Dan Wood has been in the field of criminal justice for 28 years.
During that time, he has worked as a police officer, criminal defense attorney and teacher.
These days, he uses his skills in the classroom as the assistant professor of criminal justice at MCCC.
Wood plans to use his experience in the field to diversify the criminal justice program at MCCC.
Wood has been interested in criminal justice since he was young.
“I grew up around the police department because my mom was a clerk at the Romulus Police Department. So I grew up around police officers, and I wanted to be a police officer,” Wood recalls.
After graduating high school, Wood wanted to enter the police academy but had to wait until he was 21. So he became a volunteer firefighter.
By the time he entered the police academy in 1994, Wood had earned his Firefighter 1, 2, and paramedic licenses.
He graduated from the academy and worked in law enforcement until his first year of law school.
“I couldn’t handle doing 12 hour shifts at the police department and studying law,” Wood said. “I was able to do my bachelor’s degree that way, but going to law school was exhausting.”
Wood then pursued law school full-time and passed the bar exam in 2003. He worked in the Monroe area for 12 years as a criminal defense attorney.
After slowing down his law practice, Wood earned his master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University in 2015.
“This opened up a lot of doors at the collegiate level,” Wood said.
Although he has not always worked as a professor, Wood has been involved in teaching for many years. He has taught everything from legal seminars to CPR classes.
Before coming to MCCC, he was an adjunct professor at EMU for two years. He accepted the position at Monroe in February.
Outside of his experience in criminal justice, Wood enjoys coaching baseball and football. He also loves horror movies and is an amusement park junkie.
Wood said he enjoys teaching criminal justice because of its relevancy.
“I can’t pick up a newspaper without finding something that’s criminal justice-related. I’m always current,” Wood said.
Wood notes that he has seen a lot of changes in criminal justice during his time in the field.
Law enforcement used to focus solely on learning laws, enforcing them and learning defense tactics, he said.
“I spend most of my day being a social worker, a psychologist. When I went to the academy, that wasn’t taught,” Wood remembers.
“Now, there’s a huge shift in law enforcement on trying to defuse situations and change how the officer reacts.”
He credits this shift to a higher educational standard that has been enacted by police academies. Most police academies now require an associate’s degree to enroll.
“Your mind is the biggest tool that you’ll have as a law enforcement officer. Through the education, you’re creating professionals,” Wood said.
“That has changed the landscape of what a new police officer is.”
Because of this shift, Wood wants to change the criminal justice program at MCCC to help students become better equipped for a job in the field.
Wood says his next major task is to introduce a criminology course at MCCC.
“I’d like to introduce a criminology course here and discuss the theories of crime. If you understand why people have certain behaviors, you can better interact and prevent situations, as opposed to letting them become spectacles,” he explains.
He also wants to raise awareness that criminal justice is not limited to law enforcement.
“I’m trying to expand our program to include the alternatives to policing so people understand that there’s more to it,” Wood said.
The physicality of police work is not for everyone, Wood cautions, but that shouldn’t deter students from pursuing a career in criminal justice.
“You don’t have to be out there as the arresting officer. You can be somebody that works tech, parole probation, or juvenile justice.”
Law enforcement is only a fraction of the jobs that criminal justice has to offer, which he wants to convey to students.
“I hope people see criminal justice for what it is. It’s not just tracking down the bad guy; it’s giving you the tools to do that.”
Wood plans to organize a seminar on criminal justice in Monroe County to showcase the variety of jobs in the field.
Alexis Schenavar, a student of Wood’s, is excited about his plans to diversify the program.
“Our program here has always been geared toward law enforcement, but now he’s coming at it from a different perspective. There are so many different places you can go with criminal justice. It’s not just law enforcement,” Schenavar said.
Schenavar is a criminal justice major and plans to pursue a career in law after graduating from MCCC.
“It’s good to have someone who has been through law school before,” she said of Wood.
Kevin Cooper, the Dean of Science and Mathematics and the Interim Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, is also looking forward to expanding the criminal justice program.
“I always am in favor of diversifying courses. I think it will draw more students in because not everybody here may be interested in police work,” Cooper said.
Cooper hopes that the criminology and forensic science courses that Wood plans to introduce will cause collaboration between the humanities and science and mathematics divisions.
“It would tie in to what we’re doing in math and science, and that’s something that I think is important here, that the divisions work together,” Cooper said. “If we have that chance to collaborate, that’s a great thing.”
Rachel Eagle, the assistant to the dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, said she appreciates Wood’s breadth of experience in criminal justice.
“He has a wealth of background. He was an attorney, a police officer. He did some EMT work. So he has been in a lot of aspects in the criminal justice field,” Eagle said.
She said his multiplicity was what made him stand out.
For Wood, the best part of teaching is interacting with students who share his passion for criminal justice.
“(It’s) being able to directly interact with students who are interested in the same things that I am. As a college student, you’re trying to become the peer of your teacher. I’m trying to include my students in that,” he said.
Wood says that the most rewarding part of his career in criminal justice has been people he has encountered.
“When you can honestly say that you’ve saved someone’s life, that’s very rewarding. There’s another life there, and it’s a direct result of your actions.”