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Admired Professor Winter Asset to Legal Studies

What makes ASA’s Legal Studies curriculum so strong? To find out we spoke with Professor Shaun Winter, who is in his 11th year of teaching at ASA College as an Instructor in the Legal Studies Division. Professor Winter began with an example. One of his former students and Avengers football standout, Cody Walker, just received Dean’s List accolades. “Here’s a football player and athlete. Right?” said Professor Winter, “Well, academically he also succeeded. So that’s what we try to do.” Professor Winter has broad experience in the curriculum – he’s taught every Criminal Justice course the department offers – and a wealth of knowledge from a full career as a Supervising Investigator for the Brooklyn DA’s office. He sat down with us to speak about his career history, making connections in the classroom, and where students can go in their career after a solid start at ASA College.

One of his former students and Avengers football standout, Cody Walker, just received Dean’s List accolades. “Here’s a football player and athlete. Right?” said Professor Winter, “Well, academically he also succeeded. So that’s what we try to do.”

Professor Winter pointed out that students today have a wide range of career options available once they have achieved their degree through the Legal Studies department. Criminal Justice is not limited to joining the NYPD – there are also opportunities with social work, the public defenders office and the prosecutors office, and civil service jobs via the Court Officer exam, the Port Authority police exam, and more. Whereas he used to see most students coming to ASA in order to get 60 credits and join the NYPD, he now sees students interested in attaining their bachelor’s degrees at schools like John Jay, earning a master’s degree, and even going on to law school. His top priority as an instructor is to set his students up for success wherever they find themselves next. One of his former students recently started at John Jay, “And he’s preparing orientation with John Jay. The professor told them you’re going to have four quizzes, two exams and a paper and he’s sitting there going, I’ve heard this before… If I do my job right, when you go to the major leagues, you’re ready.”

His top priority as an instructor is to set his students up for success wherever they find themselves next.

Professor Winter understands all the opportunities available to Legal Studies students because he himself had a varied career in law enforcement. He began as a member of civil law enforcement as a city inspector for the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. While he was working on the tow truck enforcement unit, he built connections with the DA’s office in Brooklyn and then joined the DA’s office as an investigator. Interestingly, the department he joined was created in the 1930s to fight corruption and racketeering – it is entirely independent of NYPD, and has all police powers, including search warrants and arrests. Before retiring, he was in the Special Investigations Unit, which covered narcotics, guns, stolen property, organized crime, prostitution, and official corruption. This spectrum of experience comes through in the classroom: “So I try to use my experiences to make sense of what’s in that book. Yesterday, we were discussing ‘are you allowed to have a police scanner?’ So I explained to them if you’re in a tow truck industry, you’re not allowed to have a police scanner. Then, through my experience in enforcing towing laws, I went through the whole litany of towing programs in New York City.”

Before retiring, he was in the Special Investigations Unit, which covered narcotics, guns, stolen property, organized crime, prostitution, and official corruption.

Sharing career experience is only part of the job, according to Professor Winter. Teachers also have to make connections between different courses in order to help students come to realizations on their own. Earlier in the day, Mr. Winter was teaching “Diversity and Criminal Justice”, which covers how heterogenous the United States is and how that impacts various ethnic groups. The topic of the class was waves of immigration, specifically the first wave of immigrants from Ireland and Germany around the 1840s. In class discussion, Professor Winter asked the students if they recalled from their Criminology coursework the concept of “Conflict Theory”, which can be traced back to something written in 1848. In a moment, one of his students, Ms. Figueroa-Espinal, was able to connect the reference and said, “Karl Marx and the Communist Manifesto”. The link between Conflict Theory – which states that people use laws to retain their economic, political, and social power – and the immigrant experience is very deserving of exploration via class discussion. As Mr. Winter likes to say, “It works. So if you try to draw that (reference) in and then, when they are able to do that (make the connection) for themselves, that’s a very powerful time for them because it’s actual.”

That is to say, the knowledge and understanding that the students possess is their own.

Empowering students – helping them make connections, showing them possibilities, and preparing them for opportunities – Professor Shaun Winter is an exemplar of ASA College’s mission in action.

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