Carolyn Meissner

2018 recipient of the Audrey J. Harris Summer Internship Award


Interned at Madison Police Department

I am a senior graduating in the spring of 2019, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a certificate in Criminal Justice. I am aiming to get my master’s in Forensic Psychology after I graduate, with a long-term goal of working in victim advocacy and support.  

For as long as I could remember, I loved the intersection of psychology and criminal justice. I loved to watch TV shows and movies, read books, write stories and essays, and listen to podcasts about criminals. I really wanted to understand what made them tick. For the longest time, I thought I wanted to do research on criminals and interview them in jails and prisons for a living. However, when I had the opportunity to shadow someone in the Crime Response Unit, a unit within the district attorney’s office that helps victims when crimes occur and during trials, I took it. I thought this shadowing gig was going to show me that I only wanted to work with criminals. I was wrong. A few minutes into shadowing, I realized that victims were just as psychologically complex and interesting as criminals. After that day, I was pretty sure working with victims was what I wanted to do with my future. I again shadowed at the Crime Response Unit, started working in a psychology research lab that ran physically abused children as participants in studies, and began volunteering at the Canopy Center, a child abuse treatment and prevention agency. I have also contacted multiple people in the victim advocacy world, a  CASA coordinator, a child forensic interviewer, and an investigator who helps domestic abuse victims, to help me understand what it would take to become a victim advocate or supporter. However, the idea of working with criminals, with jury selection or another aspect of forensic psychology still nagged at my brain. What if I was missing out an another great career? I knew I needed an internship placement that would allow me to explore all avenues to know for sure.  

Therefore, this summer, I had the pleasure to work in the Madison Police Department in their Burglary Crime Unit (BCU). My day to day in the BCU consisted of me calling burglary victims to talk about their cases, doing projects for the other five detectives in the BCU, and tagging along with the detectives on cases. Being in such a large organization allowed me to experience a lot of different aspects of the criminal justice system, just as I had hoped. I sat in on multiple trials, went on ride alongs, went to pawn shops, interacted with victims of many different crimes (not just burglaries), went out on cases with the forensics team, toured the jail and the juvenile detention center, watched a jury selection, and I was even apart of a case that made it on the news! I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Madison Police Department because it gave me every opportunity and experience I could have to decide what I liked and didn’t like about the criminal justice system and where I felt most of use. I am beyond excited to say that victim advocacy and support is exactly the road I want to go down and it wouldn’t have been finalized without this internship. 

I am truly thankful and humbled by being one of the recipients of the Audrey J. Harris Award. The Harris family will always hold a special place in my heart. I also wouldn’t be in this position without the kind words of the Criminal Justice and Legal Studies faculty who believed in me and my potential. This generous award has given me the freedom to figure out my future dreams and passions. I couldn’t be more grateful!