One of the biggest lessons Faith Burkhardt has taken to heart as a double major in criminal justice and social work at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is remembering to take care of herself.
“I want to help people, especially kids,” said Burkhardt, who started at UTC as a nursing major.
“But I’m learning that self-care is so very important. They say you can’t pour from an empty cup and it’s true.”
She now speaks from real-world experience gained through three semester-long internships she scored through the UTC Department of Criminal Justice.
She has worked with a Georgia parole agency, a federal law enforcement unit in Chattanooga and Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services.
The internships put her in high-stress, even volatile situations at times.
Parole violators tracked down. Children removed from their parents’ custody. Federal investigations into local child predators.
“It’s hard, but it’s my passion,” she said. “You still have to be there for yourself, first and foremost, doing this kind of work. You want to help people, but you realize you have to be healthy to do that and take care of yourself. Always.”
Burkhardt continues to refine her self-care habits, which are less about pampering and more about making sure to eat well and spend time with friends.
Still, the internships confirmed she “loves” what she’s studying and feels confident and excited about her career prospects. She even got a job offer from one of the agencies where she interned after she graduates.
The experiences paid off in multiple ways.
Burkhardt was surprised by how much she enjoyed working with the state parole agency in nearby Dalton, Georgia.
“It’s the one I didn’t think I’d like but ended up loving. It was a lot more active investigation work than I expected,” she said.
The UTC criminal justice department has long-standing partnerships with local, state and federal agencies representing law enforcement, the court system and corrections and parole that give students a variety of opportunities for job exploration.
Offering bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, both in-person and online, the UTC criminal justice program is led by a faculty rich with professors with backgrounds both in the field and in academia.
“UTC has an amazing criminal justice program, and our professors are actually there for us and care about what we have to say. They also care about you as a person and ask how you’re doing and encourage you, and I don’t think you get that with all professors,” she said.
The program and curriculum strike a balance between theory and real-world application, Burkhardt said.
“They make sure you’re understanding the material and how to apply it in future practice and getting you internships and pretty much taking you to the next level of your education. They’re so good. It’s the best.”