Danielle Owens ‘13

Danielle Owens

• B.S. in Criminal Justice
M.A. in Criminal Justice, Specialization in Criminology and Deviance (John Jay College)
• Now works as Restorative Justice Conference Facilitator

"What made me want to attend SJC is the small class sizes. I had always wanted to attend a college where the professors knew my name and I would have familiar faces in many of my classes. SJC is dedicated to personally making each student feel taken care of. I was able to become close with my professors and not feel afraid to ask questions or raise my hand in class.

"When I started at SJC, I originally wanted to be a history teacher. After some soul searching, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and take a criminal justice course and by the end of my first class I knew it was the field I wanted to be in. I got an in-depth look at how police function, how we handle people who commit crimes, how prisons are failing, and ultimately, I was inspired to be a crux for social change. It has been incredibly interesting to be a 20-something in a time where we are really trying to re-vamp criminal justice in this country, and start looking for ways that we can reduce recidivism and punish accordingly. I have always wanted to help people, especially those who sometimes cannot help themselves, and my field has really given me an excellent opportunity to do so.

Throughout my time at SJC, I was surrounded by wonderful people who were there for the same reason I was-to get a great education. They were encouraging, helpful and people who I remained friends with even after I graduated.

"I wanted to be able to meet more like-minded people who would support me. Being a teenager is hard sometimes, and the transition from high school to college was certainly daunting. Throughout my time at SJC, I was surrounded by wonderful people who were there for the same reason I was-to get a great education. They were encouraging, helpful and people who I remained friends with even after I graduated. I was so lucky to have found people who were on my level and so helpful in more ways than just being study buddies.

"I was in the Criminal Justice Club and I was the treasurer of Pi Gamma Mu, the social science honor society.

"I also wanted to be able to find mentors who could help direct me in figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. Working in criminal justice can mean so many things, there are so many jobs and areas that it's almost hard to keep track of all of the things you may be interested in. Did I want to go into law enforcement? Maybe I want to be a lawyer. But what about corrections? It was overwhelming trying to determine just exactly what I wanted to do.

"I learned that I was really interested in social justice and activism not just with criminal justice — I am also interested in women's rights, food policy and access to education. I was lucky to be able to express myself and my feelings about all types of injustices in the world, and that passion for all types of justice has gotten me into some pretty great places in life. The best thing I learned, not just about myself, but about the work that we do as social scientists, is to always have policy implications to your research. What is the point of doing research if we can't do anything with it? In graduate school, I got really involved in public policy classes and it really brought that lesson home.

"[SJC is] the perfect setting for anyone who is looking for the intimate, small college experience. Your professors will know who you are, you will have familiar faces in your classes and the students try to get you as involved as possible."

"The Criminal Justice department was so great at being open and available to discuss any reservations, questions, advice that they had on what path they thought was best suited for my skills. I ended up getting really passionate about corrections and working with those involved in the criminal justice system. I got a great internship my senior year at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility helping young men transition from jail back home. It was a great opportunity for me to see exactly what life was like on the inside and the struggles young people faced when trying to reintegrate back into society.

What was your experience after SJC?

"After graduation, I decided to attend graduate school at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where I recently graduated with my Masters in Criminal Justice with a specialization in criminology and deviance.

For the past year, I was a Tow Policy Advocacy Fellow, where I was placed in an organization dedicated to social justice and received classroom training on policy analysis and advocacy. I got to work at MFY Legal Services Three-Quarter House Reform Project, where I assisted in working to change current policies on transitional housing for individuals who are just coming out of the criminal justice system, former addicts who are leaving substance abuse treatment, and those who have been considered chronically homeless. After graduation, I took a few months to find a job.

Now, I am moving up to Rhode Island to work as a Restorative Justice Conference Facilitator for Family Services of Rhode Island. I will be working with high schoolers and using the restorative justice framework to address deviant behaviors and train families and faculty on how to use restorative justice as a tool to prevent youth contact with the criminal justice system."

Who was your favorite SJC professor?

"Dr. Barbara Morrell. I owe her so much to shaping me into the person I am. Her passion for change and her love for her students is inspiring. She is proud to see what her students have accomplished. She and I got quite close when I was a student there, and I really felt like I could turn to her whenever I felt like I didn't know what direction to head in, or what career path would be best for me. All of my classmates used to call me Baby Morrell because we shared similar views on a lot of issues. She encouraged me to go to graduate school and helped me through the application process. To this day she is still one of the best educators I have ever had."

What was your dream job?

"I always wanted to be a teacher. It was probably because I grew up only knowing school, and being a teacher is great, you get to inspire the future generations. When I first started college, I quickly realized that teaching was not for me, and that's when I switched my major to criminal justice, because I still wanted to help young people. The job that I am currently working at is great, because I am in a high school and still get to help young people, just not in the way you would think a teacher does. I am educating young people on life skills as opposed to academic ones. I am educating them on how to take accountability, talk things out, and how to handle issues like anger, stress, etc. It's great that I've kind of gotten to evolve my childhood dream into a more practical reality for myself — I can still be a great influence on young people, just like my teachers were to me." 

Favorite book? Quote?

"Hairstyles of the Damned. It's about high school, and how many phases you go through before you figure yourself out. It has helped me immensely throughout the years."

"Favorite quote is 'Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo,' by John Sinclair. For a long time, my biggest fear was failure. After graduating from my masters program, I felt like a failure because I felt a little lost and I didn't get a job right away, so I went into a horrible post-graduate depression. I felt like a complete failure-like I worked so hard for nothing. But then I found this quote, and realized that the feeling of failure is temporary — it goes away. I ended up getting really motivated after that, sending out as many resumes a day as I could, and I landed a great job in Rhode Island! That quote is hanging up in my room and just reminds me that failure is really learning experiences and that it is never permanent."

What has been the biggest influence on your life?

"My Aunt Kristen. She was my godmother and passed away when I was 15. She was intelligent, thoughtful, beautiful and generous. She could light up a room with her laugh and smile. My family always says that she was 'the party girl without being the party girl.' She knew how to talk to people and she could beat anyone at Trivial Pursuit. She always read and she traveled the world. We were incredibly close, and when she died it was heartbreaking. I have always tried to live a life like Aunt Kristen — be kind, always be open to a learning opportunity and help those who need it. I know I am living a life that would make her incredibly proud."

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

"Although we look nothing alike, I am in love with Viola Davis. She is fierce, passionate, and sharp. I am binge-watching How to Get Away With Murder and she has me captured every moment. I love that she stands up for women's equality, especially women of color, and that she plays strong female characters who are independent, intelligent, and vibrant. I adore her."

Have you been a part of any service activities that were meaningful to you?

"Last year, I participated in Martin Luther King Day of Service, where I headed to Brooklyn to mentor young people about college and future life choices. It reminded me about being that age-how everything seemed so far away and how excited I was to become an 'adult.' There was one girl there who reminded me a lot of myself-ambitious, overachieving and driven. Sometimes, people like us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have it all 'figured out,' and she seemed to be pretty disappointed when she didn't have it all together. It was really great to help someone who was just like me be able to say 'I know how you feel, and I promise you, it'll all work out.'"

What was the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?

"I think my biggest challenge has been being comfortable in my own skin. I am only 23 and I'm still figuring out who I am. I have felt so many times in my life that I'm too this or not enough that, and it's been a long journey to self-acceptance. At SJC, I would edit a lot of my peer's papers and still not feel smart enough. I was holding a great GPA and always understood what was going on in class, but my self confidence was horrible. I am really hard on myself, and it's taken me a long time to 'let loose' and allow myself to relax. I'm finally at a place now where I genuinely love the person I am and would not change a thing about myself. Teenage me would have never thought I would reach this point, but it's pretty great to look in the mirror and be able to say that I love myself."

What is the best advice someone has ever given you?

"My mom has always said to me 'Patience is a virtue,' it's from a poem from the medieval times. Sometimes it's so easy to want things to be handed to us. I think my generation is one that thrives off instant gratification, we like things to happen on our own terms and when we want them. These past few months especially, with my job hunt, my mom has told me countless times, like she always has, that patience is a virtue — it's something so precious and that all good things truly do come to those who wait. After five months of applying to jobs and being patient, I finally got one that I am so excited for. Patience is a rare quality in a lot of people and it's so important for us to remember not to rush things."

Aside from content material, what is the best lesson a professor taught you in class?

"That in the real world, people work as a team. In graduate school, I was having trouble handing in an assignment to a supervisor at my job because I was intimidated by him, I was afraid he would rip my writing to shreds and I would get upset. I went back to my professor who was coordinating our work placements and told her how I was feeling. She told me that in school, a lot of the work is done independently-you write a paper, hand it in, get it back. In the "real world," everything happens due to the work from a team of people. It was some of the best advice I had ever gotten and I have yet to be intimidated by another assignment."

If you made front page news, what would be the headline?

"Probably something like 'Local Woman Starts Grassroots Campaign to Reform Prison System-Governor Notices.'"