Professor Frank Merenda began his professional career on the police force over 20 years ago, before beginning to pass his knowledge on to Marist students. Now, he teaches Criminal Justice classes at Marist, including Policing in America, Juvenile Justice, Cyber Crime, and Criminal Law.
Of all of the classes you teach, which is most meaningful to you and why?
Juvenile Justice. The United States incarcerates more juveniles than any other developed country in the world. On any given day, there are over 50 thousand juveniles in some kind of a detention center. Having worked for the police department for over 20 years, I have seen first-hand the detrimental effects of incarcerating so many youth. I think that it's important to find alternative ways of trying to rehabilitate children, that are more effective rather than simply putting them behind bars.
What positions in law enforcement have you held?
I was a community policing officer, I was a youth officer, a school sergeant, integrity control officer, administrative lieutenant and a captain as an executive officer. I did criminal investigations, assisted with cyber-crime investigations, and supervised for the borough of Manhattan. I worked on policy analysis and I was a police spokesperson.
Did you always want to work in the field?
I was going back and forth to either be an attorney or a psychologist. Then I received a brochure in the mail about a police cadet program where they gave money for school, so I thought it would be a good part time job. I quickly realized that being a police officer encompassed all of those interests that I had, regarding law and working to help people.
How have you been able to bring your experiences to the classroom?
I think I can give students a unique perspective, both from an academic point of view and a practical point of view, drawing from my educational background as well as real world experiences. I try to teach students to approach issues from a multitude of perspectives and considerations.
What do you miss the most about being on the force?
I miss being part of that family, that team, and camaraderie. The police department is like a second family. You have people that are looking out for you and that you can rely on. They really were my second family.
What do you enjoy about teaching at Marist?
I have always had a passion for teaching and I actually taught while I was working for the police department. I was an adjunct professor for twelve years and I taught with an awareness that all students learn differently. I was very proud of the fact that I could diversify my lessons to ensure that everybody understood and could benefit from whatever I was teaching. I truly feel that was a huge success. It is a great feeling when I can get through to the students and encourage them to think independently about a range of topics and to form their own individual perspectives.
How is your teaching style unique?
I have kind of a unique background where my doctorate is in education with a concentration in criminal justice and training. Having done my dissertation on diversified learning styles and being able to accommodate and adjust how I’m teaching to those learning styles makes for a unique pedagogy.
What is the most important thing students can take away from your classroom?
For them to think independently. I think it’s important to obviously be informed and get as much information from as many different sources as possible, but equally important is to then independently form your own perspectives and decisions. I think too often we read a textbook or an article and think that’s the only perspective out there. I think it’s important to read as many different sources out there so you can make your own well-informed contributions.
Written by Sarah Gabrielli '18
Profile Tags:Profile Type: Faculty
Academic School: Social and Behavioral Sciences
Campus: New York