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Starting with nothing, ending with success

by Elizabeth Wagner - PhD Public Service Leadership, Specialization Criminal Justice

I started the PhD Public Service Leadership Program, specialization Criminal Justice in 2009. Prior to starting the program, I only had one-year experience working death investigations for a busy medical examiner’s office. Without relevant working experience, it is difficult to get a teaching job in criminal justice. Although I knew I was capable of doing anything, I began to realize that I needed to prove myself. Once I discovered my dissertation topic (human trafficking and law enforcement responses), I began to search for different ways to gain human trafficking experience. I found a great human trafficking organization, the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking (FCAHT), and began volunteering as my counties human trafficking educator and trainer for law enforcement and service providers. This role gave has given me so much, but what I enjoy the most is that I get to work in the prevention of human trafficking. Because of this role, I have gained a very good reference, and I am now going through the employment process for teaching forensic investigations in a bachelor program at a local university! Without my volunteer experience, I likely would not have gotten as far as I have with the hiring process at Keiser University! I know volunteering is not always financially feasible, as it was not for me. However, I think there are great benefits to volunteering with your dissertation topic, and I highly recommend it.

I have no doubt that my PhD program has changed my life for the better. First, and most impressive, I have become a better person. I am objective today, or more objective then I was a few years ago. That may seem like something little, but I am a much better person and I know it is because of the program. My dissertation (graduating in a couple of months) has given me work that was not obtainable before I started the program. My life is changing for the better and that is a result of the PhD program!

In all honesty, when I started the PhD program I never thought in a million years such positivity would result. I hoped better things would occur with obtaining a PhD, but I admit I had many doubts. I worked for 16 years in the same field doing minimal work to pay the bills, struggling often. Today, everything is changing as my handwork is paying off. I would not change this incredible experience for anything! I will continue to volunteer for FCAHT post graduation in a couple of months and do what I can to prevent human trafficking.

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