Long Island City, NY—January 20, 2012–Rachid Rhazali, a LaGuardia Community College graduate who went on to get his bachelor’s and master’s in criminal justice, has returned to his alma mater. However, this time he is coming back as an adjunct professor in the criminal justice department.
The 29-year-old instructor has come full circle, but to get to this point he took a circuitous route.
Rachid, a Moroccan émigré who came to the country when he was 13 graduated Bryant High School with straight As and enrolled in Fordham University’s pre-medicine program with a goal of becoming a doctor. He declared a double major—chemistry and biology—and thought he was on the right track until a class visit to a hospital emergency room during his third year changed his mind. “I discovered that I get queasy at the sight of blood,” said Rachid. “This was a big problem since I wanted to be a surgeon.”
The unfortunate experience in the emergency room prompted him to drop out and for several years he lost sight of his academic pursuits and, instead, followed the money. He went to work full time as a personal trainer at a Long Island gym. While getting his clients in shape, he, too, decided to seriously pump iron and trained as an amateur body builder until a ripped hamstring ended his career.
He then decided to pursue his entrepreneurial dream and moved to North Carolina with the hope of opening his own restaurant, but after six months he returned to New York. There he landed a job as a manager at a Manhattan restaurant.
It was at this juncture that he decided to take a good look at his life. “I was now in my mid-20s and was not happy with where I was heading in my life,” said Rachid. “This was crunch time.”
With that he enrolled in LaGuardia as a liberal arts: math and science major taking classes full-time and working at the restaurant full time. Only knowing for sure that we would not be going into medicine, Rachid opted to take a full range of courses to see where his true interests lied. One was an elective course in criminal justice.
“I just took it as a whim because law enforcement was not on my radar,” he said. “But as I took the class it opened up my eyes to the criminal justice system, and I wondered whether I could make an impact.”
The course convinced him to seriously consider a career in law enforcement, but he was also drawn to teaching, so when he graduated LaGuardia in 2009 with a perfect 4.0 G.P.A., he transferred to John Jay School of Criminal Justice with those two careers in mind.
After one semester, in which he showed that he could handle the demanding course load, Rachid entered the BA/MA program in criminal justice. As he took more in-depth classes in criminal justice he said that he began to look at the criminal justice system in a very different way and shifted his focus from law enforcement to criminal justice.
In 2011, Rachid had just earned his dual degree in criminal justice when a teaching position in LaGuardia’s criminal justice department just opened. “I had not yet received my diplomas when the position was announced,” he said. “I could hardly believe it.”
He also couldn’t believe that Professor Jennifer Wynn, the program director who had Rachid in her classes at LaGuardia and at John Jay, recommended him for the position.
With her glowing recommendation and an impressive interview, the rookie instructor taught his first two classes—one in policing and the other in criminology– in the fall of 2011.
When he first stepped in front of his classes, he said his main concern was not letting Professor Wynn down. “She had a lot of faith in me, but I must admit, she was a little nervous,” said Rachid, who added that her fears were allayed when she observed him in class.
“I had the pleasure of observing Rachid teach a policing class this semester,” said Professor Wynn. “Although he’s new to teaching, he’s one of those gifted instructors who connects immediately with students and energizes the classroom.”
With his first semester teaching under his belt, the instructor is already teaching a criminology course during the intensive winter semester.
“I love teaching, but I will let you in on a dirty little secret,” he said with a laugh. “Teaching is a lot tougher than it seems.”
But he said this is what he wants to do. His next step? “I want to publish papers or present at criminology conference and apply to a doctoral program,” he said.
• • • •
LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit www.laguardia.edu to learn more.