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Criminal justice grad appreciates greater freedom in US to choose an academic field

Germany native will become crime analyst to help with decisions to deploy law enforcement

Tatjana Carranza, fall 2022, outstanding graduate, ASU, criminology, criminal justice

Tatjana Carranza, fall 2022 Outstanding Graduate, in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Service.

November 28, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.

One of Tatjana Carranza’s favorite things about America is how people here have significant freedom to choose their careers — including switching fields — compared to those in her homeland.

College students in her native Germany have the benefit of having their academic costs picked up by the government, Carranza said, but often the price of that paid-for education is being stuck with one’s first choice.

“Yes, it’s free, but it comes with restrictions,” said Carranza, whose initial plans were to become a language translator. “Here, you have transitions. In America I feel like I had all these opportunities.”

Carranza, the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions’ fall 2022 Outstanding Graduate in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, was born and raised in Germany, where she earned an associate degree in foreign languages, before moving to the U.S. at age 21.

Carranza gained her U.S. citizenship and is a U.S. Army veteran. She lived in Washington state and Georgia before moving in 2018 to her current home in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where her husband is still in the service.

Her bachelor’s degree was in legal studies. She decided to pursue criminal justice for her online master’s degree, fine-tuning her choice to crime analysis.

“Crime analysis is behind-the-scenes kind of work. You would do an analysis of where crime is located to decide if this area needs more law enforcement support,” Carranza said. “Especially with problem-oriented policing now, where do we focus our resources when they are so limited?”

Carranza’s capstone project involved researching traffic collisions and where they happen and why. “You ask, why is this intersection so bad?” she said. “It goes to city planning. Does this one corner have a tree that is blocking the view? It’s a very interesting field.”

Read on to learn more about Carranza’s ASU journey.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: After leaving the military, I knew I wanted to stay in an innovative field with a fast-paced environment. I have always enjoyed thoroughly analyzing data and finding the solution to a problem. Further, I wanted to find a field of study that leads me to a career in which I can positively impact my community. I was excited to find the Master of Science degree program in crime analysis, which offers me exactly what I was looking for.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: There were so many interesting topics that were covered in my classes at ASU. I can confidently say that I thoroughly enjoyed every class I took for my major. But one thing that I learned while at ASU is the importance of networking with those in your future industry. While at ASU, I joined the International Association of Crime Analysts to facilitate networking with those already in the industry. Through my ASU classes, I became aware that there was a professional organization I could join even as a student. Learning from those already in the field, including from the professors that worked in the field previously, has been helping me understand what to expect.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Aside from ASU’s good reputation, ASU also offers me the flexibility to take classes from anywhere in the world — while still providing me with high-quality courses. Further, I wanted to choose a university with faculty members who are experts in their respective fields, and ASU offers that.

Q: Which professor(s) taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I had fantastic professors throughout my time in the crime analysis program. However, the professors who impacted me most are Danielle Wallace, Edward Maguire and Brooks Louton. One important lesson taking their classes taught me is the importance of doing something you are excited and passionate about. All three of them were very passionate about their field — and their passion honestly motivated me and excited me even more about entering the crime analysis field.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Start a system that helps you stay organized. During my undergrad, I volunteered as a peer mentor and noticed that once someone implements a system to stay on top of tasks, their performance improves immensely. Life can get hectic, and it can be easy to forget what assignments and readings are due. Thus, I would recommend planning specific time slots for studying — so that competing demands do not get in the way during those times.

Q: As an online student, what was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I am an online student, and my favorite spot for studying is on my back porch — with my dog next to me. I live in North Carolina, so the weather is good most of the year. Being outside and getting some fresh air helps me stay focused. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I hope to enter the criminal justice field after graduation and am excited to embark on this new journey. While I am working on starting my new career, I plan to take some additional certification courses through the International Association of Crime Analysts.

Q:  If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: There are so many causes that would benefit from $40 million. In the past, I volunteered for organizations that support military families, which is a cause I would choose to support with $40 million. One particular issue I think needs attention is the number of homeless veterans. Transitioning out of the military is not easy, as it also brings a significant change of pace and lifestyle. Many end up struggling with the change. While the military provides programs aimed at supporting its members with the transition, I wish there were more community outreach programs aimed at helping those who are struggling.

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