Academy spotlight: criminal justice

Stroll through F Hall, down the stairs near the gym, take a sharp right into the Marshall Academy, and head to room 503. This secluded, professional area is where junior Ellen Shpetishvili and other Criminal Justice 2 students have class every morning.

Criminal Justice is just one of the classes the Academy offers, but is packed with in-depth training and essential knowledge for students interested in the field. In fact, to contain the two-credit course to one year, Criminal Justice 2 students have the class every day.

Shpetishvili said she took the class’s prerequisite, Criminal Justice I, on a whim in sophomore year – but she’s grateful she did.

“It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my academic career,” Shpetishvili said. “It helped me develop my love for law. […] And taking Criminal Justice 2 made me realize that I actually want to do something in the criminal justice field, specifically [as] an FBI or CIA agent.”

The purpose of Academy classes is to encourage this kind of passion in students, Marshall’s Academy Administrator Jeff McFarland said.

“Everything’s driven by the teacher,” McFarland said. “What [we] have is this unique blend of personalities [in Academy teachers], bringing their craft into the classroom to sort of demonstrate to the students what is possible within that industry, while [they’re] still in high school.”

Shpetishvili said her teacher is a large part of why she enjoys the class. Timothy Gill, former intelligence officer with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) ensures the course is as engaging as possible and provides knowledge the students can use in their future careers.

“I came in […] to revamp the Criminal Justice 2 program,” Gill said. “I go to the next step of focusing on intelligence collection, analysis operations, [and] behavioral sciences.”

This culminates in “spot analysis” projects, where students envision themselves as someone involved in a case and what they would do in that scenario. 

“It all comes down to what goes through the mind of a criminal,” Gill said. “What are the three aspects that drive a criminal to crime? Those precondition traits of adverse growing up, do they play a part? What is the behavior resolve? Is there some mental instability? What is the motive?”

Shpetishvili said she hopes all students who have a chance will consider taking an Academy class like hers.

“It’s an enriching opportunity, it really will help you decide […] whether or not you want to go into a specific field,” she said. “So, if you have the opportunity, definitely do it, give it a chance.”