UMD criminology major climbs path toward combating terrorism

Photo by Laura Bostrom Agin
Photo by Laura Bostrom Agin

Her signature long blonde hair swishes behind her as she jumps up and down. Joanna Agin, 21, is easily excited. The junior criminology and criminal justice major is reliving her experience running a half marathon in Baltimore last October.

“I wanted to accomplish the physical tasks and prove I could do it,” said the Lincroft, N.J., native. Agin “really wanted to be in law enforcement,” and saw running a half marathon a challenge she needed to undertake. Not one to follow a strict schedule, Agin started out kickboxing and soon began training. Besides the minor panic attacks rolling up to the event, said Agin, training pushed her to work hard every day. “I remember when I couldn’t even run a mile without needing to stop,” said Agin, smiling proudly.

Agin’s enthusiasm and strong work ethic surpasses working towards physical goals. Along with majoring in criminal justice, Agin is part of her major’s honors program and the global terrorism minor, a selective program that allows her to complete research in the field. Her love of government and criminal justice transcends overseas; as she is currently abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Agin is studying with the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, a program strictly for international students. “It’s structured to immerse you in the culture,” said Agin. The program is different than most study abroad programs, allowing Agin to take a core class in-between three week breaks. One of Agin’s most interesting classes is a human trafficking course focusing on the red light district. Along with exploring Copenhagen, Agin will travel to Bosnia and Istanbul for week-long trips separately.

“Denmark’s a place I would have never gone,” said Agin, who emphasized the importance of taking the opportunity to go as a student.

When Agin isn’t abroad, she spends a lot of time with the University’s campus tour guide group. Agin joined Maryland Images in 2011, and quickly became a leader within the organization. Last semester, Agin became a training committee head alongside Collin Morrow and Melia Stuppy. Together, the three completely redid the training manual for students training to become tour guides. “It was way more fun than I ever thought it would be,” she said before adding that it was the first time someone would look to her as a role model.

“When I first met Joanna I really didn’t know anything about her. From the start of our working together, Joanna was really enthusiastic about getting to know me and making us really good friends,” said Morrow.

Agin’s ability to put people at ease will help her career goals of joining an agency working in the field of terrorism analysis or joining politics in a strategic form. Over the spring semester of 2013, Agin interned for Sen. Tester (Montana-D) of the 113th Congress. He was the chair of the Homeland Security subcommittee, and Agin wrote memos about how effectiveness and efficiency in federal programs and federal workforce affected Montana.

“Coming from New Jersey, Montana is a different world,” said Agin, who said she was given a lot of responsibility as an intern.

“I wrote language that was going to go into a bill,” she added, shaking her head. “I kept thinking, ‘I can’t do this.’ I’m not the kind of person to say ‘I need help,’ so it was a really good learning experience.”

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