Criminal Justice Alumna Puts Her Passion to Good Use, Helps Women Course-Correct Their Lives
Michele Squires, a 2004 graduate of the Criminal Justice/Correctional Counseling Master’s Program, has seen doors open upon her completion of the online program at UC. A Licensed Drug and Alcohol Abuse Counselor and a Nationally Certified Addiction Counselor, Michele has parlayed her passion for counseling and criminal justice into a successful career. We caught up with her to learn more about the path she has taken to help women restore and revive their lives while freeing them from alcohol and drug dependency.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your current career?
I am the clinical director for Grace House of Memphis, Tenn. My agency has helped more than 5,000 women find their way back to lives free of drug and alcohol dependency. Many of our clients are facing legal consequences as a result of their drug use. My work in this field is highly rewarding as I can see the impact made when the legal system, partnering with highly trained addictions counseling staff, can change the lives of these individuals. Women are the fastest growing segment of the criminal population, and Grace House targets this population. I have prior experience as a program director for Lakeside Behavioral Hospital in the general psych and addictions units. I also began in the field as a pretrial investigator for the Department of Corrections.
Q: In what ways has your UC/CECH experience had an impact on your career and who you are today?
I worked as a treatment supervisor for a community corrections agency in Memphis. At the time, Memphis was ranked 3rd in the nation for violent crime. I designed and implemented a cognitive behavioral therapy program to address this criminogenic thinking. I relied upon volumes of research gathered from my corrections track at UC. Dr. Latessa's research was instrumental in the design of this program. I later learned that I was hired for this position based on information I shared during the interview about the UC program and its nationally recognized research.
Q: What advice would you give to younger alumni or current students who aspire to follow a similar career path?
I would advise students to pursue their Master’s Degree. Once I obtained this degree, doors began to open in my career. I was a non-traditional student when I enrolled in the online master’s program, and having this degree made me a more desirable candidate as I re-entered the job force.
Q: What are you future plans?
My future plans are to assist other non-profit agencies to improve the quality of treatment offered to the criminal justice population. Often it is easier to send this population to jail rather than train staff to challenge the faulty beliefs that fuel criminal behavior. It's not easy work; however, it can be highly rewarding, as you witness positive pro-social change within this group.
Q: What would you say to a prospective student considering UC?
I would encourage anyone who is contemplating obtaining their degree online from UC to give this program the opportunity to change your life. While I was enrolled in classes, I would dream about what my life would look like once I had my degree. I fulfilled those dreams and surpassed my expectations....Thanks, UC!