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  • RitaDondlingerLarge

Rita Dondlinger

  • Program: Criminal Justice

    Education/Industry Certifications: Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology (minor in Spanish); master’s degree in Forensic Science; graduate of California Post Law Enforcement Academy and was a commissioned Sheriff’s Deputy and Lincoln Police Academy as a commissioned law enforcement officer for University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police.

    Has taught at SCC since: 2010

    Years of Work Experience Outside SCC: 18 working in corrections, law enforcement, crime scene investigation, and teaching.

    Describe your teaching philosophy.
    My goal for every student is that they gain successful employment in the criminal justice field of their choice. I encourage students to be fully in engaged in classes and to continue to learn throughout their careers. My philosophy of teaching is multi-dimensional in that I incorporate traditional lecture with class discussion, group activities, critical thinking, problem solving and hands-on work. I incorporate different methods of teaching to engage all students depending on their learning style. I believe that in this field it is important that instructors have experience in the subjects that they are teaching in order to bring real-life into the classroom and to “pop the myths of TV/media.” I use the text as information/guidelines and then bring in my experiences from corrections, law enforcement patrol, law enforcement investigations, and as a crime scene investigator. I bring real-life scenarios to the classroom for students to use their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Students get hands-on experience processing mock crime scenes, interviewing/interrogating, report writing, mock trial and basic law enforcement/corrections tactics. I believe students don’t learn if they just memorize, but actually learn if the information they are given is cemented in hands-on activities or problem solving/critical thinking activities.

    Why did you decide to teach at a community college?
    I like community colleges because they are designed for students to get an education and then go to work quickly. It is not so theoretical and much more applicable. Classes are smaller, which allows for students to engage with the instructors more and allows for instructors to get to know the students and really help them achieve their career goals. Students get a quality education with critical-thinking and problem-solving skills with hands-on application. They also can get this education more affordable than anywhere else. They also provide an excellent foundation should students want to go on to a four-year institution.

    What can prospective students expect when they enroll in your program?
    Students can expect a high-quality education from qualified staff. All instructors in the program have either worked in or are currently active in the criminal justice field. Instructors bring actual experience to the classroom, which allows students to gain insight from professionals who work in the field. Students can also expect instructors to be attentive and want to get to know them and their career goals. Students will be held to the high standards of work that criminal justice professionals are held to everyday. Students can also expect to be held to a Code of Ethics in the program.

    What experiences outside of SCC do you bring to the classroom/laboratory that enhance student learning?
    I bring a lot of experience. I started my career in corrections and was promoted to a supervisor. I then left corrections for law enforcement. I have experience as a patrol officer, investigator, bike officer, crime scene investigator, and also worked in autopsies. I also have experience in executive protection that I did while as a police officer. I bring all of this experience into my classes and bring in real-life scenarios for students to work on in the classroom. I also have experience as a trainer in law enforcement, corrections and crime scene investigation.

    What advice do you have for students pursuing a degree in your program? 
    You have to want to do this type of work and be strong emotionally. This is a “thankless” career field, and you are doing work that society deems “dirty” in which they either don’t want to see it or deal with it, nor do they want to know it is occurring. Students need to have strong oral and written communication skills. The biggest problem this field is facing is that persons can’t write sentences correctly, nor can they carry a conversation with complete strangers. In a field in which documentation is critical, students need to have strong writing skills. Oral communications also is critical in which professionals in this field need to be able to de-escalate situations or communicate clearly commands or have empathy for victims/witnesses who don’t want to speak. You can’t use cell phones to text to a victim, an inmate or someone you are trying help. I encourage students to “get off the cell phone” and start engaging in conversation face-to-face.

    What do you enjoy most about working with students?
    I enjoy seeing students when they “get it.” When it all starts to come together for them and they now have that clear picture and understanding of a situation. When it starts to “click” and they can now start to connect what they learned with real-life or now talk about current events with the knowledge they learned, that to me is enjoyable. I also enjoy when students come back after graduation or email me and are so excited when they land their first job in the field. I love to see my students succeed and to see them start their career.
    What is the best part about being an SCC faculty member?
    I enjoy the camaraderie that faculty have. We all help each other. I like working with the instructors in my program and in the division, and I like working with a very supportive dean. It makes the job easier knowing that everyone is working to help each other.

    What has been your proudest moment as an instructor?
    Working to get equipment and space to conduct more hands-on activities.

    What do you like to do when you’re not teaching?
    I enjoy doing landscape photography and reading. I also enjoy spending time with my family and friends. During the warm months I enjoy spending time on the lake boating, fishing and BBQing. I love listening to music (it is always going), mostly country and classic rock, but I don’t mind some of the pop, R&B and old-school rap, and who doesn’t love 80s music? I also love watching/playing sports, especially the HUSKERS.

    What would students be surprised to know about you?
    That I was a cheerleader in high school and the drum majorette.