Student-athlete Grace Mueller scores real-world experience in criminal justice course

UW women's basketball player grace mueller headshot

Grace Mueller is no stranger to hard work, leadership, and teamwork. She uses these skills every time she steps onto the court as a member of the Wisconsin Badgers women’s basketball team.

This summer, she’s putting these skills to work off the court, in a legal studies fieldwork course.

One of nearly 20 community-based learning courses offered this summer at UW–Madison, Legal Studies/Sociology 694 is a 3-credit internship through the Center for Law, Society & Justice. Students spend 300 hours at an agency focused on individuals who are justice-involved, at-risk, or affected by crime—or at law or legal institutions. Agencies ranging from local nonprofits to state government. Fieldwork is complemented by two full-day seminars, where students come together to share experiences and learn more about the justice system.

Mueller is spending her summer internship with the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force, administered through the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation.

headshot of Carolyn Lesch
Course co-coordinator Carolyn Lesch says the internship gives students hands-on experience in a real-world setting.

“This internship shows me what a career in law enforcement looks like on multiple levels, from local police departments to the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Mueller says. “It has allowed me to capitalize on my passion to pursue a career in criminal investigations.”

Fieldwork tasks have included helping collect evidence on a search warrant, observing firearms training, listening to interviews with suspects, and even attending an autopsy. Mueller is grateful for the opportunity to learn from experienced Wisconsin agents.

“So far my biggest takeaway has been seeing how much detail and planning goes into investigating a crime and executing a search warrant,” she says. “It’s amazing to see how passionate these agents are about protecting and serving the state of Wisconsin.”

Lessons learned

Course coordinators Carolyn Lesch and Martine Delannay say the internship gives students hands-on experience in a real-world setting.

Their goal is for students to develop professional skills, make connections to the community, increase their cultural awareness, and gain confidence. The seminar portion of the course provides students the opportunity to learn from each other about how various agencies intersect.

headshot of instructor Martine Delannay
Course co-coordinator Martine Delannay says the goal is for students to develop professional skills, make connections to the community, increase cultural awareness, and gain confidence.

Lesch and Delannay say the internship gives students clarity and inspiration to pursue specific careers after graduation. Students who’ve completed the course say it teaches them a great deal about themselves.

“I learned a lot through my internship and the coursework on top of it,” reads one student comment. “It really allowed me to think deeply about certain ideas and my stance regarding them.”

While Field Observation in Criminal Justice is offered during the fall and spring semesters, Lesch and Delannay say there are perks to taking it over the summer.

“The summer internship is more extensive,” they note. “Students become immersed at their placement sites. They are able to visit other internship sites more freely and may also have placements in their home communities or out of state.”

Earn credit for summer experiences

Community-based learning courses allow students to earn credit while getting hands-on experience in the summer. Workplace experience courses, study abroad, and research opportunities such as WISCSCIENCE all offer options for earning credit while experiencing the world.

Summer is also a great time for students to earn credit for internships and work experiences. Students may secure an internship through their school or college, or apply to earn credit for an internship they arrange. Many internships offer funding, allowing you to earn both money and credit. With more than 200 online courses available during Summer Term, students can take courses while interning and make progress toward degrees.

For more information on the criminal justice internship, contact Martine Delannay and Carolyn Lesch at cjcp@ssc.wisc.edu.