Clockwise from top left: Pennsylvania Western University criminal justice professor Dr. Christopher Wydra, criminal justice professor Dr. Mathilda Spencer, criminal justice professor Dr. Michael Hummel, and PennWest development officer Justin James.

Dr. Michael Hummel, professor of criminal justice at Pennsylvania Western University’s California campus, has dedicated over 18 years to teaching and molding the next generation of criminal justice professionals.

A career military and criminal justice man, Hummel’s experience and teachings have helped students learn the ins and outs of protecting and serving. To continue giving back, he, along with fellow criminal justice professors Dr. Christopher Wydra and Dr. Mathilda Spencer, have worked together to expand the Dr. Michael L. Hummel Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund to give Cal students support as they continue their criminal justice education.

The endowed scholarship is awarded to wounded military personnel or police officers and their family members.

This year, students from Monessen and Charleroi school districts who are participating in Beyond Grad, an R.K. Mellon Foundation grant program coordinated by Spencer that prepares high school students for careers, are also eligible for the scholarship.

“The primary purpose of the scholarship is to invest in our future criminal justice leaders,” Hummel said. “Our goal as educators is to make sure the next generation of criminal justice professionals is prepared and ready to serve the community and make it better for everyone.”

Community service is critical for Hummel, Spencer and Wydra. Hummel served in the military prior to teaching. Spencer previously served as an Allegheny County probation officer, and Wydra is a retired Pittsburgh Police detective. In addition, Hummel and Wydra emphasized the importance of helping those wounded in action, having both been wounded while on duty.

“Getting wounded on duty affects not only the wounded but their family,” Hummel said. “To have a program that supports those families means so much to us.”

Spencer also noted that the group believes that, in some respects, students coming out of depressed areas looking to better their community and themselves struggle in a similar way to those wounded in action.

“One of the things you see in these depressed areas is that the kids don’t know what’s out there,” Spencer said. “They have not been exposed to the world outside of their area. So, we want to be the people that show them the world and give them the guidance to be those leaders in criminal justice and in the community.”

Wydra stressed the importance of developing grants and programs that help build the next generation of criminal justice professionals to not only uphold the law but uplift the community in the same breath.

“We facilitate, as faculty members, to help fix the divide between criminal justice and the public,” he said. “There is such a divide between people over the opinion of law enforcement, and it’s important to teach our students that they are the future. They can make a difference and make the criminal justice better and hopefully spread the word it’s not about the divide. It’s about making the system better for everyone, and it’s our job to prepare the future leaders to make those changes.”