Most college students go into their freshman year unsure of what they want to study but this was not the case for senior Olivia Pettingill, who is double-majoring in Criminology and Criminal Justice and French.
In eighth grade, Pettingill took a French class and was “immediately drawn to the beauty of the language.” Then, in high school Pettingill took a class called “Issues in American Society,” which served as her first exposure to topics such as murder, serial killers and a variety of other crime types. Years later, when Pettingill came to the University of Maryland and realized that she could pursue both academic interests, she didn’t hesitate in getting started with her dual degree.
Pettingill also didn’t hesitate in getting involved on campus. Pettingill currently serves as the President of the Criminal Justice Student Association, is a member of Alpha Phi Sigma (the Criminal Justice Honors Society) and a member of the Preventing Sexual Assault group on campus. She also played on the Women’s Club Softball Team, was a member of Zeta Tau Alpha and CHAARG, a women’s fitness group.
Last semester, Pettingill also found time to study abroad in Nice, France through the Maryland-in-Nice program.
“I didn't know any other student before going on the trip, but the first day in Nice, we all walked around Vieux Nice (Old Nice) getting to know each other,” Pettingill recalled. “In that moment, I knew that I was going to make new friends and now, I have four great friends who are back in College Park, Maryland. It's like bringing a piece of Nice back with me to UMD."
Pettingill’s interests also led her to get involved in a variety of research projects during her undergraduate years.
“My research began with my Capstone project for my College Park Scholars International Studies courses where I was interested in the drastically different gun violence rates in the United States and Japan,” Pettingill explained. “I then entered the CCJS Honors Program where I am currently researching the transmission of HIV from recently released male prisoners to their female partners in the community.”
Additionally, Pettingill worked on a variety of HIV and HEP-C research projects at the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR), studied emerging drugs for the National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS), and is working on an online database maintained by CESAR that lists available services for Maryland residents called the Maryland Community Services Locator.
“BSOS has enhanced my career because of the countless opportunities that are available to its students,” Pettingill said. “My internship at CESAR and my internship with the Supreme Court Police were both listed on listservs and that's how I found out about them and eventually applied.”
Today, Pettingill is studying for the LSAT and applying to law schools, though she plans to defer her enrollment and participate in the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) for seven months. Pettingill will then attend law school in the fall of 2018.
“I believe the best way to know if you want to pursue something in the future is to try it out," Pettingill said. “Spending a semester in a certain class can either spark an interest that you didn't know you had or show you that it's really not something you want to pursue.”