Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Faculty Feature: Jesse Senderson

Jesse Senderson is a full-time professor for the Criminal Justice department, teaching an array courses every semester. With 35 years of experience in the criminal justice field, he pairs wisdom with anecdotes in the classroom, ensuring that his students are not only educated but entertained as well. Besides, if the professor doesn’t find the material interesting, why should the students?

Lucky for his students, Senderson is passionate about criminal justice and education. After graduating from University of Arkansas with a degree in history and political science, then serving as a combat medic in the army for two years, he began his criminal justice career as a probation officer for the state of Arkansas. It wasn’t long before Senderson moved to Southern Illinois where he became the first formally appointed probation officer in Alexander County. By 1983, he had returned to his home state of Alabama, joined the police force, and been promoted to Detective. Even as a minority in a largely white police force, Senderson managed to find comfort in the camaraderie of his fellow officers after an informal induction that involved drinking a few beers in the cemetery over Hank Williams’ grave. Serving as an officer during the protests in 1984, he couldn’t help but acknowledge the irony that in 20 years’ time he had gone from a protesting student (in the civil rights protests at Selma in 1965) to a police officer controlling a protesting crowd. In 1985, after moving to Texas at his wife’s request, Senderson took a position as an adult probation officer in Dallas. He was promoted to supervisor by 1989, just in time to instill the brand new electronic monitoring system on his 400+ criminal clients. It wouldn’t be long before his client base would change drastically.

UNT approached Senderson in 1991 about becoming an adjunct professor. Only a year later they offered him a full-time position. After 20 years serving the public as a police officer, Senderson and his wife were ready for him to take a less stressful and less dangerous role in the community. So, he accepted the position and began working as an educator full time. However, community service was in his soul and as a result, he became the Associate Director of the Center for Public Service. In this role, he helped to get seed money to begin a project at Wynnewood Village in Dallas; the plan was to create a sustainable community that would rejuvenate its businesses and the spirits of its inhabitants. The project was a success in Senderson’s eyes, with its positive effects still visible today, several years after government funding ended.

In Senderson’s office visitors will find a picture of the statue of Booker T. Washington in Tuskegee, Alabama. The bronze depiction of Washington presents him lifting a cloth, the veil of ignorance, from a slave’s eyes. Senderson finds inspiration in this artistic representation of education: lifting the blinding cover of ignorance to show the light of education. For Senderson, education is about exposure and exploring the world outside one’s own, finding wisdom beyond personal blindfolds. While he finds great joy in his family and his grandchildren, it is obvious that Senderson also delights in his opportunity to provide the light of education to all students who enter his classroom.