How do you know whether you’re a better fit for private practice or public service?
Criminal justice major Arielle Acosta found out through three practical internships with a federal agency, a law firm and the public defender’s office.
Connecting to careers
After she graduates, she wants to work on criminal investigations for federal agencies, rising in the ranks at the Drug Enforcement Agency.
“I really like the aspect of putting together all the facts, and I’m good with the paperwork,” she says. “If you want to do the exciting field work, you got to spend some hours in the office. That’s part of the job.”
With her professor’s help, she nailed all of her internship interviews. Among them was a coveted special agent internship with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Arielle shadowed agents, searched for patterns in data to identify Medicaid fraud and reviewed surveillance footage from entities that bill Medicaid, like medical offices and day cares.
She also helped design Marymount’s own challenge coin and then traded it with law enforcement officers. Pros in the field collect and trade the coins as a token of respect and networking.
Real from the start
“Especially in criminal justice, you have to be proactive in building your resume,” she says. “You’ll need qualifications and work experience to compete for the best positions.”
Part of that experience comes from just being in MCU’s classrooms, where students learn from professors’ own fieldwork.
“They only teach so much from the textbook,” says Arielle about her professors. “They’ll say, ‘This is what it says in the book, but this is how it was for me.’ They tell you about their experience as ex-law enforcement, ex-attorneys.”
On campus, she works with her professors to bring secret service, military and law enforcement agencies to events like the Criminal Justice Club’s career fair. Getting extensive face time with faculty and professional mentors is a Marymount signature.
“At a bigger school, you won’t have those connections — instructors won’t even know your name,” she says. “We know that once we graduate, we won’t have this level of personal attention and mentoring in the workplace. I’m surprised at how independent I’ve become and how much I’ve grown.”