Dec. 6, 2012
Maryville public safety director connects with Northwest students through teaching
By Philip Gruenwald, media relations assistant
Keith Wood, director of Maryville Public Safety, never pictured himself leading an upper-level college course. But after his experience instructing students in a criminology course at Northwest Missouri State University this fall, he is considering more teaching opportunities in his future.
Wood, who has spent 23 years in public safety, was initially unsure about leading an upper-level class when he was asked to fill in for University Police Chief Clarence Green, who is serving as interim vice president of human resources. Green recommended Wood because of his experience in law enforcement and leadership, and knew that experience could provide a valuable component in the education of Northwest students.
“I told my students on the opening night of class that I had good news and bad news,” Wood said. “The good news is I’m not a college professor. The bad news is I’m not a college professor. I have since taken some of my own ideas and some of the resources available to me and incorporated them into the classroom to round out their education.”
Criminology is an elective course in the psychology and sociology degree program that focuses on counseling, corrections and law enforcement. Some students in the course, including senior Blake Bledsoe, are earning minors in law enforcement, criminal justice or pre-law.
“I have thought about the FBI, and Keith has kind of been an advisor to me about it, telling me what path to take,” Bledsoe said.
Wood used case studies to teach from his experience. He brought a retired private investigator to conduct a homicide case study with the class and took students on a tour of the Maryville Treatment Center.
“Some of the convicts had a full lifestyle there, so they felt like they were accomplishing more in the Treatment Center than in jail,” Blesdoe said. “They’re trained in a specific area so when they’re released, they are qualified for a job. A lot of convicts aren’t able to work, which sends them back into the circle of crime.”
The up-close and personal experience with criminology was similarly appreciated by students focused on a career in counseling. One such student is McKenzie Brown, a senior psychology and sociology major from Belton.
“Because I am used to the counseling aspect of psychology, it has been an eye-opening experience to hear criminals’ side of it and understand why they behave the way they do,” Brown said. “Talking with people who have been accused of crimes and put in jail has really rounded out my education in sociology.”
Wood often begins his class sessions with dialogue between students on hot topics such as raising the admittance age to Maryville’s bars. The 40 students taking the 400-level course engage in great classroom discussion, Wood said.
“I let them sit in my seat mentally and think, ‘OK, if Maryville City Council asks you for a recommendation, what do you tell them?’” Wood said. “So we’ve had some real-world dialogue.”
Teaching the course has helped Wood connect to the student population and better understand their behavior. He acknowledges this teaching opportunity has opened his eyes to the theory behind his daily procedures and believes it will help him relate to students more naturally in the future.
“Because of the large student-to-community ratio, a lot of what we do at Maryville Public Safety involves students,” Wood said. “I think it helps me to be a little bit rooted in the day-to-day attitude and feelings of that population.”
For the first time, Wood is now considering the field of education as a possibility in his future. He also has enjoyed connecting with the students and collaborating with Northwest faculty.
“I have always felt during my entire time in this community a strong draw to Northwest, but I think this teaching opportunity just gave me a stronger connection,” Wood said. “I feel like I’m closer to being a part of the Northwest family.”
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Mark Hornickel, Media Relations Specialist
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468