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PA Department of Corrections Chief Presents Internship and Career Tips To Student Body

February 7, 2013

L to R, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, John Wetzel,   CU Graduate and Dept. of Corrections staffer Vicki Fisher, LSW, and Deputy Executive Secretary Shirley Moore Smeal during the Department of Corrections presentation on campus Thursday.

L to R, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, John Wetzel, CU Graduate and Dept. of Corrections staffer Vicki Fisher, LSW, and Deputy Executive Secretary Shirley Moore Smeal during the Department of Corrections presentation on campus Thursday.

John E. Wetzel, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, brought a large entourage to Cheyney University on Thursday, Feb. 7 in response to an invitation from Rev. Elisha Morris, Internship Coordinator, University College at Cheyney University.  

Joining Secretary Wetzel for the campus visit were Executive Deputy Secretary Shirley Moore Smeal, State Representative Ron Waters, National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice President Carlyle Holder, Commissioner Derrick Schofield (Tennessee Department of Corrections), Superintendent Michael Wenerowicz (State Correctional Institution at Graterford), Superintendent John Thomas (State Correctional Institution at Chester), Raphael Chieke, Director of the PA Department of Corrections (DOC) Equal Employment Office (EEO), Katherine Peters, Section Chief of the PA DOC EEO Office, Jack Evans, III, Section Supervisor of PA DOC Bureau of Human Resources, Paulette Smartschan, Agency Recruiter for PA DOC Bureau of Human Resources, Gary Olinger, SCI Graterford Corrections and Classification Program Manager and Internship Coordinator, Lieutenant Angela Hawkins (State Correctional Institution at Graterford), Dana Williams, Field Human Resource Officer (State Correctional Institution at Graterford), Dawn Cheers, Field Human Resource Officer (State Correctional Institution at Chester), Gary Sharper, Institutional Business Manager (State Correctional Institution at Chester), Louisa Perez, Corrections Superintendents Assistant (State Correctional Institution at Chester).

Jeff Harris, Regional Vice President and Jim Vangieson, Group Vice President, both of the Keefe Group, a company which provides services to correction facilities, were also on hand.
 

Through classroom presentations, an Internship/Career Fair, and a panel discussion, the guests informed Cheyney University students about the many career options that exist within the State's Department of Corrections.  

Secretary Wetzel, the second African American to hold his post, made sure that the audience knew that doors to opportunity could open at the Corrections Department.  "Corrections is a big business in America. There are jobs in Corrections and many ancillary companies, " he said.
 
Harris explained that he started as a food and hygiene supplier to the Department of Corrections.  As time passed, other services and products were needed, including computers which now manage, among other things, inmates' diets, video equipment, and medical services.  "You have to go where the opportunities are. Jobs and internships here are now open - this panel is offering you many opportunities," he advised candidly. 
 
Harris also emphasized that the Corrections field seeks folks who understand the struggle that people go through prior to and after incarceration. "Most people will get out of prison. They will learn from you how to be productive," Harris explained.  "You can make a difference when you stand in front of prisioners or work in Corrections.  You have the possibility of correcting someone's life." 
 
Toward the end of his presentation, Secretary Wetzel announced that he had saved "the best for last"--then introduced Shirley Moore Smeal. As Department of Corrections Executive Deputy Secretary, Smeal is the first woman to ever hold the position of Executive Deputy Secretary. Passionate about the possibilities and satisfactions a career with the Department offers, she described a career path that began as a stenographer 26 years ago and continued on up through the ranks. 
 
Her words drew attention to the impact of Corrections on people. "Change is not necessary because survival is not mandatory.  In other words," she said, "there are no boundaries on where we have to be. You have to have a goal that has no limitations."  According to Smeal, Corrections is a field about change. "It represents the fact that we can't continue to do certain things.  Eventually our customers will come out one day and we will not be there.  So change continues to occur."  She then asked students to "help us continue the work that has been started."  
 
Smeal said most people, including herself, didn't choose Corrections as a career. "I came out of the Air Force and turned some mistakes into an opportunity," she admitted.  "In Corrections, you can go anywhere you want to go.  Pursue the opportunities that are here," she urged. "You can make a difference and impact peoples lives, families and futures.  We need good people to carry the charge."