Making a Difference: Halle Gudgell

Miami Regionals’ student Halle Gudgell is full-time mother, full-time student, full-time community advocate.

Halle Gudgell didn’t plan on going to college right out of high school, and she didn’t plan on staying in Hamilton. But since she did, the Miami Hamilton campus and the entire city–if not the entire community–are enjoying the fruits of her unexpected journey.

Halle’s “Plan A” in high school was to join the United States Navy as Military Police when she graduated in 2014, and since she goes all-out when she goes, she was a leader in the Hamilton High School NJROTC program.

Halle speaking at Hamilton High in Mrs. Huff's class about getting involved with Seat at the Table and how important it is to get involved in your community.
Halle speaking at Hamilton High in Mrs. Huff’s class about getting involved with Seat at the Table and how important it is to get involved in your community.

“I felt it was my duty as a citizen to serve and put my time in, to give back to my country,” she said. “Anybody can tell I’m a very patriotic person. I’m all about the red, white and blue, and my friends all make fun of me.”

But halfway through her senior year, she got pregnant, and switched to “Plan B”, a degree in criminal justice from Miami University Regionals with the goal of becoming a civilian police officer.

As it often happens, however, a class opened her eyes to another path. In Halle’s case, it was a Political Science class in her very first semester.

“One of my professors said that if you want to see change, you have to make a difference yourself,” she said. “Basically, if you can’t beat them, join them. Politics is the way our country is run, regardless of how corrupt it may seem.”

A friend in that class enlisted her aid in starting a new group, Student Association for Law and Politics.

“So we started that last year,” Halle recalled. “We hosted a Meet the Candidates Night at Miami Hamilton Downtown and a voter registration event. We even took a group to Washington, D.C. for a tour.”

“We hosted an event called Politics and Pizza where students can come in and voice their opinion, talk about what’s on their minds, and we provide the pizza,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of places you can go to discuss these things without being judged.”

In a busy life, being a mother is one of the most rewarding things and in the end, her son Clayton is Halle's motivation.
In a busy life, being a mother is one of the most rewarding things and in the end, her son Clayton is Halle’s motivation.

During her freshman year, she decided to run for the Miami Senate, but soon raised her sights higher to the executive level and ran for secretary of the student government. She had her campaign all planned out with posters and candy give-a-ways so that she could reach out to her fellow students, so even when her opponents dropped out of the race, she followed through on the campaign, and she won. A year later, she was elected president of Miami Hamilton’s Student Government Association.

She also helped start a local program for the community called Seat at the Table, a nonprofit organization to promote voting and to get people registered.

“From there it took off to trying to get people more civically engaged in their community,” she said. “Right now, we’re working inside the high schools to build programs to help against the heroin epidemic. We’re connecting them with local officials, helping them build change in their community.”

“Back in June, we had a summit where Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller and other officials came in and spoke to the students about getting involved and making change.”

Halle is also active in the Criminal Justice Society, a student group that has hosted events like jail tours and recruitment nights to open a light on opportunities in the criminal justice field.

Because of her lingering interest in the military, she also got involved in campus programs to help veterans, and from there her efforts began to spread off campus and out more into the community.

At a veteran’s awards ceremony at the Voice of America Learning Center, she met State Representative Tim Derickson.

“After the ceremony I introduced myself and invited him to a veteran’s dinner for the Nicholas Olivas Fund,” she said. “We stuck around for an hour talking. He’s come and done other veteran’s events.”

When Derickson decided to run in the Republican primary for the Congressional seat vacated by John Boehner, she joined that campaign and now spends her weekends knocking on doors and making phone calls to voters throughout the Eighth District on Derickson’s behalf.

And if that isn’t enough, she’s also joined forces with a group of community activists who are trying to raise awareness of one of the city’s neglected parks, Combs Park along the Great Miami River near the dam in north Hamilton.

“I started working on this in October and when the weather warms up we’ll jump on it again,” she said. “I’ve gone out there several times. I didn’t realize how big that park was and how much potential it has.”

All this, in addition to being a young mother, keeps Halle busy. But she has the energy and the drive to be the change she wants to see in the world.

She still plans on a career in law enforcement when she graduates in 2018, but she also sees herself actively involved in politics.

Does that include running for office?

“Maybe,” she said. But just then her vice-president, standing nearby and listening in on the conversation chimes in: “Most definitely!”

‘An Attractive Park on Hamilton’s River Front is Now Being Planned’

Hamilton Parks Conservancy

As we prepare to break ground on Marcum Park this spring, an article from the Hamilton Evening Journal from February 1, 1916 reminds us that our city has long had the yearning for a garden spot on the river.

As the article notes, the plans for this park included a bandstand just a block or so away from where our RiversEdge Amphitheater now draws thousands of citizens for concerts and programs.

Plans for this proposed park were short-lived, however, as the site would be excavated for the widening of the river channel, and at a meeting two days later, Miami Conservancy Engineer Arthur Morgan put the kibosh on it.

Below the clipping of the map is the complete text of the article and a description of the imagined park.

Hamilton Evening Journal February 1, 1916
Hamilton Evening Journal
February 1, 1916

J.E. Freudenberger, landscape architect of Dayton, has just completed an elaborate plan for a park system in Hamilton, which was submitted during the last week to the commission in the Butler County capital, named for the purpose of preparing a plan for the adornment of the Miami River Bank north of the new High and Main Street bridge and on the east bank of the river.

The plan calls for the beautification of the land as far north as Dayton street for two squares. The old Hamilton hydraulic will pass through the land proposed to be beautified, but this will be in part covered by a handsome bridge. A pergola is to be built at the north end of the park with a bandstand between it and the hydraulic bridges.

Attractive walks will lead from High Street and also from Monument Avenue into the park, and shrubbery, flowers and grasses will add to the decorative scheme. At the intersection of High Street and Monument Avenue, a wide attractive entrance will lead to the park, which is almost two acres in extent. It is designed to give the Hamilton public a spot for recreation. The tract was formerly used as a dump and has been an eyesore for many years.

According to Mr. Freudenberger, the park will be one of the most attractive small parks in the state.

Hamilton Evening Journal
February 1, 1916

MUH Regional Campuses launch first master’s degree program

Miami University Hamilton

In the office of Capt. Stephen Van Winkle, Miami University Police, there is a large wall, bare but for the obligatory coat of flat white latex paint. Nearby, there is a stack of framed certificates and diplomas waiting to be hung, including one from the F.B.I. Academy.

Capt. Van Winkle said that he is waiting for one more before he hangs them all, a very important one to serve as a centerpiece for all the rest: His Master’s degree in Criminal Justice.

He is now on his way to earning that diploma as he and fellow officer Lt. Jim Bechtolt have become the first to enroll in the Masters of Criminal Justice at the Miami University Regionals.

What’s more, Van Winkle and Bechtolt are making history by being the very first graduate students in a Miami Regionals program.

“There are a lot of Masters degrees in Criminal Justice, but we had found there was a gap in the market,” said Daniel E. Hall, chair of the Department of Justice and Community Studies, “providing an on-line degree intended for people who are in the field seeking promotion or career advancement.”

So the degree was designed to be completed completely online. There are two concentrations available, administration and crime analysis, with both theory and practice components enlisting the aid of other Regional Campus departments. While it is too soon to tell as this is the first semester of the program, Hall predicts that the crime analysis concentration will eventually become popular as there are few universities offering Masters degrees in that area.

“We teamed up with the Department of Geography, which offers geographic information system classes,” Hall said. “They have designed a GIS in criminal justice. Our Statistics Department is going to offer predictive analytics.”

The Miami University Regionals program is also unique because most graduate masters degrees typically end with a comprehensive exam or a thesis.

“We have a required project as a culminating experience for every student to bring together everything they learned,” he said. “Because they are in the field, they can identify a real problem where they are working or in their community, and then in the end come up with a solution or recommendation.”

It could be about anything, Hall said, from shift scheduling to race relations, how to better train officers in making stops.

The program should also prove to be attractive to professionals in areas other than policing.

“It could be anything in a justice-related area,” Hall said. “It could be corrections, probations, parole, out of the courts, but I guess that 50 to 75 percent will be policing.”

At current staffing, Hall said the master’s program can accommodate about 20 students without jeopardizing the undergraduate program, which has grown tremendously in recent years, with the blessing of the Dean’s office to grow to 40.

“We were two faculty five years ago and we’re eight full-time now,” he said. “Plus, we have a really good cadre of part-time faculty, including former instructor Judge Keith Spaeth and current instructor John McCandless, the chief of Miami University Police Department. Other master’s degree programs are taught by graduate assistants, but all of our courses will be faculty.”

Both Van Winkle and Bechtolt are taking the administrative concentration, and both said the convenience of being able to take all of their classes online was a distinct advantage to selecting the Regional Campus program over others.

“Until recently there weren’t many online courses available,” Van Winkle said. “I did look at other institutions with fully-online programs, but once this program was developed here, I knew there was no way I was not going to enroll.

“As working professionals, this isn’t just a Monday through Friday office job,” he said. “We get calls at two or three o’clock in the morning, so it’s such a convenience to work at our own pace.”

Van Winkle said that a Master’s degree will help him be a more well-rounded administrator, more in tune to what is going on in the outside world, more receptive to different ideas and viewpoints, more responsible to the citizenry.

“I set a goal when I was hired in here that I didn’t want to stay stagnant,” Bechtolt said. “You see a lot of officers who get content with what they’re doing, and that allows them to get jaded. I just want to keep excelling at different levels.

“To be good leaders, we have to be up-to-date at what’s going on so we can educate the young officers coming in,” he said.

Although it’s a new program and they’re just beginning the work, both Van Winkle and Bechtolt said they are recommending it to their fellow officers.

“It would definitely be a lot harder to do if you had to be in a bricks-and-mortar classroom,” Bechtolt said. “I don’t know that I would be able to do it. I know I wouldn’t be able to do it.”

For more information about the Master of Science in Criminal Justice, email or call 513.785.7702.