Spotlight Series: Lynn Parker
November 20, 2020
Palo Alto College recently broke ground on its new bond-funded multipurpose building. Set to open in Fall 2022, the “Rio Grande Building” will serve as the primary entry point to the College as the new home for a Student Engagement & Welcome Center, and it will also be a hub for various student services and academic programs.
The new building will prepare the College to meet the community’s growing educational needs. Specialized program spaces will promote collaborative learning and interactive instruction. One such space will be a simulated courtroom for criminal justice students to get real-world experience to enhance the practical skills they have upon graduation.
Lynn Parker, lead criminal justice instructor at the College, is looking forward to the new opportunities this modernized learning environment will provide for his students.
“If a picture’s worth 1,000 words, imagine the impact of not only seeing the picture but to be in the picture,” said Parker. “We’ve done some [mock] trials throughout the years that I’ve been here at Palo Alto, but this is going to bring it [criminal justice] to light in a whole new way.”
The state-of-the-art courtroom will be equipped with the latest technologies like automated videotaping capabilities, enabling students to record themselves as they carry out their legal arguments. This will allow them to watch themselves in action so that they may improve their performance.
In addition to criminal justice, other disciplines will benefit from the new learning space.
“I think we can invite people from other programs in there to watch as well,” said Parker. “For example, those wanting to become social workers need to get used to seeing a courtroom. Another discipline is psychology because psychology and criminal justice mesh well together.”
In his course, Crime in America, Parker highlights the ways in which psychology and criminal justice intersect. Why do people do bad things? That is what the criminology course seeks to answer. Within the class, students explore American crime problems from a historical perspective; social and public policy factors affecting crime; impact and crime trends; social characteristics of specific crimes; and crime prevention.
“We study the minds of serial killers; we mention ‘Silence of the Lambs’ a couple of times in there,” said Parker. “We’ve had some students that said they wanted to take the course to see if they want to become criminal profilers. They want to combine their psychology and criminal justice and mix it into one career, which is entirely feasible.”
The criminal justice field of study prepares students for various employment opportunities, including crime scene investigators, state troopers, or prosecutors.
“I think that students ought to know that there’s always going to be a place for them in criminal justice and that there are many different avenues you can go into,” said Parker.
Parker began his career in law enforcement at the age of 19. Throughout his career, he investigated roughly 31 murders or capital murders. As a criminal justice instructor at the College for the last 16 years and a practicing investigator for a district attorney’s office, Parker contributed his knowledge and experience to give input on the design of the new learning space.
“[The simulated courtroom] is equipped with the most modern equipment and design that you’d find in any modern courtroom in a Texas district court or county court of law,” said Parker. “I think we’re going to not only have students thrilled and challenged in their criminal justice aspirations, but I think we’re going to be turning out more potential lawyers as well.”