Penelope Dunn is prepared for her first school year as MCCC’s new criminal justice professor.
“I know that it’s going to be a lot of work this first semester, but I’ve read the textbooks probably five times front to back,” Dunn said.
Her determination to succeed at whatever she does has seemed to carry her throughout her life.
Before teaching, Dunn spent 24 years with the Trenton Police Department, where she served as a patrol officer, deputy chief, detective sergeant and lieutenant.
When she began at the Trenton Police Department in 1986, she was the first female police officer.
“I thought it fit my personality,”bDunn said about her career choice. “It was nice to stay in my own town and do something good.”
Throughout her career, Dunn made it a priority to identify herself with the best police officers and learn everything she could from them.
“I am somewhat of a nerd in the sense that I love to learn,” she said.
In college, Dunn had an interest in teaching and knew that she would eventually fall into the teaching aspect of law enforcement.
“I think it was when I had the opportunity to teach D.A.R.E at the elementary school level that I felt I would like to get into teaching,” she said.
Dunn went back to school to get her master’s of science degree at Wayne State University, where she had first earned her bachelor’s degree.
She began to teach at Henry Ford Community College parttime in 2002.
“Since that time, I have loved teaching,” she said.
While at Henry Ford, she designed and developed a computer forensic course, so students could study computers and other devices and learn how they are used to commit and solve crimes. They would look at real life cases and see how people use computers, cell phones, and cameras and leave some sort of evidence for investigators, Dunn said.
Students would work on computer programs capable of looking through hard drives to extract data for criminal prosecution, Dunn said. Students also learn how to write and execute a search warrant for cell phones and computers.
Dunn realized how useful computers, smart phones, and social networking were when she saw younger officers using them.
“They had newer gadgets and were using them to help with police work,” Dunn said. “As an instructor I saw many students that really did not see the full picture of these technologies.”
She began researching and learning about how police can use the technology to do better work.
To develop the computer forensic course, she worked with the Wayne County and Michigan State Police to learn from them, as well as spent a lot of time reading and working on computers to develop protocols that would help both law enforcement and students.
At MCCC, Dunn hopes to use the criminal justice program to build up the community aspect. She wants to see students interested
in criminal justice.
“When you go to a community college, sometimes you lose the social side of a university,” she said. “The community college is a great place to build professional relationships that are going to last for a long time.”
Dunn uses a variety of teaching methods to engage students. She uses group activities, video clips, discussions and lectures in her classroom.
“I try to create as much energy in the classroom as I can,” she said. “I want my students to have as much fun and be as excited about it as I am.”
Dunn also wants to teach students the reality of police and criminal justice work.
Dunn said media make police work seem easier than it actually is. She says that while media is good at getting people interested in the topic, it is not reflective of what is really done in the field.
“When I teach, I try to bring in people from every discipline within the criminal justice system to try to ground the students,” she said. “Police work is 90 percent not chasing criminals around.”
That is why Dunn brings in experts, and wants to try to get internships for students so they can find a balance between what is seen on TV and what they will
actually be doing, she said.
Dunn was chosen to be MCCC’s criminal justice professor out of 117 applicants.
“She has tons of experience; exactly what we are looking for, for this particular position,” Grace Yackee, vice president of instruction, said at the May 24
Board of Trustees meeting, when Dunn’s contract was approved.
“I want to do well at what I do, I want to work hard. I’ll outwork anyone to get the job done,” Dunn said she told the hiring committee.
Besides being so involved in her work, Dunn enjoys being outdoors and being active.
“Everything outdoors,” she said.
She particularly likes biking, running, and backpacking.
Dunn and her husband of almost 25 years enjoy backpacking and have gone to the Grand Canyon as well as trails in Utah, Michigan and Tennessee. She
also runs in local races, but most recently ran a half marathon in Arizona.