Written by Karter Kudrna, DSU Student Intern

Dickinson State University (DSU) alumni Grace Thorson ’19 and Adam Jangula ’97 visited Associate Professor of Sociology Karen Hale Lewis’ Introduction to Corrections class this fall to speak about what they do, pique students’ interest in the corrections field, give their perspectives on attending DSU, and answer student questions about their respective jobs or career fields.

The Introduction to Corrections class focuses on political and social issues related to corrections and helps prepare students for jobs that involve corrections. The course is intended for those majoring in criminal justice, psychology, sociology, or for any student needing upper-level electives in social science.

Grace was the first speaker to visit the class. She currently works as a communication specialist dispatcher for the Dickinson Police Department. Before the Dickinson Police Department, she worked in juvenile corrections for almost three years where she worked as a juvenile institutional resident specialist at the Youth Correctional Center and then became a case manager in the community.

During her class visit, Grace spoke about her experience at the North Dakota Youth Correctional Center and the Division of Juvenile Services. She hoped students were able to take away that criminal justice is an ever-changing field. “There are many different agencies that make up the criminal justice system, and they can all work together and against each other, depending on the situation. The criminal justice field is a thankless but rewarding career field.” She added, “The students enjoyed talking about the challenges within the criminal justice field.”

Grace is originally from Dickinson and graduated DSU in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in composite social science, criminal justice track after completing her first semester at another university. “I transferred back to Dickinson State because I felt that DSU was a better fit for me and my goals. I have had multiple family members attend and graduate from DSU, and it felt right to continue the tradition!”

Grace’s favorite DSU memory is when her class celebrated Dr. Lewis’s birthday several years ago. She recalled her composite social science class as “a small and tight-knit group, and it was an awesome experience to celebrate a professor who had meant a lot to our class. We had cake and a little celebration for her birthday.”

An accomplishment Grace is proud of from her time at DSU is serving as the president of the Historical Society for a semester. “I was proud just to be able to be a part of the group and to lead it! I got to work alongside Dr. Barney, who I respect and look up to. I got to be co-president with one of my best friends, which made it even more special.”

Adam spoke about corrections a short time after. He currently works at the Southwest Multi-County Correctional Center (SWMCCC) and serves as the deputy operations administrator and chief of security. He feels that in the past few years there’s been some changes towards how inmates are treated. “We have been putting more of an effort on programs to help the inmates who are housed with us and not just locking them up.”

Adam talked to the Introduction to Corrections class about the day-to-day operations he does at the SWMCCC, but he was especially hoping to answer student questions. “I wanted to speak to the students to answer any questions they had about corrections. People who have never worked in corrections don’t really have a full understanding of what we do, and there are a lot of misconceptions out there. People only know about corrections through television shows or social media, and those avenues do not always portray an accurate account of what happens at a correctional center. Therefore, I wanted to help educate the students on a factual basis, and since I have been at SWMCCC for 18 years, I wanted to share the knowledge that I have acquired.” He added, “I guess it’s the teacher coming out in me.”

Adam is originally from Hazelton, North Dakota and graduated from DSU in 1997 with a Bachelor of Science in elementary education and a minor in physical education. Adam decided to come to DSU after a trip he and a friend took together. “I chose DSU after myself and a good buddy of mine came to visit the campus on a football recruiting trip. I already knew DSU had a top-notch teacher education program, but after meeting with Coach Hank Biesiot, Coach Pete Leno, and all the other people we met during the visit, it just felt right.”

Adam’s favorite memory from DSU is meeting great people he considers as life-long friends. “I feel meeting all the people I met while attending DSU was my favorite part. I met a lot of great people, and I believe I am a better person for meeting those people.”

Adam felt the biggest accomplishment during his time at DSU was being able to graduate, as he wasn’t particularly sure if he would when he first came to DSU. “I was not the smartest person and studying didn’t come easy, so graduating, to me, is a big deal.”

Grace absolutely loved speaking to the class and hopes that one day she’ll be able to come back and speak to another group of students in the future if she is invited to speak again.

Adam, if asked, would also like to speak to another group of students, and he hoped this group of students took away an accurate and factual understanding of what goes on at the SWMCCC and in the corrections field.