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Joan Bauer, BA in Criminal Justice, Class of 2016


Joan Bauer is a tough cookie with a long history. For more than a quarter of a century, she’s worked in various positions in law enforcement, from the Ohio Attorney General’s office to training fellow police officers.

“I have worked in criminal justice for 26 years; it not only is my main interest, it is what I live.”

Despite all of her experience, she watched younger officers move up around her while she remained at a standstill due to her lack of credentials. After attending the police academy as a divorced mother of two, she just didn’t have the time to go back to school after graduating and working full-time.

Now with six children and three grandchildren, she wanted to stop being passed up for promotions and job transfers. She decided to complete her degree online through New England College. She graduated Spring 2016 with a BA in Criminal Justice.

NEC’s Online Experience

Like many non-traditional students, Bauer felt intimidated when she first started classes. High school and the police academy were a while back, so she wasn’t used to learning in an academic environment. However, the discomfort faded away as her interest in the coursework grew.

Her favorite class was Forensic Psychology, due to her own interest and experience in the field, as well as the opportunity to learn new information. She thought she knew everything about the subject, but there was a lot more to learn.

“The professors definitely wanted to see us succeed.”

Bauer also loved that class due to her engaging professor, who emailed her to discuss her career and to make sure she was being challenged. Throughout the program, her professors were invested and encouraging.

Managing Multiple Priorities

Bauer signed up for a degree online to finish her coursework and manage her busy schedule. With four young children at home in Randolph, Ohio, a full-time job and a hobby farm (home to two cows, two horses, two pigs, two lambs, three dogs, 11 chickens and a donkey), incorporating schoolwork into her hectic schedule was difficult but doable due to the convenience and flexibility of learning online. While taking classes, she learned that time management and prioritization were essential. Studying came before maintaining a perfect yard.

“New England College was wonderful for me because of my busy schedule.”

Spreading tasks throughout the week to avoid cramming at the last minute was essential, although Sunday evenings became a very busy day for her as most assignments were due then. Taking classes online allowed her to keep up her busy life and work at a dream she had put off for a very long time.

Support from Faculty & Family

Completing a degree while working full-time and managing family obligations is no easy feat. Bauer had encouragement and support from many different sources:

  • Her Student Services Representative answered all of her questions and prepared her for every step of the process.
  • NEC helped Bauer apply her past experiences and credits toward completing her degree.
  • The professors were communicative and encouraging.
  • Her family and friends were very supportive, especially her husband, who took care of family work so she could focus on her classes.

Importance of Education

Unfortunately, Bauer knew that going through police academy is not enough anymore for supervisory roles and other positions. For example, Bauer wants to secure a position in her state’s investigation department with her degree. She contends that times are changing from years ago when having an education wasn’t as important for police officers to possess as it is now.

“I would say to police officers that further education is very important”

Bauer wanted a bachelor’s degree to ensure eligibility for future positions and enhance her law enforcement career. Conducting advanced training, Bauer acknowledges that an education along with her experience provides a level of expertise and legitimacy.

Bauer’s criminal justice degree is also a matter of personal achievement. She wanted to show her children that it is never too late to work toward something that is important to you. After joking with her children for many years that she went to the “college of hard knocks,” she knew she needed to demonstrate the importance of achieving goals, honoring commitments and pursuing higher education.

Advice to Current and Prospective Online Students

After successfully graduating with her bachelor’s degree online from NEC, Bauer knows a thing or two on how to do well in the online classroom. Her advice to online students is to dive right in, as putting it off only increases the stress level. Immersing yourself in the class is key – when actually in the midst of classes, she found herself looking forward to learning more.

“If you are looking for a college where you do not want to feel like a number … this college is fantastic for that.”

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