Morristown, N.J. (July 27, 2016) – Kelly O'Dell, B.A. '13, M.A. '14, Criminal Justice, is one of 11 women out of a class of 134 to graduate from the New Jersey state police academy this year. Diane DaSilva, '11, '16, who was the first CSE woman to become a trooper, mentored Kelly on her journey.
O'Dell entered the academy soon after graduating from CSE. She spent four months with a partner on the road and is stationed in the Totowa, N.J., barracks, which is a good hour ride from her home in Phillipsburg, N.J. Her area of coverage spans four counties and miles of interstate highways.
O'Dell is a CSE legacy student and also comes from a family of law enforcement professionals. Her grandmother, '57, three great aunts, her mother '82, her sister, '06, and a cousin, '08, all attended CSE. Another cousin is arriving in August 2016.
Her father is a retired chief of police, her mother holds a paralegal certification and a medicolegal death investigator certification, her sister is an assistant prosecutor for Warren County Prosecutor's Office, her oldest brother has a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice, and her other older brother is a corrections officer and a member of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) at Northampton County Prison in Pennsylvania.
O'Dell says that the CSE combined B.A./M.A. program in Criminal Justice definitely helped her both in the police academy and on the job.
"We got a lot of lessons based on real-life situations from Professor Aussicker (chair of the undergraduate criminal justice program), that we combined with the examples in the text," she notes. "We learned how to judge each situation calmly and quickly. I am also glad that I did the combined program, thanks to Dr. Ford. Many of my colleagues are trying to get their master's degree now," she says. "Our work schedules of 12-hour shifts make that process very difficult, but if you want to move up in the organization, you need that advanced degree!"
O'Dell was drawn to CSE for the athletic opportunities. She played basketball, soccer, softball, lacrosse, and cross country.
"I played another year of basketball during my master's studies" she says. "And right after my graduation, I returned to CSE to coach volleyball, basketball, and softball."
She was also involved in organizations on campus, serving as secretary, then president for her class, vice-president of the Justice Studies Club, and a member of the Psychology Club. She also worked on campus in the athletics department during her undergraduate years and as a graduate assistant under Dr. James Ford, Associate Professor in Justice Administration and Public Service, while working on her master's.
Now, she is on the road putting her lessons from CSE to work.
"The diversity of the school taught me to appreciate differences, which I use on the job," she explains. "I lived, studied, and worked with so many people from different backgrounds that my perspective allows me to work well those I meet on the job."
As for being a female in a still predominantly male field? "I haven't experienced any problems. In fact, I had one woman commend me for being a trooper," she explains. "She still got the ticket, but most people are respectful to me if I am respectful to them."
O'Dell's work schedule is cringe worthy, but she likes it. "I have 12-hour shifts for two days, then two days off. Then three days on and two days off," she says. "But we switch from days to nights back to days every two weeks. That is a little difficult to get used to! But having the longer stretches of time off allows me to get things done – such as planning my sister's bridal shower!"
"CSE gave me what I needed to pursue my dream in law enforcement," she notes. "Not just the academics, but I have good friends that I met here and will be friends with for the duration of my life. Professors and coaches are willing to work with you so you can fully experience college. Everyone knows you and everyone cares about your success. A special thank you goes to Dr. Ford and Professor Aussicker for their dedication and hard work to push their students."
To her cousin who is arriving in August, she says, "Get into sports, look for clubs that interest you, make friends, and enjoy all the activities the College sets up for the students. Make good use of all that the College of Saint Elizabeth has to offer, and you can reach your dreams too."