Working for Justice
William Morrissette, Ph.D., is Chair of the Department of Social and Human Services and oversees Bay State College’s Criminal Justice programs. With a bachelor’s degree in history, a masters in human development, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Morrissette has been a police officer, worked in the CIA, and ran his own forensic training and consulting business, all of which inform his work at Bay State, where he helps students find careers in the Criminal Justice system. We spoke with him about his experience, his outlook, and his hopes for the program.
Bay State College: Outside of your work as a professor, can you tell us what you do?
William Morrissette: I work with Victims of Crimes Advocacy program, where we help elderly victims of crime navigate the criminal justice system. When a recent study in Rhode Island showed that deaf people were underserved, I wrote a grant to research this problem, and I got it. I’m hoping to work on this problem with the help of Bay State College.
BSC: Can you share any accomplishments or accolades you are particularly proud of?
WM: I take the most pride in the work I have done on behalf of social justice.
BSC: Can you tell us about a person who has deeply influenced you?
WM: I would say my father. He worked in a “blue collar” position as a machinist for Raytheon. He held that job for 35 years, leaving for work at 5 in the morning and returning home at 5 in the evening, and worked part-time jobs on the weekend to make ends meet. I never recall him complaining about his station in life or the hours he had to put in to put food on the table. His work ethic is something I respect and do my best to emulate. He is now 78, and I still look to him for encouragement and advice related to my professional endeavors.
BSC: Was there a moment in your youth that you knew this would be where you landed as an adult?
WM: My first spark of “destiny,” if there is such a thing, was when I worked for the CIA and transitioned from a police officer to the position of polygraph examiner and interrogator. I found an “ease of process” with interrogation, as if I was somehow pre-programmed to be good at it.
BSC: If you could talk to your younger self when you were first starting out in this industry, what would you say?
WM: I would say to not get too caught up in feeling like you have to have it all figured out. There is an old saying that “life happens while you are making plans,” and I truly believe that. You have to play the hand you are dealt. Hard work added to a positive attitude tends to equal success. My younger self worried about figuring it all out more than he needed to.
BSC: What is one thing you hope your students learn from you?
WM: I strive to teach my students the importance of work ethic. They all know that I arrive at the college at 5:15 in the morning and many of them see me in their evening classes later that night. I can’t say that I inspire any of my students to get up that early in the morning but I do think that they recognize the value I place in hard work and methodical and relentless pursuit of goals. I see evidence of this with my graduates and I am extremely proud of what they are accomplishing in the industry.
BSC: What do you view as the greatest challenges facing your students—specifically those entering the criminal justice industry—today?
WM: I would say technological advances and, more specifically, social media. Social media both enhances our ability to reach out and causes problems. It offers our students opportunities to be leaders and substantial challenges as they try to build successful careers in the field.
BSC: You are known as an accomplished expert in your field. What is something your students might be surprised to learn about you?
WM: I think what is most surprising to my students is that my expertise and accomplishments have been a result of persistence and hard work. My students are surprised to learn that I got straight Ds my first semester in college and that I was conditionally accepted into the Ph.D. program because they weren’t entirely convinced I would be a serious student. My success is not a result of superior intellect but rather persistence and hard work. I solve problems, find avenues forward, create new solutions, because I refuse to give up or fail.
Learn more about the Bay State College Criminal Justice programs here.