political science with criminal justice major Guneet Gill
Outstanding Student
Guneet Gill

Major: Political science with concentration in criminal justice; minor in pre-law

Graduation: May 2022

Hometown: Stockton, CA

Transfer from San Joaquin Delta College

How did you choose Pacific?

First, I’m from Stockton, born and raised here. I actually grew up around the Pacific neighborhood and I always admired the campus. It was so beautiful to me, and it was just like a goal to achieve. And I honestly thought it is one of the best schools for me. It has such a great connection to other opportunities, and it helps that it's very small size, so the faculty really get to connect with the students. I always felt that connection with some of my adviser and my professors. I really enjoyed that kind of close-knit circle.

When did you realize that you wanted to focus on criminal justice?

That's funny because when I first went to [community] college after high school, I was actually a biology major. But I didn't really feel that I was meant to do what I was doing, and that's when I changed my major to business law. When I transferred to Pacific, I spoke to the adviser about the political science program and the concentration in criminal justice. It excited me a little bit more than doing business law.

What is the difference among the different criminal justice concentrations?

What I noticed was different between my major and other students’ major in political science is that I didn't need to take as many political science classes which were substituted with more criminal justice-related subjects like criminology, corrections or social inequality.

The criminal justice program, I would say, is very similar to liberal arts fields such as political science or sociology. I feel like they really mix well with each other. With sociology, I feel that's more for people who want to do social work or some sort of activism. 

With political science, maybe they're into theory, into the science of policy. And then with criminal justice, I think you could do pretty much both. Speaking from my experience, being a political science major with concentration in criminal justice, I got a mix of both in there.

What professional careers can you pursue after studying criminal justice?

I know there are some students who want to pursue a career in law enforcement and maybe corrections, and I think that is very beneficial for them. For me personally, I am planning on attending a law school. I think if I were to practice criminal law, this concentration prepares me a lot better for that than if I were to just do political science on its own.

You could definitely go from political science directly into law school; you could go into law school from any major. But I think for criminal law, for those who want to practice as defenders or prosecutors, having this concentration gives them a sort of a warm-up to what law school would teach.

Have you had any internships?

I’m interning at the Office of the Public Defender of San Joaquin County right now. At Pacific, there is a course requirement of having independent study or internship. I was sort of stuck on finding one and that's when I reached out to professor Cynthia Ostberg, my adviser. She's set up the internship for me. She reached out to the  public defender’s office, got me in contact with them and really helped me get this internship. I honestly couldn’t have done it without her.

The attorneys there are really kind and so helpful. They really take the time to help me and teach me things. They are so patient because I’m just an undergraduate student, not currently attending law school, so everything that's in that office is so new to me.

What does your internship look like?

On a typical day, I would have a case that I need to go through, and write any paper that’s needed, or even share my opinion with an attorney who might ask me to break the case down for them.

Other times, I’m filing up petitions for certain records to be sealed. And then on some days, I’ll go with an attorney to the courtroom, and I will sit in, listen and take notes and then, if they need anything from me, I’m there for them. 

Do you feel like you're able to build your professional networks while at Pacific?

Yes, especially with my professors. They are the connections that I’m very glad I’ve made, even if I weren't at Pacific. I feel like having their contacts is something that's very important because some of them are very well known in the field.

Also, one of the attorneys at the public defender’s office even introduced me to one of the judges at the court who wrote down my name and now she remembers me. So, it's building connections which has been really nice.

What is your advice for new students coming to Pacific?

Take time to discover yourself. Take time to figure out what you want to do. There are always moments, when you're doing something, and you don't feel if it's right. You need to reflect on it and take the time to think, “OK, is this something I want to do, is it something I’m happy with?” I think that is very important for anybody at school. 

And create bonds, reach out to faculty, reach out to students. Everyone at Pacific is very kind. I can speak on behalf of the political science department that everyone I have had so far has been very exceptional.