Q&A with criminal justice student Maria MizeToula Wellbrook | School of Public Affairs Aug 17, 2021
In this School of Public Affairs interview, student Maria Mize discusses her motivation to pursue the Pathways Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice-Master of Criminal Justice program, her experiences as a non-traditional student, her internship, and her job as a Pretrial Services Officer II with the City and County of Denver.
Tell me a little bit about yourself: Where are you from? What are your interests and hobbies?
I am Dominican-American and grew up in New York City. I spent many years in San Francisco and Oakland, California before moving to Denver in 2016. I love cooking, enjoying pop culture, and exploring Denver, and I’m a voracious reader. I also love to travel and look forward to doing more of that post pandemic. My biggest hobby at the moment is hanging out with my adopted dog Rosie. We love to take her for walks around the area and work on training with her.
What influenced/motivated you to choose CU Denver for both your undergraduate and graduate criminal justice degrees?
I had never finished my bachelor’s program and decided to take the plunge in 2018 when I found myself wanting a career change from tech to public service. CU Denver was appealing because it was an urban university with a diverse population. It was important to me that the Criminal Justice program was within the School of Public Affairs, further emphasizing the focus on public service. I enjoyed the program so much that I decided to continue in the Master of Criminal Justice program.
You were part of the School of Public Affairs’ Pathways Bachelor’s-to-Master of Criminal Justice program. What made you decide to pursue this program, and how has it helped you reach your goals?
My courses and the professors in the undergraduate program were so great I wanted to delve into the study of Criminal Justice further. I had never considered getting a graduate degree before, but the Pathways program seemed like an easy way to test out graduate-level classes. I loved it and decided to continue on in the program. I hope to receive my MCJ in fall of next year.
Being in the graduate program has helped me develop some great relationships with professors in addition to increasing my knowledge of the field, which has been invaluable as I now work in the field as a practitioner.
During your undergraduate career you interned with the City and County of Denver’s Office of the Municipal Public Defender. Why did you choose this internship, what did you learn, and how has it impacted what you are doing today?
I chose this internship because I wanted to gain experience within local government, and I am very passionate about the mission of the office, which is to provide representation for indigent clients facing municipal offenses. While the internship was interrupted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I learned about Denver’s court system and the inner workings of a legal practice. It has greatly impacted my current role, which is also within the City and County of Denver.
Speaking of, tell us more about your current job as a Pretrial Services Officer II with the City and County of Denver.
As a pretrial services officer, I supervise individuals who are out on bond for criminal cases in Denver. Our work involves ensuring defendants appear in court and don’t have a filing on a new offense. I remind defendants of court dates, report any new cases to the court, and assist defendants with referrals to support services. I get to work with a very diverse population and interact with all sorts of stakeholders in the system (courts, law enforcement, etc).
You participated in CU Denver’s Research and Creative Activities Symposium (RaCAS) in 2020. Can you tell us more about your research and your experience? How did you become involved with RaCAS?
My research for RaCAS was about representations of post-prison life on a reality television show, Love After Lockup. I originally presented the research at the Southwestern Pop Culture Association conference in New Mexico. CU Denver Criminal Justice professor Dr. Tackett-Gibson encouraged me to participate in both events. It was a great experience to apply what I’d learned in Research Methods to my very own data!
What advice do you have for future students?
- For non-traditional students: it’s not too late! If you are able to come back to school, do it! There are many advantages to being an older student and your experience will be on your side.
- Don’t forget to network and interact with your professors. Always bring a question or comment to class, even if it’s to say you didn’t understand something. Professors want to help you.
- Take advantage of the resources we have at CU Denver. Even as a working adult with many years of experience, I found it very helpful to use the Career Center. Events like Government Career Day were also really beneficial.