Q&A with criminal justice student Hannah HuyckToula Wellbrook | School of Public Affairs May 5, 2021
Tell me a little bit about yourself: Where are you from? What are your interests and hobbies?
I was born and raised in Northern Colorado, where I still reside. For most of my life I was completely obsessed with creating art, but over the past couple years my passions have really shifted towards helping others and being creative in more intellectual ways. I have a YouTube channel that I started last year that is aimed at helping people become their best selves. Additionally, I also love doing puzzles from the New York Times, reading, and trying to consistently better myself.
What influenced you to choose CU Denver and to major in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Victims and Victim Studies?
Originally, I chose CU Denver because I had dreams of being an animator, and CU Denver’s College of Arts and Media has an amazing 3D animation program. Although the program was incredible, it ended up being something that didn’t resonate with me. When I found out about the Criminal Justice program it seemed like a fulfilling career path that would allow me to make a difference in the world. Prior to switching majors, I found myself constantly questioning if I was in the right place. Once I made the change to the School of Public Affairs, I no longer experienced any of those feelings. What has continually motivated me to get a degree in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Victims and Victim Studies is knowing that I can make a positive impact with people who are experiencing difficult times. So much of the spotlight is on offenders, but my mind always goes to how we can better serve victims, which is what inspires me to keep moving forward.
Why did you choose Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) as the organization to intern with, and what were you hoping to gain and/or learn from the experience of interning with MADD?
Growing up I can remember hearing about MADD and wishing that I could somehow be involved in helping with their mission. When my internship advisor urged me to apply, I was really excited. Initially I had been putting off my internship, but when this became an opportunity, I knew that I wanted to do whatever I could to be a part of it. When I began, I was hoping to make connections and help people, both of which I have been able to do, but in different ways than I originally expected.
Tell me about your internship: Is it being completed virtually or in-person? What does the internship involve on a day-to-day basis? What skills have you been developing? What has been interesting to see and to learn about first-hand from the experience?
My internship with MADD is completed virtually. I’m a court monitor, which entails virtually attending court proceedings in order to gather data on DUI and DWAI cases. One of the skills I have developed is active listening, which is important in order to catch details that will be valuable for data collection. Additionally, the internship has helped me to develop my organizational and communication skillsets even further. Probably the most interesting thing that I have been able to learn about first-hand has been seeing how the courts operate in real life. The education offered by the School of Public Affairs provides a wonderful foundation, but seeing how everything plays out in real life is something that can only be gained through first-hand experience. It has also been an important reminder that the people going through the criminal justice system are real human beings, which can sometimes be easy to forget when going through school. By having the opportunity to monitor the courtroom, it highlights the importance of creating a system that will make a positive and just impact in the community.
You were recently promoted in your internship role. Tell me about the promotion and the additional responsibilities and skills that you’ll be developing.
Within my internship I was promoted to a team lead for two Colorado counties. I still am able to continue with my original duties, but additionally I have been able to learn data mining and develop my leadership skills by helping interns on my team. Before gaining the promotion, I aspired to be in a leadership role, but also doubted myself because of being an introvert. It has been exciting to lean into the role and discover that I have a lot of innate abilities that lend to being a promising leader.
What do you hope to do with your Criminal Justice degree, and how do you think the internship experience will help you to achieve your goals?
Going into the internship, I wanted to be a victim advocate. Now that I have been experiencing the internship, I have also found a passion for helping others on my team, as well as an interest in the courts and data. In some ways, I feel less of a pull in a specific direction; however, I know now more than ever that I want to find a job where I can help others. If there is a job where I can combine all of my passions and skills, that would be wonderful, but as long as I’m able to help others, that is what I truly care about.
What advice do you have for future students?
Although it may be difficult, try to not let your past define your future. I had a D average in high school, and because of that I put off pursuing a degree for 10 years. I allowed myself to believe that because I had been unsuccessful when I was younger that I would always be unsuccessful. What made a difference for me was looking at the degree in terms of individual semesters, rather than as a whole degree. Focusing on the semester that I was currently in made the idea of getting a whole degree a lot more manageable.
Now, I’m only a couple semesters away from attaining my bachelor’s in Criminal Justice, and I am looking forward to applying to graduate school. If I had allowed my prior negative beliefs to control my life, I would never have lived up to my true potential.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share?
I think it is important to take advantage of the opportunities that CU Denver has to offer. As someone who faces medical issues, disability resources has been wonderful, along with so many other resources available to students. Building relationships with my advisors and teachers has been important as well. From my experience, they really want to see their students succeed and are willing to provide support. Although I love CU Denver and the School of Public Affairs for the excellent curriculum, the faculty and staff are a big part of what has made my experience so great. I hope other students who come to CU Denver will take advantage of everything the school has to offer, and create an experience that they won’t be able to find anywhere else.