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Criminal justice grad uses UNF education abroad


A University of North Florida education can take you anywhere - even halfway across the world.


Just ask Robert Baggett. A 2000 graduate from UNF's Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, he returned for his master's degree in criminal justice and graduated in 2005.


That in-depth UNF education has been vital to his career progression. He now serves as a Diplomatic Security Service special agent for the U.S. Department of State in Shenyang, China,where he manages the U.S. Consulate General's criminal investigations program in northeast China.


It's a job that utilizes multiple skillsets and requires tremendous criminal justice acumen.


"Attending UNF put me on the path to where I am now," said Baggett, a former Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and Atlantic Beach Police employee and UNF criminal justice adjunct professor. "The UNF Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice prepares students for the full breadth of the criminal justice field."


Baggett said his undergraduate degree provided him with a solid foundation in criminal justice on which to build. And no matter where you go in the world, all law-enforcement officers believe in that same foundation - to serve and protect while upholding the laws of their respective countries.


"For aspiring criminal justice students, this program gives you that same foundation that I used on a daily basis to work on issues and communicate in the same language as other law-enforcement officers from China," he said.


Department chair Dr. Michael Hallett has known Baggett for years and was there when he was awarded an Outstanding Graduate award from the department. Baggett's exceptionally broad range of training led Hallett to utilize him as an adjunct faculty member after graduation. His dedication to UNF is evidenced by the ties he still has to the campus and its faculty, Hallett said.


"Robert is among the two or three students in 20 years teaching who I feel close to, like a family member," he said. "I keep in touch with him and have his family picture on my wall in the office."


In addition to his undergraduate and master's degrees, Baggett also received a Juris Doctor from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville and a master's degree in public administration from Florida Gulf Coast University. He said his UNF studies piqued his intellectual curiosity and instilled in him a desire to pursue multiple advanced degrees.


Despite his heavy workload and myriad responsibilities, Baggett regularly returns to Jacksonville when he receives annual leave. He is also a member of the State Department's Hometown Diplomat program and often visits UNF to provide presentations on career and internship opportunities within the Department.


During his last visit in April, he helped coordinate potential Department of State internship opportunities for students with UNF faculty and department chairs.


Baggett said he actively works to help boost UNF's criminal justice program because he believes it's one the strongest programs in the country.


"When you look at a strong and well-balanced criminal justice program, you have to assess the students who graduate and where they go afterwards," he said. "A significant number of UNF's students pursue law enforcement-related careers after graduation. For that matter, several students in the program already work in some capacity within the criminal justice arena especially at the local and state levels of government. This shows that UNF is focusing on real-world, hands-on learning that leads to employment for its students while utilizing a curriculum that balances the academic and practical applications of today's criminal justice system. That's the highest mark for any program - how well graduates operate in the real world."