Searching for stolen firearms, observing the interrogations of suspected criminals, and processing crime scenes were just a few of the duties for Justin Harris of Elkins during his internship with the Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) in Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Harris applied his education from the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith’s criminal justice program to a wide array of duties in the internship in the many different units within the NCIS, including special operations, sexual crimes and counterintelligence.
“Each day was different,” Harris said. “We would jump around between different departments, and it would really be whatever they were wanting us to do that day.”
The opportunity also jumpstarted Harris’s career in law enforcement. Prior to becoming a UAFS student and interning at NCIS, Harris worked as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning technician. Although it paid well, he yearned for a job in law enforcement, where he could pursue his passion of helping people.
After watching an episode of the hit television show one night, he decided to research employment opportunities with the agency. A job with the NCIS required a bachelor’s degree, so Harris immediately made plans to go back to school. His sister had recently graduated from UAFS and highly recommended the university.
When he got into the program, he found a diverse group of professors, many of which possessed real-world experience in law enforcement and were able to guide him on his career path.
“All of them come specialized in different facets,” Harris said. “I’m able to take valuable information from pretty much every class I’ve had here. Their knowledge base is so broad and they’re so personable. It doesn’t matter what professor you go up to, they’re going to have sound information and reasoning behind the advice they give you on how to pursue a certain career.”
The faculty also recommended students work internships to complement their education in the classroom, which led to Harris researching and applying for the NCIS internship. After starting the internship, he was surprised at the edge he had over other interns. When they arrived at a house where a death had occurred, Harris immediately knew what to do to process the crime scene.
“We studied crime scene documentation in class, so I could see what needed to be done and where I could assist,” Harris said. “I’ve realized that some other schools don’t offer the same hands-on learning as UAFS has, and it’s really played an important role in my internship.”
From here, Harris plans to work for a police department in northwest Arkansas to gain the experience necessary to earn a job with a federal law enforcement agency.
“NCIS would be a very fitting place for me, but it’s a very competitive agency,” Harris said. “It’s definitely a career I am pursuing, and I’m excited to keep building my experience and knowledge base at UAFS prior to going there.”
About the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith
The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is the premiere regional institution of Western Arkansas, connecting education with careers and serving as a driver of economic development and quality of place in the greater Fort Smith region. Through a small campus, dedicated professors, and the university’s unique bond with its community, students at UAFS are able to do more in the areas they are passionate about, both on- and off-campus, in a way that prepares them for post-graduate success. To find out how you can do more at UAFS, visit www.uafs.edu/do-more.