Giving students the chance to go behind prison walls is one way that Professor Michele Deitch engages her class and helps students “internalize and view policy through different lenses.” Deitch visited a prison with her students who were enrolled in the Spring 2012 public affairs course on the juvenile justice system. They utilized this experience to tackle heavy subjects such as the poor conditions facing juveniles awaiting trial in an adult county jail. Though the task was not easy, it offered an opportunity for service and continuous reflection. Furthermore, Deitch helped her students make an impact on the community through dissemination of research to public officials and related agencies.
An attorney with over 26 years of experience, Deitch serves as a Senior Lecturer at the LBJ School of Public Affairs where she teaches graduate courses in criminal justice policy, juvenile justice policy, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Deitch is dedicated to incorporating hands-on learning to provide meaningful connections between theory and application. As such, her juvenile justice course was recognized as the “Most Valuable Course at the LBJ School” for 2011-2012, following her personal honor as the 2011 “Outstanding Service-Learning Professor Award” at UT-Austin.
She views service-learning as “an opportunity to train the next generation of leaders” and to pass along the same passion and enthusiasm she has for addressing these critical issues. Working alongside her students also helps to keep her work on the cutting edge of the profession. “I learn so much from my students,” admitted Deitch. She equips them with the tools and allows them the autonomy to lead meetings with heads of state agencies, and her pride comes from how “relevant and fresh” their ideas and efforts have been as they excel at these intimidating tasks. Deitch proudly acknowledges that an additional benefit of service-learning is the ability to mentor her students as they “buil[d] personal relationships, networks and trust with community partners.” She noted that most students in the spring 2012 course received a job, a fellowship, or an opportunity to take on a new career path as a direct result of the class project.
As a champion for service-learning on campus, Deitch encourages other faculty members to “find the confluence between your passions and skills, think creatively, and give students the opportunity to connect in a real way with course material.”
As part of the class, Professor Deitch’s students engaged in important research on the conditions of the juvenile justice system, and they co-authored the report shown above, Conditions for Certified Juveniles in Texas County Jails.