There’s nothing like seeing professionals doing what they do where they actually do it to motivate a student toward making a satisfying career choice. Just ask Cassity Sopha, a junior in Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions’ School of Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCJ).
Sopha, a former biochemistry major who originally dreamed of going to dental school, credits her internship with the Pinal County Attorney’s Office for opening her eyes to an entirely new passion that one day could see her attending law school or helping divert criminal defendants in misdemeanor or nonviolent felony cases away from incarceration.
Being in the room as prosecutors worked to offer those accused of crimes an alternative to a prison cell inspired Sopha’s desire to be part of the administration of justice.
The unexpected opportunity arose when Sopha, who was working at a title company in Casa Grande, struck up a conversation with a client from the County Attorney’s Office who helped her get the internship after learning of her major.
Sopha said her internship supervisor directed her to spend time with different departments and personnel within county judicial system – the courts, prosecutors, probation officers, and so on – to explore their various specialties.
“They would show me what they do for the day,” she said. “I’d get to ask questions and get to sit with them when they meet with defendants.”
Of particular interest to her was the diversion process. She was there as prosecutors worked out dismissing charges against defendants if they successfully completed their diversion programs.
Sopha said her course work involves a great deal of reading, and while reading imparts quite a bit of knowledge, it lacks the connection to the work that her internship provides.
“It’s so much different than my courses,” she said. “I get to see how the court system actually works from one department to another. I get to go through the actual steps.”
Working with professionals also avails interns to hearing about future job opportunities, she said.
Eric Johnson, a CCJ instructor who coordinates the school’s internship program, said Sopha is also one of his own former students.
“I have been fortunate enough to have Cassity in two classes throughout her time at ASU. As educators, particularly in the Watts College, we hope that our students are not only passionate about what they are learning, but that they are passionate about making a difference through public service,” Johnson said. “Cassity embodies this as well as any student I have ever taught. She cares about the things she is learning, writes papers on topics that she is passionate about, and I am sure she will go on to be a difference maker in public service.”
Sopha said she would tell a prospective CCJ student to find an internship that does what hers did for her -- one that enables the student to visit different departments to get a sense of what each does and then points the way to possible career interests.
“(Before the internship) I didn’t know what I might do after I graduated, but I was finding out all the jobs in the CCJ field. You’re not going to get that experience through most classes,” Sopha said.
If not law school or diversion, she said, “I’m thinking about being a probation officer, too.”
Mark J. Scarp is media relations officer for the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.