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Whiteneck fullTravis Whiteneck
Class of 2011

Major: Criminal Justice

Hometown: East Hampstead, NH

Growing up, people told Travis Whiteneck he would make a good police officer. While he was tall, strong, and athletic—physical qualities that are an asset for police officers—Whiteneck, now 6 feet, 1-inch and 225 pounds, was intelligent, a rational person, and a quick thinker in challenging situations—mental attributes that distinguish one’s performance in law enforcement. Still, he thought about other options such as a chef, an electrician, or a teacher.

Once Whiteneck began his coursework at Rivier College, he discovered for himself what career path he should choose. “It just takes something to spark that fire,” Whiteneck says. “Rivier did that.” He entered Rivier College as a Social Studies Education major, but was also enrolled in criminal justice courses. “They filled my schedule up with criminal justice courses, and I just fell in love with those classes,” he says. Whiteneck, 22, of East Hampstead, N.H., will graduate this December with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, as well as a double minor in history and business, and then try to enter a police academy for a local department.

He praises Rivier College’s criminal justice program for its interactive approach to teaching many aspects of the field. He also likes Rivier’s small class sizes, which he says allows for a lot of interaction with the instructors. For his internship, Whiteneck worked with the Nashua Police Department’s Domestic Violence Unit under the guidance of Sgt. Jim Testaverde. He says he observed many aspects of police work, including victim and suspect interviews, reading crime reports, and appearing in court. He did firearms training as part of the experience, where he got to practice using police weaponry at the firing range. “They wanted to expose me to every aspect of police work possible,” he says. “If I could give it 11 out of 10, I would.”

Outside of the classroom, Whiteneck served as a Resident Assistant (RA) in the College’s residence halls—which he also says prepared him well for a future career in law enforcement. For Whiteneck, the communication and crisis management skills he honed as an RA should serve him well in his future career. “The biggest skill that helps is the ability to know when you need to speak to people in a kinder way versus when to be the authoritative voice,” he says. When managing challenging situations in his residence halls, Whiteneck says he had to think rationally and exhibit grace under pressure. “It allows you to use your head over your body,” he says.

Whiteneck says that such qualities are what departments look for when recruiting candidates. “They’re looking for intelligent people. It’s not about being a big guy,” he says. “It’s about how you use your intelligence and how you use your head on the spot.”