Stepping into the world of criminal justice and corrections can be an eye-opening experience for some students. It’s often a world very different from their own—and for Blaire Viehweg, it was one in which she knew she could make an impact.
“I studied criminal justice as an undergraduate and found my passion for positive programming inside Indiana’s correctional facilities,” she says. “My experiences through classes and internships gave me a realistic perspective of the criminal justice system.”
After her undergrad experience, Blaire wanted to continue her education in the corrections field to deepen her knowledge and take on new challenges. Since beginning the program, she has done just that.
“My most memorable project during my time at O’Neill was my summer internship at Pendleton Correctional Facility working in community engagement,” she recalls. “This opportunity opened my eyes to the nuances and layers of the correctional system.”
It also showed her that she could have a positive impact on people living in that system. During her internship, Blaire worked closely with staff and residents to create an educational program called EVA—Everyone’s Value is Acknowledged.
“It aimed to target at-risk residents through a mentorship-type program in which each individual has an opportunity to make positive changes in their life in spite of being incarcerated,” Blaire explains. “The relationships forged and the knowledge gained cemented my interest in making a difference in this field.”
Blaire’s opportunities from her hard work didn’t end with that internship. She was also selected as the Indiana State Senate Borst Fellow for the 2021 legislative session, giving her a different lens with which to view her future career in corrections.
“Working closely with legislators within fiscal policy has given me an entirely new perspective about state government and the allocation of funds throughout the state,” she says. “This experience has proven to be invaluable. I now have a better understanding of the connection between policy, legislation, and the relationships that are formed to accomplish the work.”
Blaire’s efforts to gain a multifaceted view of correctional systems is just one of the many reasons she was selected as a member of this year’s Elite 50 graduate students at IUPUI.
“I was ecstatic to learn I had been selected,” she says. “It is a validation of my hard work and my ability to balance academics, work, and volunteer activities. This was a beautiful ending to my collegiate career at IUPUI.”
And while she may be wrapping up her time with O’Neill, she has advice for students who may be considering furthering their education.
“Embrace the challenge,” she says. “It is easy to find yourself overwhelmed as you balance competing priorities. However, over time you will begin to see your understanding of difficult topics expand and your ability to think critically grows exponentially.”