While finding a place to display 19 new trophies may pose a small problem for an award-winning program, it is a welcome challenge for the University of Central Missouri’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology.

This shiny new hardware comes after a team of students and faculty members captured UCM’s 20th consecutive Sweepstakes Award at the American Criminal Justice Association-Lambda Alpha Epsilon (ACJA-LAE) National Conference Competition.

UCM’s Gamma Epsilon Delta (GED) Chapter of ACJA-LAE traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, March 12-16 to compete in the event. Team Advisor and Professor of Criminal Justice Dr. Gregg Etter said the UCM team garnered a total of 38 total points in a wide variety of competitive categories that led to awards in individual and team placements in the Lower, Upper, and Professional divisions of this annual event.

Students, faculty, alumni and other professionals in the criminal justice field participated in the competition that attracted participants from some of the most prestigious colleges and universities across the nation.

“We took the (Sweepstakes) trophy and ran to the bus,” Etter joked in talking about the stiff competition the team faced this year.

He noted that UCM finished six points ahead of the second highest-scoring team. This was a thinner margin than UCM has encountered in recent years. In addition to taking home the Sweepstakes trophy, other highlights of the competition included the Top Gun Award. Richard Gillespie, an emeriti staff member who is retired from the UCM Department of Public Safety continues to work with students on firearm training and has been a successful competitor in the annual competition, both individually and as a team member.

Gillespie captured first place in the Firearms (Individual) category, and was part of a three-member team that finished third in the Firearms (Team) Professional Division. UCM also captured first place in the Lower and Upper divisions for individual firearms and teams, and took two second-place awards in these same divisions for both individuals and teams.

All members of the Gamma Epsilon Delta Chapter who participated in the national competition were recognized March 28 in an awards ceremony that was led by Dr. Lynn Urban, professor and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, and Etter, who was also among the award winners.

In her remarks, Urban reflected on the successful history of UCM’s criminal justice team, noting that the criminal justice team got a taste of what it was like to win a national championship with its first Sweepstakes Award in the spring of 2000. The team repeated this achievement in 2003, and its winning streak since then is unmatched by any other college or university, public or private, nationwide. This includes teams representing some of the largest and most prestigious criminal justice programs in the nation.

“When you think about it, all of these 20 years of nationals, what are the constants,” Urban asked students and faculty who gathered in Wood Building for the celebratory event. “The first one is hard work. Have you ever stopped to think about how many hours it took you studying? You had a study group every week, just for nationals.” That’s probably 20 hours total spent in study groups, plus shooting practice and other types of preparation.

“The other common denominator is the leadership, not only your student leadership as an organization, but your faculty and your sponsors,” Urban said. She commended Criminal Justice and Criminology faculty members who have been instrumental in the team’s success over the years.

Etter said the team’s victory was “hard fought.” He also noted the important role faculty members have played in preparing students for national competition, and praised the strong commitment students demonstrated to achieve success. This was noticed by individuals far beyond participants on competing teams. A bus driver who transported the team, for example, commented on students’ professional demeanor and dedication.

“You remember the lady on the bus…she said you were some of the most polite students she has had in years on all the trips where she’s been hauling people,” Etter told team members, speaking as a well-seasoned criminal justice practitioner, educator and team advisor. “One thing she said that stuck with me is that you are ‘scary smart.’ She was impressed that you were doing preparation on the way to Louisville. You guys study hard, you test hard, you play hard. But that’s okay. You earned it."

Etter said this year, the team not only received an impressive array of trophies, but medals also were presented to individuals in various award categories. Below is a list of individuals and teams from the ACJA-LAE, Gamma Epsilon Delta Chapter, Region 3, who placed in national competition:

Top Gun: Richard Gillespie (emeriti UCM staff member)

LAE Knowledge - Lower Division: Wilson Harrow, first place and Juliana Sloan, third place; Upper Division: Joshua Terrell, second place; Professional Division: Roger Pennel (emeriti CJ faculty member), third place

Police Management and Operations - Upper Division: Jacob McBee, first place

Criminal Law - Upper Division: Taigan Rogers, second place

Homeland and National Security - Upper Division: Tyler Fagan, third place; Professional Division: Greg Etter, second place

Academic Research Poster - Lower Division: Aspen Hockley, third place; Graduate Division: Joshua Terrell, third place

Firearms (Individual) - Lower Division: Azeem Akram, first place; Upper Division: Taigan Rogers, first place and Joshua Terrell, second place; Professional Division: Richard Gillespie, first place

Firearms (Team) - Lower Division: Matthew Nenninger, Azeem Akram and Wilson Harrow, first place; Upper Division: Taigan Rogers, Jacob McBee and Joshua Terrell, first place; and Lauren Gruber, Tyler Fagan and Evan Adams, second place; Professional Division: Richard Gillespie, Greg Etter (faculty member) and Hunter Rademan, second place

Crime Scene - Lower Division: Avery Nix, Avery Penn and Juliana Sloan, first place

Physical Agility - Male 25 and Under: Wilson Harrow, second place

2023 National Scholarship Awards - Graduate Division: Taigan Rogers, second place

2023 Student Paper Awards - Graduate Division: Pricila Avila, third place

To learn more about American Criminal Justice Association-Lambda Alpha Epsilon (ACJA-LAE) National Conference click on the awards website. For information about UCM’s ACJA-LAE GED program, contact Lynn Urban at urban@ucmo.edu or Gregg Etter at etter@ucmo.edu.

In the photo:
Students and faculty members from the Gamma Epsilon Delta (GED) Chapter of the American Criminal Justice Association-Lambda Alpha Epsilon National Conference Competition gather around the Sweepstakes Award and other trophies the criminal justice team earned during its 20th consecutive national win. (Photo Submitted by ACJA-LAE GED Chapter)

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