News & Events

Criminal Justice Program Recognized at Waubonsee

Launched in the college's second year of operation, the Waubonsee Community College criminal justice program has a long history of excellence.

Student cadets in fall talking with an instructor.
Student cadets confer with Assistant Professor Joseph Heinrich (right).

Since 1968, Waubonsee's criminal justice program has prepared generations of local law enforcement officers for successful careers. Waubonsee is proud to honor the criminal justice program with its "Placing Learning First: Faculty and Program Recognition."

The criminal justice program has evolved in the past four decades. Initially offering students a 64 credit hour Professional Law Enforcement Associate in Applied Science degree, multiple certificates of achievement were added over the years including Advanced Police Skills in 1974, Commercial Security Operations in 1989 and Police-Community Relations in 1998. Only a pared down version of the original Commercial Security Operations certificate remains in the current curriculum, and the focus of the degree has increasingly emphasized the multicultural, writing and physical skills, as well as the strong ethical foundation, required in today's law enforcement professionals.

Led by Assistant Professor Joseph Heinrich and Assistant Professor Patrick Rolison, students in the program benefit from the depth of knowledge that comes with the decades of experience both possess.

"Since criminal justice is an occupational program, I believe it is imperative to bring real world experience into the classroom as much as practical," Heinrich said. "I have found that this enhances the academic experience for the students and keeps them engaged and excited about the world of criminal justice."

Rolison retired with the rank of lieutenant after working 27 years at the Aurora Police Department (APD). During his time with APD, he served in a variety of roles including patrol officer, patrol sergeant, school resource officer, sergeant, coordinator of DARE and GREAT programs, special events liaison officer, court liaison sergeant, administrative sergeant, and lieutenant. His work was recognized with multiple awards.

"I never realized how much experience I gained in the field until I started teaching and was challenged by the students," he said. "I enjoy being able to bring years of personal experiences, in combination with textbook material, to the classroom."

Heinrich's background is similarly deep and varied. He served on the Geneva Police Department from 1979 until 2006 as patrol officer, detective/crime prevention officer, patrol sergeant and detective sergeant. He also served as an instructor for Turning Point, a juvenile court diversion program sponsored by the Kane County Bar Association Foundation.

"Police work is serious business," he said. "I see it as my job to help prepare our students academically, physically and emotionally for the career they hope to enter. It is a pleasure to watch the students mature and begin to demonstrate an understanding of the rigors of a law enforcement career, and it is especially rewarding when Waubonsee Criminal Justice graduates reach their goal of becoming law enforcement officers."

In addition to their professional experience, both men also bring a passion for teaching to the classroom. Rolison can definitely relate to his students since he is himself a graduate of the college's criminal justice program. He went on to earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a master's degree in sociology from Northern Illinois University. He began teaching at the college as an adjunct instructor in 1995 and became a full-time instructor in 2007.

"Teaching at Waubonsee had been a personal goal of mine for many years," he said. "As a past graduate, I knew Waubonsee was a place I wanted to return to and teach, as I had excellent memories of my instruction as a student. My Waubonsee experience definitely contributed to my success in the field of law enforcement."

Heinrich is also a product of the community college system, having earned an associate degree in law enforcement from Oakton Community College. He went on to earn a management certificate from Aurora University, a bachelor's degree in criminal justice management from Aurora University, a Session 205 diploma from the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy, and a master's degree in adult education from National Louis University.  He joined Waubonsee's faculty in 2006 as a full-time instructor.

"We are fortunate to have criminal justice instructors at Waubonsee who have very significant law enforcement experience and who share resources and contacts with our students," he said.

A sure sign of high quality, Waubonsee's Criminal Justice program has been extraordinarily successful in graduating students not only ready for the field but primed to excel. In addition to Rolison's own success, other notable alumni include Oswego Chief of Police Dwight Baird, Associate Judge of the 16th Circuit Court Timothy McCann, Kendall County Sheriff Richard Randall, and Aurora Chief of Police Greg Thomas.