Criminal justice degree is a jumping-off point

March 24, 2014
Kate Kanaley


For Kate Kanaley, what started as a general interest in law enforcement has led to a career, an avenue for serving the public, and big plans for the future.

Kanaley first developed an interest in criminal justice while working in the forensic setting. She enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program and soon after began working as a staff liaison officer for the Department of State Hospitals at Coalinga State Hospital in Coalinga, Calif., where she oversees patients’ first amendment rights and due process. Kanaley ensures patients have an avenue to advocate for themselves without government, staff, or administrative interference.

“I facilitate the collaborative process between staff and patients in order to resolve issues at the lowest level possible, keeping things from going to litigation and creating a safer, more therapeutic environment for everyone.”

Kanaley worked full time while earning her degree. “It was difficult but obviously very rewarding. The thing I regret is that I didn’t go sooner.”

“My experience was absolutely wonderful. I don’t think I could’ve gotten a better education if I had been sitting in the classroom,” she said. “I have a very broad working knowledge of the CJ system. I also formed lasting relationships with my professors and with several fellow students. It was a really, really good experience.”

She excelled in the program and graduated magna cum laude in December of 2012. “She was a standout, especially as a researcher and scholarly writer,” said Criminal Justice Instructor Gary Apperson. “Kate has never been afraid of working hard and her efforts made her a standout scholar.”

After graduating, Kanaley decided to pursue a master’s degree in public health. She began the University of New England’s online program in the spring 
of 2014.

“Having my background in criminal justice and then adding public health is going to suit me really well in expanding my career options,” Kanaley said.

Kanaley has already had a chance to combine her interests with her second job as a member of a Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team for the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The team can be deployed anywhere in the world in incidences of mass fatality of American citizens.

Kanaley joined the Region 9 team in 2010 and has completed significant amounts of training, but she has yet to be deployed. The team’s last major deployment was to Haiti in 2010.

When she finishes her master’s program, Kanaley’s plans aren’t concrete, but she does want to continue to serve the public. “It’s really hard to pin anything down because my degree has just opened up a whole new world of opportunity for me,” she said. “There are a few public health projects abroad that I would like to work on. I can continue working here in correctional health care services or I could go work for the Center for Disease Control and go live in Zimbabwe for five years. Who knows?”

One such program in Afghanistan trains young women to become dental hygienists in an area where citizens greatly outnumber dentists. “I’d like to get involved in a program like that and other programs where my education in public health can have a real positive impact.”

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