Pioneer Spotlight: Dr. Amy Nemmetz
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Dr. Amy Nemmetz, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, was first drawn to the criminal justice field during her junior year of high school when she was hired by the Grant County Sheriff’s Department in Lancaster, Wisconsin, as an assistant in the detective’s unit. In this position, she was responsible for assisting at search warrants (logging evidence) and typing detective’s reports. She did so well that the department invited her to work with the tri-county drug unit. From then on, she was hooked.
Nemmetz began working at UW-Platteville in 2007. Prior to working at UW-Platteville, she held positions with UW-Platteville Police, Platteville Police Department, and Dane County Court and Dane County Human Services Child Protection in Madison, Wisconsin.
Nemmetz has an interest and knowledge in restorative justice, a theory of justice that is accomplished through cooperative processes that include the victim, offender, family members of the victim and the offender as well as members of the community.
What are some of the challenges criminal justice and forensic investigation majors will face in their future careers? How do your classes help prepare them for these challenges?
Getting the first position can be tough because forensic investigation and criminal justice are still competitive fields. I ask students to consider what will set them apart from other candidates competing for the same position. I encourage students to seek out opportunities in college that will challenge them and allow them to be the best they can be – a leadership role in a club or organization such as the Criminal Justice Association, volunteering, working, completing an internship, etcetera.
I often tell students in my classroom that life is a journey, and I remind them that they should try to see challenges as opportunities to succeed and take advantage of opportunities that come their way, including promotions, training and additional education.
Each semester, students in your Restorative Justice course facilitate a program with inmates at the Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution. Can you explain the program and how it benefits students and inmates?
The restorative justice gardening program is a 12-week curriculum in which 3-4 students lead restorative justice gardening groups for 20-25 inmates for two hours every week. The curriculum provides inmates with general gardening knowledge, which could be useful if the inmates opted to volunteer in a community garden or start their own garden. Topics include benefits of gardening, soil, pests and anatomy of plants.
The gardening units have a restorative justice component every week and an interactive activity or assignment. For example, a restorative justice discussion activity that may accompany the unit about weeds may be: “Think about the people in your life who have not been a positive influence. How can you manage these people in the future?” The goal is to give inmates a way to give back to their communities upon release, while also thinking about what it means to restore or repair harm that they have caused, such as sharing foods they grow in a garden, volunteering at a community garden, sharing their knowledge, or working for a gardening-based agency.
Students leading the restorative justice gardening sessions grow from this opportunity as they gain experience enhancing a criminal justice-based curriculum, develop a deeper understanding of challenges offenders in the system face, learn effective ways to communicate and work with offenders, network with correctional institution professionals and learn about the corrections side of the criminal justice system. Every student who has led the restorative justice gardening sessions has reported positive feedback at the end of the semester.
I enjoy seeing the students become more comfortable leading the groups as the weeks tick by, and I enjoy their enthusiasm when they share “ah-ha” moments that take place during restorative justice gardening sessions.
Each semester, students in your Victimology Restorative Justice course also facilitate a program with inmates at the Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution. Can you explain the program and how it benefits students and inmates?
The victim impact programming allows students in the Victimology Restorative Justice course to lead restorative justice programming in a group setting at the prison. The students get to work with one another in the classroom to develop the curriculum, such as selecting the topics to address as well as the activities that will help inmates grasp the material.
Students benefit by learning and experiencing the art of leading discussion activities for 9-10 inmates in a restorative justice circle while also enhancing their own personal knowledge of restorative justice. Students also get to see what offenders in an institution experience as well as the challenges they’ve faced. At the end of the semester, all students report that the experience positively affected their experience at UW-Platteville.
After each session, we circle up with the correctional institution staff members to discuss the session and often share a take-away from the day. I am always so impressed by the positive feedback we receive from institution staff regarding the students’ group facilitation skills and restorative justice knowledge. It is also fantastic to hear the excitement in the students’ voices when they share how eye-opening, rewarding and beneficial the experience was.
You are the advisor for the university’s Criminal Justice Living Learning Community. How does being a member of this group benefit criminal justice and forensic investigation students?
Coming to college is often overwhelming for students who have never lived away from their families. Living on a wing with approximately 30 peers in the same academic department, participating in class discussions three times per week with each other and engaging in Criminal Justice Living Learning Community events outside the classroom together enhances bonds. Essentially, the students become each other’s “family away from home.” They also have the benefit of having a resident assistant who is also part of the Department of Criminal Justice. The resident assistant can give them tips, talk openly about classes and professors and share experiences.
Although the students do not all become best friends, they usually connect strongly with many students in the Living Learning Community and trust one another. They study together, share information about campus resources, eat meals together and hang out on the weekends and evenings. So, the initial fear and homesickness seems to diminish more quickly and make room for other priorities for these students, in comparison to students who are striving hard to fit in, in college.
This spring, Criminal Justice Living Learning Community students will engage in a community service project at Governor Dodge State Park. The opportunity was prompted by a recent UW-Platteville graduate who let me know that he is now working as a ranger at the park and would be happy to have us participate in a project there. Engaging in service feels good – the students quickly realize this and are much more likely to continue to give back to their communities in the future. The criminal justice and related fields often consist of those who want to help others, so the service component seems like a natural fit.
What personal or professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
Looking back over my time as a social worker in child protection, I’m proud to have conducted several cognitive graphic forensic interviews in which child victims were able to disclose the maltreatment they had experienced via the child friendly interview protocol. This is one of the first steps in hopefully ending the maltreatment, getting the child victim professional mental health help and formally giving police and prosecutors the information they need to assist with formal charges when applicable.
Personally, I am super proud of my family. My husband, Pete, is my rock. We have so much fun together – from traveling to camping to playing cards. And, my little ladies (Amelia 11-years-old and Edy six-years-old) keep life fun, with their great hugs, spunk and sense of adventure. I am truly blessed.
UW-Platteville’s 2018 Restorative Justice Conference will be held Tuesday, April 24 in the Nohr Gallery. The purpose of the conference is to provide an experience where people can learn, share and critically analyze restorative justice opportunities. Attendees will hear from an ex-offender, a couple whose son was murdered and the person who murdered the couple’s son, a Minnesota-based juvenile restorative justice agency and several other professionals.
Conference registration fee is $55 for the general public, $20 for UW-Platteville students who plan to attend the entire day, and free for UW-Platteville students who just want to drop in for sessions throughout the day.
For more information, visit: www.uwplatt.edu/criminal-justice/restorative-justice-conference.
Interview conducted by Laurie A. Hamer, UW-Platteville College of Liberal Arts and Education. To nominate someone for the Pioneer Spotlight, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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