The Tassel Is Worth the Hassle: Reflections from a Criminal Justice Professor

The 2017 APUS Graduation Commencement marks my 17th year of watching my beloved undergraduate criminal justice learning partners celebrate their academic excellence and walk across the stage with confidence and pride in their academic accomplishment. This milestone accomplishment is a step to bigger things to come.

Student Success

I have had the honor of working with some amazing, passionate, and talented adult learners during my 17-years at APUS. As a blue-collar scholar, I relate to my working adult students. I understand the reality of working a demanding career and balancing between adult responsibilities and priorities while striving to achieve the dream of earning a college degree.

To witness the sacrifices that working full-time adult students make to their studies in an effort to provide opportunities to better their position to provide for their families is humbling. The stories of their motivation always comes back to wanting to earn their degrees so that their children understand that hard work provides opportunities for advancement and security.

I have written hundreds of letters of recommendations for my learning partners over the years. I have spoken to hundreds of background investigators as my students use their APUS credential to advance and land their dream criminal justice career.

I have had former learning partners in all branches of the military service receive acceptance and graduated from officer candidate school (OCS). They went from green to gold with their APUS Criminal Justice credential. Many of my undergraduate students have gone onto graduate studies and several have gone all the way earning doctoral degrees.

Other former undergraduate criminal justice learning partners have gone onto law school and now are working attorneys. Several have written peer-reviewed journal articles and professional publishing articles. Many are now police officers, deputy sheriffs, probation and parole officers, and correctional officers. Others continue to serve our nation in military uniform and I have watched these educated warriors promote to the senior levels of non-commissioned officers (NCOs) helping lead and shape the next generation of American warriors.

Many are veterans who along with their civilian peers in the class made a promise that when the time was right, they would go back to school and earn a degree. This Saturday at graduation that promised comes full circle.

Taking The Opportunity

How do I know what my former learning partners have accomplished all this reported success?

Because we made a connection on their educational journeys and they decided to stay in touch with me and share beyond our classroom time together. I am not sure I am a mentor or role model; however, I do know that I have been and will always continue to be a learning partner because I care and respect my students. Adult learning is a partnership and goes beyond the boundaries of a classroom.

Taking the Leap of Faith

Getting close to your learning partners and building a relationship has its emotional risk. Working with adult learners who serve in the military and first responders comes with the fear of knowing their profession is dangerous. I have learned to be flexible and work around real world situations and personal emergencies. Real life happens to adult learners, and no one goes through life without scars.

I have lost students to war who have been KIA and WIA. I have had first-responder learning partners injured in the line of duty protecting their communities. I remember and I will never forget what you did for our nation and citizens.

As an educator, how can I not give my all when my students risk everything to provide the blanket of freedom and safety to our nation?

Their service and dedication is the motivation for me to want to be a better educator and find ways to enhance learning opportunities and help guide my learning partners to become independent self-directed scholars capable of finding their own answers and problem solving.

The beauty of teaching is that I am always learning. My students have enriched my life more than I can ever articulate in every way possible.

I am committed to chasing the goal of being the best classroom teacher that I can possible become. I might not ever get there, but the beauty is that I am always leaning forward and not afraid to take chances to make the learning more engaging, relevant, and meaningful. My advice to any scholar is love what you do, and never stop trying to improve. Be the Best you can be!

I can say with all openness and from the heart, that I Love My Students.

I will take you with me and I will learn from you. I will continue to chase the goal towards teaching excellence. My learning partners have inspired me to be a better person and educator.

Thank you for allowing me to take a few steps with you on your educational journey.

Congratulations…… Criminal Justice Graduates in the APUS Class of 2017! ……..You Did It!


About the Author

Mark Bond

Mark Bond has worked in law enforcement and has been a firearms instructor for more than 30 years. His law enforcement experience includes the military, local, state, and federal levels as a police officer and criminal investigator. Mark obtained a BS and MS in criminal justice with high honors, and M.Ed in educational leadership with Summa Cum Laude honors. Mark holds a doctoral degree in education (EdD) with a concentration in college teaching and learning.  Mark is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at a university and adjunct professor of administration of justice studies at a community college.


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