October 9, 2013

Expert heads PSU Criminal Justice Department

PLATTSBURGH — Dr. Thomas Nolan hopes to use his extensive law-enforcement experience to bring course work to life for SUNY Plattsburgh students.

The former lieutenant in the Boston Police Department and senior policy adviser to the Department of Homeland Security joined the college in August as associate professor and chair of the Criminal Justice Department.

Before Nolan’s appointment, Dr. Kathleen Lavoie, dean of Arts and Sciences at SUNY Plattsburgh, acted as the department’s interim chair.

“I think what I’ve had some success so far in doing is making the academic material accessible to the students through personal narratives,” said Nolan, whose 27 years with the Boston Police and expertise in homeland-security issues have gained him international recognition.

His commentary, for example, was sought by media outlets worldwide in the aftermath of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings.

Nolan, who earned both a master’s degree and doctorate from Boston University, retired from the Boston Police in 2005, having worked as a member of the department’s uniformed patrol, Anti-Gang Violence Unit and the Anti-Corruption Division of the Bureau of Internal Investigations.


In addition, in 2011, he spent a year advising the Department of Homeland Security on civil-rights and civil-liberties issues.

Nolan also has nearly 20 years of teaching experience, having taught at Boston University, Tufts University and Springfield College.

He is teaching a Punishment and Society class at SUNY Plattsburgh this semester and next, with Policing and Society as well in the spring.

By possessing both academic training and a wealth of experience in the field, Nolan believes he has a unique perspective to offer his students.

“I can relate experience that I’ve had that the students might not otherwise be exposed to,” he said.

As chair of criminal justice at the college, Nolan hopes to provide the department’s more than 400 students with realistic expectations of what the field has to offer and what they can do with their degrees once they graduate.

After all, he noted, many students simply don’t know what their career options are.

In addition, Nolan said, he hopes a degree in criminal justice from SUNY Plattsburgh will be recognized by potential employers as something of value that should be taken seriously.

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