LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. — In his first semester of teaching at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, LaVarr McBride, assistant teaching professor and program coordinator of administration of justice, has facilitated exciting opportunities for the campus community to engage in timely conversations.
In October, McBride organized tours of the Fayette State Correctional Institution for three of his classes, which included one-on-one conversations with inmates. This is the first learning experience of its kind to be approved by the institution, and he plans to continue collaboration with SCI Fayette for future courses.
In November, McBride invited two sisters who survived the 1999 Columbine High School shooting to speak to his Introduction to Criminal Justice class over video chat. They shared their emotional account of one of the worst school shootings in American history.
“Students began to realize that victims of crimes deal with trauma for the rest of their lives, but they can choose to grow from it,” said McBride. “Having voices like these in the classroom makes the world a little smaller to our students. It proves that you don’t have to live in a big city or attend a big university to be part of important things that impact our community and society.”
In December, his students completed exercises to simulate the experiences of driving under the influence and conducting police field sobriety tests and traffic stops.
“It’s a fun and exciting activity, and my hope is that students will understand that we need to cooperate with our law enforcement to keep our community safe,” he said.
On Dec. 12, McBride hosted a campus discussion with Richard Burr, the defense attorney who represented Timothy McVeigh, the notorious domestic terrorist who killed 186 people in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
“Having voices like these in the classroom makes the world a little smaller to our students."
-- LaVarr McBride, assistant teaching professor and program coordinator of administration of justice at Penn State Fayette
During the fall semester, McBride attended the National Organization of Human Services Conference in Anaheim, California, where he spoke on a panel with Roxanne Atterholt, assistant teaching professor at Penn State Shenango, and Arlene Holmes, mother of James Holmes, who killed 12 people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado in 2012.
“We spoke on the importance of early detection of mental illness and personality disorders to prevent mass shootings in our schools,” said McBride. “It’s not necessarily the bullies or the troublemakers that we should worry about. We should show concern for every student. It’s about communicating and getting to know the students and parents.”
This spring, McBride has scheduled campus visits from Holmes and her husband, Bob, as well as Juan Melendez-Colon, who was wrongly convicted of murder and later exonerated from death row.
McBride has more than 30 years of experience in criminal justice and has been a state and federal law enforcement officer on several task forces involving sexual predators, violent crime, drugs and the internet. In addition, he has served as a training specialist with the Office of Defender Service, Washington, D.C., presentence investigator for federal courts, probation officer, parole officer, correctional officer and consultant as a defense initiated victim outreach specialist for federal and state cases. He consults as an expert in violent crime and death penalty cases. His latest book, "Standing in the Dark: Struggles and Hope for Victims of Violent Crime" will be published in January 2020 from Kendall Hunt.
“My goal is to expose students to the diversity of the Administration of Justice program—it’s not just about being a police officer, probation officer, or working in a prison. It’s about changing lives and becoming help agents. It’s not just about catching a crime but preventing it.”
For more information about the bachelor of science and bachelor of arts degrees in administration of justice, visit fayette.psu.edu/academics or call 724-430-4130 to schedule a campus visit.