Dale Kapla’s Road to Department Head
By Sue Young & Shannon Smith
In the summer of 2007, Dr. Kapla was appointed department head of Criminal Justice, an unexpected appointment for only an assistant professor and after teaching at NMU for only one year. Through attrition and budget cuts, the department was lowered to only three faculty and none were interested in the position. With over 400 students and the third largest major on campus, Dale welcomed the challenge and was honored with his colleagues and staff’s faith in his ability to run the department.
Dale says he has “witnessed a steady growth in the number of students enrolled in a CJ program.” He remarks that the department is “making strides to make the community more involved in the program.” This has been done by hiring well-respected local adjuncts, whose experience and knowledge is important to the students’ education and can be quite beneficial as they achieve their degrees.
Last winter 2010 semester, one of the adjuncts, Steven Snowaert, brought a new idea to the department to teach a class that examined evidence from some of Marquette’s cold cases. Students were required to sign an affidavit of confidentiality regarding the case in order to review the evidence. Later in the summer, the Marquette Mining Journal ran a story announcing that the police are recharging the investigation of the Erin Taylor murder – one of the cases examined by Snowaert’s cold case class.
Looking to the future, Dr. Kapla sees “potential to grow the department” in terms of the number of majors in CJ, hoping to increase the enrollment by 100 more students in the next five years. An achievable goal, he mentions, even in light of the recent economic downturn, for “there are opportunities for employment… [As long as students] are willing to relocate.”
It’s not surprising that with his leadership, and the help of his faculty and staff, this is something he believes can happen. In fact, only after two years serving as department head and with his recommendation, Dr. Gregory Warchol was awarded the 2008 Distinguished Faculty Award, and his secretary Ms. Sue Young was awarded the 2008 Excellence in Service Award. In light of budget constraints, he was able to convince the administration to hire two new full-time faculty for fall 2011, Professors Michael Harrington and Kevin Waters.
In fact, the department has widened opportunities for student enrollment by offering two online degree programs: a Bachelor’s in Loss Prevention Management and a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice Management. These programs help non-traditional and unemployed students by giving them the opportunity to increase their education, while still working or searching for employment.
After growing up in Copper County and attending Calumet High School, Dr. Kapla spent a year at Ferris State College before coming to Northern Michigan University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Law Enforcement and Security Administration in 1990 and completed the police academy as well.
Coming out of college, Dr. Kapla was initially employed as a police officer in Chocolay Township, Michigan; and after one year accepted a job with the Marquette County Sherriff’s Department, spending four years there. He then went on to work at the Marquette City Police Department for seven years. While working as a police officer, Dr. Kapla took the opportunity to continue his schooling, earning his master’s degree in Public Administration from NMU in 2001.
Throughout his career as a police officer, Dr. Kapla had many different responsibilities, including patrol work, being active in marine law, and supervising a bicycle force that patrolled downtown Marquette. Concerning his work as a bicycle officer, he remarks, “It’s much different than being in a patrol car…you can see and hear a lot more [and] are able to have closer communication with the public and businesses.”
Dr. Kapla also had duties as a field training officer, in which he trained and instructed incoming officers to the police force. This rewarding role was one of his main motivations that led him to pursue a career in teaching.
After working as a police officer, Dr. Kapla travelled to West Virginia University, where he received his Ph.D. in Political Science. His field of study included police bureaucracies, police management, and administration and community relations. Dale then worked for the Criminal Justice department at the University of Wisconsin – Platteville for one year before coming to Marquette to teach at Northern in the fall of 2006.
As part of the Criminal Justice department, Dr. Kapla has had the opportunity to expand his research by visiting other countries around the world, including two trips to South Africa, in which he studied poaching and game ranger training. He also went to Helsinki, Finland to observe its criminal justice system; worked on an initiative to establish a women’s shelter in Cusco, Peru; and went to Mexico to help establish a dual degree program between URN and NMU.
Aside from work life, Dr. Kapla and his wife, Sue, who also teaches for NMU’s Psychology department, own and run a farm (Fiddle Knoll Farm) in Rumely, where they raise sheep for wool and meat. In addition, they have chickens, two German shepherds, a llama, and two border collies that herd the sheep. Many would consider having a farm to be a lot of extra work; however, Dale simply sees it as “a good reprieve from the world of academics.”
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