Education leads to a life of advocacy for director for NAMI-Brazos Valley

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Editor's note: This feature story is a courtesy publication from Blinn College

From undercover law enforcement officer to mental health advocate, Jody Schulz’s career path has been anything but conventional.

The Blinn College alumna began her academic journey as a nursing student in the 1970s, taking courses at Texas A&M University and Blinn while working nights as a police dispatcher. During her sophomore year, Schulz left school to pursue a career in law enforcement in Houston before eventually settling down in her hometown of Brenham.

After a three-decade hiatus, Schulz returned to Blinn in 2000, where she earned an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in criminal justice. The criminal justice AAS degree provides a comprehensive introduction into the field, teaching students about the basics of the U.S. government, the legal system, and law enforcement.

“I always wanted to finish my degree,” Schulz said. “I was impressed with Blinn’s quality of courses and instruction, and I felt I received a sound education comparable to any four-year university.”

With online and traditional classroom degree paths, Blinn offers Associate of Arts, Associate of Applied Science, and Law Enforcement Technology degrees in criminal justice, as well as a Criminal Justice Corrections certificate. Students who complete the Criminal Justice Program are eligible for a variety of local, state, and federal careers, including law enforcement, investigation, corrections operation, corrections counseling, a variety of court positions, government administration, and probation. Similar careers also are available through private companies.

Blinn also has an articulation agreement with Sam Houston State University (SHSU) that allows students who obtain an AAS degree in criminal justice to transfer their courses toward a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Science (BAAS) Degree at SHSU. In addition to the AAS degree, Blinn offers an Associate of Arts (AA) degree in criminal justice that readily transfers to four-year colleges and universities that offer a bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice.

After encountering mental illness within her family, Schulz used her newly acquired training from Blinn to become an advocate for the cause. The mother of four has worked with domestic violence victims as part of the Washington County Victim’s Task Force; as a mediator for the Dispute Resolution Center of the Brazos Valley; and as an advocate for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Kids – a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes court-appointed volunteer advocacy for abused or neglected children. In 2006, Schulz brought CASA for Kids to Brenham for the first time.

Schulz now serves as the Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – Brazos Valley, where she advocates for access to services, treatment, support, and research for those living with mental illness in the Brazos Valley. Schulz often returns to her alma mater to provide training for Blinn’s police officers, public service staff, and resident assistants regarding mental illness.

Click here to learn more about NAMI.

“Research shows a large percentage of mental illness appears while young students are attending college,” she said. “NAMI trains those working closely with students to recognize the signs and know the proper procedures to help.”

In addition to her criminal justice courses, Schulz has taken classes in Blinn’s Legal Assistant Program since graduating. Through the program, she has broadened her knowledge of the U.S. legal system so she can better serve her patrons.

“Jody was the quintessential student,” said Legal Assistant Instructor Channa Borman, a practicing attorney in Bryan/College Station. “She was always prepared for class, asked relevant and meaningful questions, and truly wanted to learn – not just to pass the next test, but ultimately to apply that knowledge in the workplace.”

“It is never too late to complete or continue your education,” Schulz said. “If you tried but did not finish college when you were younger, I would advise you to give it another chance, as I did. Blinn reignited my interest in learning, and I thoroughly enjoyed going back to school.”

For more information on Blinn’s Criminal Justice Program, visit www.blinn.edu/twe/crimjustice.

Registration for Blinn’s 8-week Spring courses is available through Sunday, March 18. For enrollment information and to learn about financial aid opportunities, visit: www.blinn.edu.