Before Dr. Ellen Chayet joined the faculty at St. Thomas Aquinas College in 2005, she consulted with criminal justice agencies around the country, conducted major research projects, and served as an evaluation specialist for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. In that role, she worked with prison officials and program managers to assess the effectiveness of programs such as pre-release, employment training, prisoner classification, and the training academy.
“Teaching criminal justice at the college level has always been my dream career,” says Ellen, who has since been sharing her years of research and field experience in criminal justice along with her education in sociology and social policy with students. She considers a major part of her role to challenge and encourage students to think differently and critically about criminal justice to prepare themselves for careers in law enforcement, community corrections and reentry, and corrections.
A former student, Joseph Selchick, BS ’14, says that Ellen did exactly that when he was a student pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice at STAC. “Dr. Chayet, who served as my professor, advisor, and mentor, is passionate about teaching and about her students,” he says. “She helped me earn an internship with the Ramapo Police Department and the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office. Today, I am a Detective and Bomb Technician for the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office.” Joseph says his former professor is “one of the most outstanding mentors” he’s ever had and credits her for helping to lay the foundation for his career, providing opportunities to network with the same people who are now his colleagues.
Over the years, Ellen, who earned her doctorate in social policy at Brandeis University, has been dedicated to expanding STAC’s Criminal Justice program. In fact, one of her most important contributions to the College has been planning, implementing and now directing the Master’s program in Criminal Justice Administration. “This has been personally rewarding,” she says. “I truly enjoy the administrative aspects of this role as well as interacting closely with, and teaching, the graduate students.” Ellen also brought together a Criminal Justice Advisory Board, including high-level professionals representing all areas of the system, who contribute in so many ways to the program and to STAC students.
Ellen also started a chapter of the national Criminal Justice Honor Society, Alpha Phi Sigma, on campus, and collaborated with other faculty to facilitate STAC’s partnership with Hudson Link for College Education in Prison, a program that offers bachelor’s degrees to men incarcerated in the Sullivan Correctional Facility.
Passionate about addressing racial and social inequalities in the criminal justice system, Ellen has also been a member of the Rockland County Reentry Task Force since 2011. “The challenges of being released from prison, coupling a criminal record with the lack of opportunities for entire classes of people, continue to seriously penalize the already disadvantaged,” she says. “This is work that needs to continue in the face of persistent barriers that unfortunately disproportionately hurt poor communities and people of color.” In Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice, the senior seminar she teaches, Ellen shares her knowledge of and passion for reentry with her students.
Originally from Queens, Ellen moved to Boston after graduating college, where she became a die-hard Red Sox fan. Today, she lives within walking distance of campus. In her free time, she enjoys reading, working out, and taking walks with her husband and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Mabel. She also loves the performing arts and spending time with her daughter in Manhattan, having dinner, and seeing dance performances and shows. Partial to New England, Ellen often vacations in Maine where she whale watches and hikes in Acadia National Park. When international travel is possible again, she plans to return to Europe to visit France, Scotland, and Belgium.
At STAC, she values her colleagues with whom she collaborates not only academically on course and program development but also to ensure the best overall college experience for students. STAC feels like home to Ellen, who always wanted to teach criminal justice in an environment that is small and nurturing, one that makes it possible for faculty members to get to know students personally and be supportive mentors. “We are in a unique position to help students understand themselves, their potential, and their aspirations,” she says, “and then work with them throughout their years here and after, to help them develop and reach their goals.”