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For Criminal Justice Month, Daymar College is honoring educators and graduates of our Criminal Justice program who are making a difference every day in their communities. Since the US Congress established it in 2009, the purpose of National Criminal Justice Month has been “to promote societal awareness regarding the causes and consequences of crime, as well as strategies for preventing and responding to crime”. Those who pursue careers in criminal justice contribute to crime prevention every day, and we would like to use the month of March to thank them for their commitment.
Professor Arnold Flener was born to teach. Decades before starting a career in education, the five-year-old would line up dolls and stuffed animals and teach a math lesson to the toys, complete with discipline for a “misbehaving” doll.
“Teaching has always been a part of who I am.”
The first time Professor Flener stood in front of a classroom was while studying law at the Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University. The school had requested that a law student teach an undergraduate class in criminal law. Even though the students were only a few years younger, Professor Flener remembers being at ease, like teaching was a natural step and going into education would happen at some point.
A career in law came first. Professor Flener practiced family, juvenile, and personal injury law in Kentucky for over ten years, and earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in criminal justice from Madison University along the way. About 12 years ago, while practicing law in Owensboro, Professor Flener heard that Daymar College was looking for instructors in the paralegal program. When the law work forced a relocation, Professor Flener resumed teaching in the criminal justice program on the Bowling Green campus in September 2015. Just a few months later, the J.D. was named Program Director of the Bowling Green campus Criminal Justice degree program, making educational duties a full-time job.
“I've not looked back,” Professor Flener said. “I love it here and have no regrets. My job is challenging and fulfilling.”
It’s the “family atmosphere” at Daymar College that motivates the Program Director, who says that students and faculty “look out for each other, care about each other, and support each other.” Professor Flener finds inspiration in the students, who “often have overcome much adversity to follow their dreams”. Even after earning an M.A., J.D., and Ph.D., the professor learns just as much from the students as they do in the classroom.
“To see them grow and blossom, to see the light of understanding come on their faces when they get a concept we’re discussing — that is the most amazing feeling in the world,” Professor Flener said of the most rewarding part of teaching in the criminal justice degree program at Daymar College.
A couple of years ago, Professor Flener was attempting to teach a particularly difficult section in Victimology class. The students were struggling to understand what their teacher was struggling to explain. Then Professor Flener personalized the situation, asking Bowling Green campus students to envision themselves as the victim, and it clicked. A light turned on. A student blurted out,” Oh my gosh, I totally get that!”
“It was such an electrifying moment to realize that they had gained understanding and were just that much better prepared to engage in their careers,” Professor Flener said.
The Criminal Justice degree program director stresses the importance of education and training to Daymar College Bowling Green campusstudents, that a degree or diploma is not the end because there is always more to learn; take advantage of the internships that Daymar College facilitates and all other opportunities to get real-world experience. Professor Flener has taken the students on field trips to a fire station and sheriff’s department, and plans to visit a police station and state trooper headquarters by the end of the quarter. In the classroom, students learn through the combination of lectures and videos with hands-on learning, working through scenarios some days and listening to guest speakers give testimonials about their experience in their careers in criminal justice the next. Classes are small, seven to fifteen students. Bowling Green campus students in Professor Flener’s classes learn by role playing and creating worksheets on their own, taking ownership of their lessons.
Students that graduated with criminal justice degrees have gone on to work as security guards, an inspector for the postal service, and for the Bowling Green police department. Professor Flener hopes to continue this trend.
“I love being director of Criminal Justice. My goals are to see the program grow, to see students come in and our graduates be placed. My goal is to be part of the Daymar family for many years to come.”