I entered college not knowing what I wanted to be. I switched from major to major with no idea of where my career was headed. I was 18 and thought that by the time I was a sophomore maybe inspiration would hit and I would suddenly just know. That didn’t happen. The last quarter of my sophomore year I was desperate to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I struggled really hard with understanding that it was okay to feel lost or confused at such a young age.
Thankfully, that quarter I took a class that would literally define my life in terms of career choice. I found my passion in a course I took because the name of it sounded fun; the class was called Understanding the Criminal Mind. Being a fanatic of true crime documentaries, I signed up as fast as I could. I’m not lying when I say that on the first day I was completely absorbed by this class. Our professor, Erin Gazelka, has been hands down the best professor I’ve ever had. She’s passionate about the class. She not only taught us theories, but she told stories from her job as a Forensic Therapist and Clinical Supervisor. Not to put myself on the spot, but I must admit this is the only textbook that I’ve actually truly read in my whole college career. The whole thing. I was so excited to be prepared for class and actually participate. I’m an introvert and rarely ask questions, but professor Gazelka made the class feel so light and welcoming that I felt comfortable enough to raise my hand in a room full of people (which I usually find terrifying).
[bf_image id="q7k064-7skvy0-30ch41"] I learned so many things from her, but most importantly I realized that people like her are the types of people I want to work with when I graduate. She took us to Jefferson County Jail––an experience I was really nervous about because I always thought that correctional facilities were something to fear. She helped me see the humanity and humility that it takes to work there. She showed me the strength that it takes to actually see someone not for their crime but for who they are as a person: their background and history. At the end of the day we are there not to judge, but to understand and help those who need it.
I found my calling, as one might say. I’m now applying for master’s school and hoping to be a forensic therapist using my fluency in Spanish to provide service to Spanish speaking inmates. I often wonder where I would be right now had I not taken that class, or if it were with any other professor. I think the experience with Professor Erin Gazelka is what really drew me into this field of study, and I am so thankful for that. I’m currently an RA and I recommend that class to any student that is in the field of social sciences. I hope they get to have the same experience that I had.