Criminal justice student earns commission as second lieutenant, gains cultural experiences abroad
POSTED: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 9:16am
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 9:17am
Las Cruces, NM (NMSU) — The common slogan for new recruits has always been “Join the military. See the world.” Jenni Sweger, a New Mexico State University Air Force ROTC senior cadet, will earn her commission as an Air Force officer in December, and she has already seen a lot of the world.
A criminal justice major in the College of Arts and Sciences, Sweger, who is from Pennsylvania, recently returned to Las Cruces after a summer and semester spent interning and studying abroad.
During the summer she worked at the Exchange House National Travellers Service in Dublin, Ireland. The organization works to improve conditions and provide assistance to travellers, many of whom are facing crisis situations. She also had the opportunity to observe parts of the justice system: working with social workers, meeting correctional officers, visiting prisons and attending court cases.
“The most memorable thing about traveling abroad was seeing all the beautiful places in the world,” she said. “The experiences were overwhelming. It’s really interesting to go to different countries and learn about your own country in the process. I’m open to anything; I’m a nomad at heart.”
Thanks to a $2,500 Gilman scholarship, Sweger spent the fall 2013 semester studying criminal justice, math and the Czech language and culture at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. She lived in the dorms and met fellow students from more than 50 different countries. Part of her time was spent visiting local high schools where she answered students’ questions about America.
“If you ask them where they want to visit, they always say California and New York,” she said. “They think all parts of the United States are the same, and that a person from Pennsylvania has the same cultural experiences as someone from New Mexico. They want to know what the common food is, besides fast food. You explain to them that every single state is different.”
While living in the Czech Republic, Sweger visited 12 other countries, including Liechtenstein, Germany, Hungary, Belgium and Switzerland. The experiences not only taught her a diverse way of thinking but also helped improve her presentation skills, she said.
“When I think about the type of person we’re looking for in Detachment 505’s Air Force ROTC program, Jenni is that person,” said Lt. Col. Ira Cline. “She’s a top-tier student, athlete, dedicated cadet and a terrific ambassador for New Mexico State University. She’s a critical-thinker, sets the highest of standards and lives by our core values of integrity, service before self and excellence in all we do. Simply put, she’s a very well-rounded young lady and I can’t wait to pin those gold second lieutenant bars on her shoulders next December.”
In May Sweger will earn her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, with minors in math and forensic science. She hopes to begin coursework for her master’s degree this summer and will return to NMSU in the fall to complete her ROTC classes.
As a professional officer candidate, Sweger has been in charge of more than 100 cadets. She is responsible for overseeing physical training, drills and ceremonies as well as other events.
She cited ROTC and Aggie alumna Courtney Shantz and retired Lt. Col. Steve Groll as mentors she admires and who have supported her as she’s progressed in the program.
In addition to ROTC, Sweger has served as College of Arts and Sciences student ambassador, a member of the Arnold Air Society and an Honors Crimson Scholar Residential Mentor.
“My dad was in the military and some of the best years of his life were in the military, so I wanted to have the same experience,” Sweger said. “In the Air Force you get experiences a lot of other positions wouldn’t give you. Being in ROTC has been amazing.”