Since March 2021, Misste Giles, a nontraditional student majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Criminal Justice and Sociology, has been working tirelessly to coordinate a departmental speaker series. Giles was inspired by the idea that she can give back to the Cumberland community through creating a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear notable figures talk about law enforcement and mental health, serial killers and forensic psychology, and see a hostage and negotiator on-stage depiction.
- What encouraged you to coordinate this speaker series?
While doing video research for Dr. Jessica Bilbrey-Worthington’s Forensic Psychology class, I came across a video of John Douglas, a retired Special Agent for the FBI and established the profiling procedures used by the Behavior Analysis Units on serial killers and for other violent crimes. The talk was at Boston College and I thought, why do all the big, well-known universities get opportunities to see these world-renowned figures, while smaller colleges and their students do not? I then went to Dr. Jenny Mason, Dr. Bilbrey-Worthington and Professor Matthew Espenshade and told them what I wanted to do. From the start, they were on board and had confidence that I could bring a speaker series to Cumberland. I hoped that it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity for Cumberland’s students, staff, faculty and the surrounding community.
- Can you talk about the process of grant writing?
You do not sit down and just write a grant; you sit down and write that grant many, many times. I started by doing my research on the speakers that I was hoping to invite to Cumberland, and then looked at the cost for each speaker, including travel, food, hotel accommodations, and an honorarium. Having never written a grant, I had support from Dr. Bilbrey-Worthington during the process before I presented the Bell Grant application to Dean Eric Cummings and the Bell Grant Committee. I will say the first time you meet Dean Cummings and you’re asking for money, it can be daunting, but after presenting my application and hearing the positive feedback, it felt amazing. Knowing I made myself and my department proud made all the work worth it.
- How is Nick Wilson’s work relevant to our community, especially to local law enforcement?
When I first started researching Nick for the series, I knew as soon as I read his bio that I had to get him on campus. With this being a Psychology department series in conjunction with Criminal Justice, I knew that Nick was the perfect mixture of the two. His bio instantly connects with you and makes you want to hear his story and his passion for law enforcement, first responders and their families.
Nick spent 13 years as a Senior Detective assigned to Intelligence, Gangs, Narcotics/Vice/Homicide, and Organized Crime. He was a SWAT Team Operator and worked for Homeland Security where he was assigned to the San Bernardino Terrorist attack in 2015. The law enforcement experience that Nick has is vast, but it’s his personal story of resilience through trauma and loss that makes him the perfect person to start the series. The work Nick does through his nonprofit the Resiliency Project has garnered respect from the law enforcement community and national recognition that has made him sought after by Law Enforcement Agencies, universities, and journalists all over the nation. With everything that has gone on in the nation during the last couple of years, it is important for the stigma of mental health be pushed aside so law enforcement and first responders can feel accepted in taking care of themselves as much as their communities.
- Can you talk about the significance of having these guest speakers on campus?
I have researched these speakers very thoroughly and hand picked each one of them with the notion that this may be the only time students, faculty, staff and the community may be able to hear from such notable speakers. These speakers are all from different professions, but in the end, they will all give something significant to Cumberland’s students. Throughout the speaker series, the university will hear from and experience: a mental health advocate; a former college quarterback who became an addict, criminal, inmate, college professor and now a best-selling author; a kidnap victim and her hostage negotiator on the same stage; and the world’s 8th leading forensic psychologist who specializes in serial killers and who just aired a new week-long special on A&E.
With determination, a lot of negotiating and months of coordinating, I made sure there is a schedule of speakers that you normally only see at large universities. Dean Eric Cummings, Dr. Bill McKee, Dr. Jenny Mason, and Dr. Jessica Bilbrey-Worthington have given me the confidence and support to coordinate this speaker series. I am hoping that this is just the first of many speaker series that will inspire others to follow their passions.
The first guest speaker Nick Wilson will discuss trauma, resiliency and issues facing today’s law enforcement. The event is open to the public and will be held in Alumni Hall at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 14.