Aspiring detective connects community with criminal justice


Volunteer work and dedication in the classroom has earned Jessica Ploss a research assistantship in criminology at Illinois State University. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Jessica Ploss’ next-door neighbor, a retired FBI agent, once told her she would be well suited for detective work. The neighbor recognized in Ploss a quality every detective worth her salt needs – empathy.

The Tritons volleyball player and Pierre Laclede Honors College student, who graduated from the University of Missouri–St. Louis this spring, took her neighbor’s advice to heart. In her four years at UMSL, Ploss nurtured and expanded this important personal quality. Now, having earned her bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice, she is ready for the next step.

This fall she will begin pursuing a master’s degree in criminology at Illinois State University, start work as a graduate research assistant and further hone her people skills.

“My goal in life is to help as many people as possible, and through my future career, I want to bring closure to families that have been affected by crime,” Ploss said. “When a crime occurs, it leaves a lot of questions for the family. I want to be able to tell a family we did everything we could and used every resource available.”

During her academic career, Ploss has touched lives through volunteering with Triton Health Educators, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, UMSL Students of Service and World Vision. She has brought national and international service movements such as Helping Handbags and the 30 Hour Famine to UMSL, all while crediting her religious life for instilling leadership values.

“I grew up serving my community at home through the church. I’ve done everything from collecting donations for a drive to painting or raking leaves, and I’m happy I could bring that effort to UMSL,” she said.

Study at UMSL has helped Ploss combine her caring nature with law enforcement knowledge and allowed her to focus her purpose. Beyond helping those in vulnerable situations with donations and time, she wants to make them feel safe.

“After taking a couple of courses on victimization and how it affects families in different ways, it really clicked for me that sometimes people need help and protection, too,” she said. “I hope I can build safe spaces for people who need them, and being able to learn from former lawyers, prosecutors and police officers in UMSL’s criminal justice program was huge for me.”

Ploss intends to continue building community connections and her knowledge base in the next phase of her education and career, but like most new graduates, she finds moving on a bit strange.

“It’s a weird feeling. They always say four years flies by, but you never know until you’re doing it,” she said. “I’m sad to leave friends and the atmosphere at UMSL, but at the same time, I’m excited for new and bigger adventures.”

The UMSL Experience


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