Today@Sam Article

Females Of The Force

March. 5, 2020
SHSU Media Contact: Veronica Hoff

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Meet the First-Responder Alumnae Serving SHSU

Sam Houston State University attracts students wanting to pursue Criminal Justice careers because of its consistent ranking among the top criminal justice programs in the country. The college is proud of its expanding reach and continued success, leading the nation in research and preparing graduates for the Criminal Justice enterprise.

Alumni are influencing social justice everywhere, but there are also those drawn to serve their campus communities specifically. Many alumni make up the University Police Department and work to make positive connections with students, faculty and staff. Their dedication and daily efforts keep our community safe and improve the quality of campus life.

Policing has historically been a male-dominated field, but not anymore. We see women earning their place in leadership and our alumnae are among them. In honor of Women’s History Month, here are the stories of three alumnae who choose to serve the SHSU community as they influence the next generation of females to join them in the ranks of law enforcement and first-responding.

Meet Patrol Sergeant Candice Sherbenou

Sherbenou earned her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice in 2009 and master’s degree in Criminal Justice Leadership Management in 2015. Before joining the University Police Department, Sergeant Sherbenou worked at the Walker County Sheriff’s Department Jail Division for eight years. She worked in various roles throughout that time, from commissary officer, where she ran the store for the inmates, to promotion to Sergeant and shift supervisor. Sherbenou celebrates 15 years with UPD this year.

Candice 4x5Why did you choose to pursue a CJ degree from SHSU?

I began my journey in higher education at SHSU in the fall of 1989. I was straight out of high school and not sure what I wanted to do. I went through several changed majors before taking a 13-year break from my education to raise my daughter. After working for the Walker County Sheriff’s Office, I decided to go to the Police Academy to further my career. Upon completion, I was excited to see that SHSU PD had an opening and I applied. After becoming a police officer for UPD, a co-worker encouraged me to finish my degree. Working at the university that has a top rated Criminal Justice department definitely played a huge factor in continuing my education in the criminal justice field.

Why did you choose to work for your alma mater?

I moved to Huntsville to attend SHSU. I loved the smaller town feel and the family atmosphere here at SHSU.

What is one of your favorite parts about your job?

My absolute favorite part of my career is the people that I meet along the way. I think working at SHSU gives me that opportunity to have the biggest impact on people. Most of the students that I encounter are typically between the ages of 18-24, the age group that is out on their own, maybe for the first time, and trying to navigate the kind of person they want to be. I enjoy speaking to different groups and being involved in activities that allow me to encourage people. I also like to let them know that sometimes good people make bad choices and that they don't have to let that one choice dictate the path they take. I tell people all the time I've made many mistakes. I've had a 0.9 semester GPA and I joke about it taking me 20 years to get my first degree. The biggest thing is to never give up. I would not change a single part of my life or the choices I've made. They made me who I am. 

What advice and encouragement would you give to our females students considering a career in law enforcement? 

Do it! Law enforcement needs good women. Women add a perspective sometimes that men can't.

Meet Detective Chanda Brown

Brown earned her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice in 2007 through the Bowers Honor Program (before it was called the Honors College). She began working for University Police Department as a student assistant in 2005 during her second semester of college and became a certified officer in 2007. She’s worked at UPD for 13 years as an officer and 15 years altogether.

Chanda IMG 4x5Why did you choose to pursue a CJ degree from SHSU?

In 2004, SHSU was in the top three for nationally-ranked Criminal Justice programs, and I decided if I was going to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice, I was going to do it at the best Texas had to offer. A Forensic Science degree did not exist at that time, but SHSU did have a new Forensic Science undergraduate course, and the CJ department was advising students how to structure their course work to pursue a career in Crime Scene and Forensics. SHSU was the best choice for an in-state school to pursue a career in the Criminal Justice field.

Why did you choose to work for your alma mater?

I fell in love with the environment of SHSU and Huntsville. While working at UPD I was able to observe how a smaller department functions. After speaking with recruiters from larger police departments while in college, I knew I wanted to work at a department where you become family.  I was already a part of the SHSU PD family from working as a student. SHSU is a unique, close-knit environment and has given me many opportunities I would not have had otherwise. It has been amazing to watch SHSU grow and evolve through the years. I will always be proud to be a Bearkat.

What is one of your favorite parts about your job?

Every day is different, and as police officers, we are problem solvers. We are challenged to find solutions to issues we do not witness. I may respond to the same type of call, like a theft report, but the details and the people are always different. As a detective, I have to take information, at times very little, and try to determine what if anything can be done. I have met many different people, and you never know how an interaction with someone will change your life. It has become my mission.

What advice and encouragement would you give to our females students considering a career in law enforcement?

Never let someone tell you, you cannot do a job. I have learned that the people who say there is not a place in law enforcement for women are not in law enforcement themselves. I have never been told by a male colleague that I could not do this job or did not belong here. Embrace the differences of others and be confident in your own skills. Everyone has strengths and everyone has weaknesses learn yours and those of the people you work with, and it will be much easier to step back when you can realize for yourself that someone else is better suited for a task regardless of their gender.

Meet Dispatcher Amber Castro-Beltran

Castro-Beltran began her studies at SHSU in 2015 and earned her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice in 2019. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Homeland Security Studies with a certification in Emergency Management. She hopes to complete her second SHSU degree in 2021. Before working for UPD, Castro-Beltran worked in Police Telecommunication for the Houston Police Department, taking 911 and non-emergency calls for the City of Houston. Castro-Beltran has enjoyed all the experience she has gained working as a dispatcher for UPD since 2015. She is also a certified training officer.

Amber IMG 4x5Why did you choose to pursue a CJ degree from SHSU?

Since my freshman year of high school, my dream was to attend SHSU for its recognized Criminal Justice program. I knew that a majority of the professors had some type of field experience and could bring that to the classroom, which I thought was neat.  

Why did you choose to work for your alma mater?

I started working at UPD as soon as I started my bachelors at SHSU, but I have stayed because I love the environment. We are a tight-knit group and I love everyone I work with. SHSU has so many opportunities and I love that I can be a part of that.

What is one of your favorite parts about your job?

I like helping people and that’s one thing I can do with my job. Most people call the police because they are at their most vulnerable moments. I like being the person that can help them, whether it’s trying to calm them down or get the assistance they need. A good ending is always a good shift.

What advice and encouragement would you give to our females students considering a career in law enforcement?

As cliché as this is going to sound, you can do anything you set your mind to. Never settle and strive to be the best possible version of you. Hard work will get you so many places!

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