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Path to Justice

By Trisha Coder

Whitworth students can now major in criminology & criminal justice, thanks in part to the expertise of Jacqueline Van Wormer, assistant professor of sociology. Van Wormer came to Whitworth last year from Washington State University, and is a highly sought criminal justice expert who works extensively to improve the juvenile justice system, both statewide and nationally.

One of Van Wormer's priorities at Whitworth has been collaborating with Associate Professor of Sociology Jason Wollschleger to develop the new criminology & criminal justice curriculum.

"Jacqueline provides our students with opportunities for real-world experience," Wollschleger says. "She has a number of grants and contracts with courts that she has hired our students to work on. As she takes over our practicum class, she will be able to use her depth of local connections to assist our students with internships and practicums that we wouldn't otherwise be able to access."

Van Wormer recently secured a two-year $102,000 grant that allows two of her students to evaluate the adult family and juvenile drug courts in Snohomish County. Her students are inspired by her commitment to providing opportunities to learn outside the classroom and by her passion to seek justice for all.

"Her different perspective of justice has been really eye-opening," says Silas Patterson '19, one of the students involved in the Snohomish project. "We are not here to lock people up. We are here to help and rehabilitate people, especially with the drug court aspect. She has been a real mentor for me."

Nursing major Natalie Mayes '20 is leading a project for Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners as a result of Van Wormer's work with Spokane's community court. Mayes and 12 other Whitworth students are creating a photo booklet that will teach basic life skills to people who were formerly homeless.

"I love her as a professor and as a mentor," Mayes says. "She embodies a lot of qualities that I would hope for myself as an adult, and I just want to keep learning from her."

Van Wormer says she always keeps Whitworth's mission in mind and that she's confident her students will carry out their Christian ideals in the workplace. "These students have such potential," she says. "I've really come to appreciate how compassionate and community-minded they are. There's something special about them and what they're willing to do to help our community."

Van Wormer's story appears in the fall 2018 issue of Whitworth Today magazine, available here.