Ryan Hermany

“Held Hostage”

Hermany“We’ve got a hostage situation.” The message crackles over the walkie-talkie in Alvernia’s Office of Public Safety on a pretty spring day in May, breaking the tranquility of a campus readying itself for graduation and summer.

It is the message you never want to hear. But Joe Thomas, director of public safety, is as cool as an iced mocha latte. “It made my heart race just a bit,” confessed Thomas as he learned that a bus full of students en route from the Upland Center to main campus had just been taken hostage, apparently at gunpoint.

But the veteran safety director has been there before and without so much as a flinch, begins to mobilize his team, contacting the Reading Police Department and locking down the campus as safety precautions. Of course, it helps that Joe had been in touch many moons before with Professor Edgar Hartung, the two plotting along with a small, hand-picked group of administrators to plan a crisis drill that would give the 16 students in Hartung’s Crisis Management class a lesson they would never forget.

Hartung, a retired FBI Agent, U. S. Air Force pilot and Vietnam vet who heads up Alvernia’s criminal justice program, regularly puts his students through an intense, three-hour hostage negotiation exercise called the Grand Final Scenario. It’s experiential learning at its best and makes an indelible mark on participants.

Just ask recent graduate Ryan Hermany ’12, a straight-A student whom faculty member Rosemary C. McFee calls the “star of the criminal justice” program. It was only a year earlier that it was his turn to foil a hostage situation on campus.

“The Grand Final Scenario is basically the pinnacle of a criminal justice education at Alvernia,” says Hermany, who served a six-month internship with the U.S. Marshals in Washington D.C., and recently presented a research paper at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences in New York City. “It takes all of the things that you’ve learned in your criminal justice training and asks you to use it in a nerve-racking, close-to-real-life hostage situation.

“We believe that you learn by doing,” says Barry Harvey, an assistant criminal justice professor and regular participant who was “killed” as a hostage a few years back in one of these exercises. “Our job is to teach our students what they’ll need to succeed and then hone their ability to use what they’ve learned by putting them in different, real-life scenarios.

“These Grand Final Scenarios are as close to real life as possible, and they give our students an opportunity to practice what they’ve learned in a stressful, but simulated situation.”

Despite an ultra-competitive job market — a market where the Pennsylvania state police receive 8,000 plus applications for a class of 50 cadets — Hartung believes that Hermany and his fellow criminal justice classmates have been uniquely prepared between real-life exercises, internships and the expertise that Alvernia’s professors have imparted on them from their days in the fields of law enforcement, terrorism, probation and corrections.

Did you know?

A National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America's Promise study found that participating employers and recent college graduates agreed on the necessity of out of the classroom experiences. The study emphasizes the importance of providing students with important knowledge and skills but also experience putting that knowledge and skills to practical use in "real-world" settings.

Did you know?

Seventy-six percent of participating employers put "teamwork skills and the ability to collaborate with others in diverse group settings" at the top of their list of desired capabilities in new employees, according to a National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America's Promise study. These are among the skills fostered by real-world learning experiences.

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Service learning is a method of providing personal and academic development through work with established nonprofit organizations in the community. It is an avenue to introduce students to a professional environment without the extensive commitments of an internship.

Did you know?

Service learning provides ideal real world learning opportunities. According to SmartBlog on Leadership, doing volunteer and service work for a non-profit organization that is connected to your major or academic program of study helps develop leadership skills, expands your perspective of the world, allows you to discover new skills in a safe environment, and develops a larger network of real world contacts to draw upon once you graduate.

Did you know?

Service learning can take you outside of your comfort zone, giving you an opportunity to work with new challenges, people, politics and interpersonal dynamics. It also offers new perspective on priorities. Hanging out with people who have had different life experiences encourages you to tackle challenges from different angles. Julie Zolfo, founder of Make Success Matter said that she volunteered for six weeks at the schools in New Delhi, India.

Did you know?

"Alvernia's Career Development Center works with students to find avenues for employment, internships, co-ops, career exploration, resume development, and graduate school options. Center staff help students assess their options and identify their own "brand" to complement their life after Alvernia.

Did you know?

A recent career fair at Alvernia attracted more than 55 employers who were seeking to hire employees, co-ops and interns for their organizations. Career fairs like this one are fertile ground for students seeking real world learning opportunities and to reap the benefits of such as employers look to to hire staff members who have honed their skills and abilities via practical experiences in real situations.

Did you know?

Since its inception, Alvernia has offered real world opportunities with an emphasis on service and careers that help those in need. Field experiences in areas like criminal justice, social work, nursing, occupational therapy, health care science and teacher training among others provide our students with rich learning opportunities to test drive what it's like to work in that profession.

Did you know?

In a recent American Association of Colleges and Universities survey of 302 employers, 79 percent said institutions of higher learning should emphasize helping students apply what they learn in real-world settings, and 66 percent said that completing an internship or community field project would help prepare students for success.