UNH Students Take Top Honors at American Criminal Justice Association Competition
UNH Students Take Top Honors at American Criminal Justice Association Competition

by Jackie Hennessey
Communications and Public Affairs Writer/Editor

For Sean Lively ’16, the best part of the American Criminal Justice Association (ACJA) Conference and Competition was that first night when the 43 members of UNH’s Psi Omega chapter went to a Delaware mall to grab dinner.

“We all ran around the food court, getting exactly what we wanted, and then we all sat together without even thinking about it,” he said. “We combined multiple tables into what looked like a long dining room table.”

UNH students won 37 awards at a recent regional conference of the American Criminal Justice Association Competition.

They ate together like a family and they won together as a team, taking home the Sweepstakes Award for most wins by a college or university criminal justice program in nine different categories at the 2013 region four conference. Not surprising for a team that calls itself Psi Omega Nation, the largest ACJA chapter in the country, with 220 members.

UNH students took home 37 awards, winning first, second or third prize in categories including criminal law, corrections, juvenile justice, police management, crime scene investigation, physical agility and firearms. Daniel Maxwell, a lecturer in the criminal justice department and the chapter adviser, took home multiple prizes, including the top academic award.

“What makes Psi Omega Nation such an unstoppable team is that we are a team,” said Ryan “R.J.” Irons ’14, chapter president. “We work together and rely on one another to reach our common goals, which are to represent the University of New Haven in the best light, receive a tremendous amount of knowledge and prove our knowledge by winning as many awards as we can.”

Forty-three UNH students, including two foreign-exchange students, took part in the conference and competition last month at Delaware Technical Community College in Newark, Del. Students took five academic tests, investigated a mock crime scene and participated in firearms and physical agility competitions. The competitions are divided into three divisions: professional, upper (juniors and seniors) and lower (sophomores and first-year students).

Each participating student takes every academic test. “That’s the cool thing about these competitions: these kids are willing to lay it on the line when someone asks, ‘what do you know, right now, today in your field?’” Maxwell said. “I can’t think of another discipline that does that.”

Maxwell said this was one of the team’s most impressive performances. “The whole CJ club is extremely proud of the school, and it’s very important to them to represent the school well,” he said.

Irons, who placed first in the upper division in ACJA knowledge, said students typically prepare for months for the competition, and the judges and faculty members from other colleges and universities made note of their preparedness. “They like the spirit we have, how we represent the University of New Haven and that we always come prepared,” Irons said.

To get ready for the firearms competition, Lively said he practiced at the shooting range all summer. The night before leaving for the competition, most of the team was at the local range, practicing until two in the morning. “To be recognized for our work with these trophies felt fantastic,” he said.

Psi Omega’s pride and unity are palpable, said Marissa Boyle ’14, executive assistant of the chapter. “I feel like the knowledge we have gained thanks to the excellent faculty at UNH has helped give us an edge when it comes to the academic competitions,” said Boyle, who placed first in criminal law upper division.

“As for the crime scene competitions, we are lucky enough to be a part of the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, and we are able to learn from the very best about what it takes to conduct a crime scene investigation,” she said. “All members of Psi Omega are also willing to help each other do our best. It's not about being an individual; it's about helping each other and being one unified force.”

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