Abington criminal justice students enhance classroom learning through DC visit

Abington criminal justice

Penn State Abington students visited the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., as part of a criminal justice course.

Credit: Tom Hyers

ABINGTON, Pa. — Thomas Hyers, a criminal justice instructor at Penn State Abington, believes that introducing students to the real world is a critical component of high-impact teaching. 

“Getting the students out of class and away from the books on occasion is essential when it is tied to course-related content,” the veteran law enforcement officer and consultant said. “Plus, it’s a chance to do a little mentoring in a world in need of mentoring and role modeling.”

He recently escorted a group of students to Washington, D.C., to explore sites related to the course CrimJ210: Policing in America, with the National Law Enforcement Museum as the centerpiece of their visit. 

“The museum is across the street from Law Enforcement Memorial Park where the names of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty are memorialized in stone. It is a powerful visual and resonates with the students,” the former Philadelphia police officer said. “We stopped at the National Archives and the Lincoln Memorial and ended the tour at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.”

Student Victoria Silva found the museum to be the most impactful piece of the day. 

“It shed light on law enforcement’s training protocols as well as how they do their job on a day-to-day basis,” Silva said. 

“Getting the students out of class and away from the books on occasion is essential when it is tied to course-related content. Plus, it’s a chance to do a little mentoring in a world in need of mentoring and role modeling.”

— Thomas Hyers, criminal justice instructor at Penn State Abington

Another student, Alexandra Schailey, echoed Silva’s opinion.

“We spent around four hours at the museum, and we watched a classmate participate in a simulation activity,” she said. “Every piece and every interactive scenario taught me a lesson. I learned a lot of important pieces of information that I will use in my life.”

Hyers, however, said some of the most important learning occurred during dinner when they reviewed the day and shared their takeaways. 

“When you spend 13 hours together it is easy to establish a comfort and level of trust and respect that allows for interesting conversation,” he said. “The topics ran the gamut from race relations to community policing to gender inequality to individual experiences with police during their lives.” 

“It is an interesting conversation when you have a table of individuals of different races, socio-economic classes, and overall life experiences who feel comfortable and confident enough to participate in such an essential conversation for all. It was truly a memorable day.” 

Hyers said he always gets a lot of questions from students about his career “but it’s just not the same as it is when you are grabbing a burger during lunch at the Shake Shack in downtown Washington, D.C., on a beautiful spring day.” 

Hyers began his law enforcement career in the military before spending 27 years with the Philadelphia police and graduating from the FBI National Academy. Afterward, he worked as a chief of police with an agency in York County and then accepted a consulting position with McKinsey & Co. in Manhattan, where he spent two years working on major reform efforts for the notorious Rikers Island prison complex.  

Penn State Abington

Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible, and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st century public higher education within a world-class research university. With nearly 4,000 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 19 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics, and more.