was the highlight of your Mercyhurst University experience?
The highlight of my Mercyhurst University experience thus far was winning a conference championship in my final season of hockey, earning a trip to the ACHA National Tournament in Cleveland, Ohio. Other highlight experiences include volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and Gliding Stars of Erie, as well as completing field research in Nassau and San Salvador, Bahamas with the Mercyhurst Department of Biology.


Joe SpustaJoseph J. Spusta

Hometown: Erie, PA
Undergraduate Degree: Criminal Justice, B.A.
AOJ Program: 2nd year (graduating in February 2013)

Biography: I began my career in Law Enforcement by working for 11 years at the Mercyhurst College Safety and Security Department where I held the position of Sergeant. I left Mercyhurst in 1997 to accept a position as a County Detective with the District Attorney of Erie County, and have spent the last 15+ years working in this capacity. I am currently a Detective Sergeant and serve as the primary investigator on crimes dealing with violence against women, elder abuse; physical and sexual abuse of children and child homicides. I am presently stationed at the Erie County Children’s Advocacy Center where I carry a full caseload of investigations, as well as serving as a forensic interview specialist.

What advice would you give to prospective students?
I would urge students to think of education as a life-long pursuit. You are never too old, nor do you ever know everything or have all the answers. You should constantly challenge yourself professionally and academically. Take advantage of every learning and training opportunity that comes your way, you never know how it may benefit you in the future.

Why did you choose to attend Mercyhurst’s AOJ master’s degree program?
Having been familiar with Mercyhurst since 1985, I never considered attending any other program. The outstanding reputation of the AOJ faculty, as well as the positive comments from friends and co-workers who have completed the program made this an easy decision.

What is/was the highlight of your Mercyhurst University experience?
Mercyhurst has been responsible for so many close relationships in my life that I cannot imagine what my life would have been like had I not attended. My closest friends are all Mercyhurst alumni, including my best friend, my wife Caryl, who I met at Mercyhurst.

Brandon StewartBrandon Stewart

Hometown: Erie, PA
Undergraduate Degree: Social Science Interdisciplinary with a concentration in Legal Studies and a minor in African American Studies.
AOJ Program: 2nd year

Biography: I graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo) in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Social Science Interdisciplinary with a concentration in Legal Studies and a minor in African American Studies. I have a desire to work in administration within the criminal justice which influenced my decision to pursue a master’s degree at Mercyhurst University. To gain experience in this field I have worked at Harborcreek Youth Services for over two years as a Child Care Counselor helping and guiding male youth towards a more positive lifestyle. When I’m not working or in class I like working out, watching movies, engaging in social activities with friends and spending time with my family.

What advice would you give to prospective students?
Never hold back from voicing your thoughts or opinions in class. The students and professors are more open and receptive to your opinions than you may think. The faculty is always there to help students who are seeking class-related assistance or career-planning guidance.

Why did you choose to attend Mercyhurst’s AOJ master’s degree program?
I chose the AOJ program because of the program’s prestigious reputation and distinguished faculty. I am able to participate and truly engage with peers as the class sizes are kept small. This prohibits my classmates and I from slipping through the cracks and missing out on learning opportunities. The AOJ program is adequately challenging for me as it ignites intellectual thinking and discussion.

What is/was the highlight of your Mercyhurst University experience?
The highlight of the AOJ program is the literary assignments. The novels I’ve had to read were not ones I would have chosen for myself however I have thoroughly enjoyed reading them all. The majority of them describe biographical, factual, or relatable information which has held my interest throughout each novel. I’m able to apply the knowledge to my own personal life as well as my professional experiences which has been beneficial.

Events

Theatre: The Laramie Project

Dates: Apr 24 - Apr 27, 2014

Location: Taylor Little Theatre

MET HD Live: Così Fan Tutte

Dates: Apr 26

Location: Mary D'Angelo Performing Arts Center

An Afternoon of Dance

Dates: Apr 27

Location: Ridge Library Great Room, North East

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