Alumni: B.S. in Criminal Justice with a double minor in Business and History
Growing up, people told Travis Whiteneck he would make a good police officer. While he was 6 feet, 1-inch and 225 pounds, strong, and athletic—physical qualities that are an asset for police officers—he was also an intelligent, rational person, and a quick thinker in challenging situations—mental attributes that distinguish one’s performance in law enforcement.
Once Whiteneck began his coursework at Rivier, he discovered his career path. “It just takes something to spark that fire,” Whiteneck says. “Rivier did that.” He entered Rivier 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 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, as well as a double minor in history and business.
He praises Rivier’s criminal justice program for its interactive approach to teaching many aspects of the field. He also liked 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 observed many aspects of police work, including victim and suspect interviews, reading crime reports, and appearing in court. He took part in firearms training as part of the experience, where he practiced 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 Rivier’s residence halls. He says the communication and crisis management skills he honed as an RA prepared him well for a future career in law enforcement. “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.
Whiteneck says that such qualities are what police 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 head on the spot.”