Student Spotlight: Keri Halpin
Major: Associate in Arts
Keri Halpin’s relationship with College of DuPage started as a student and continues as an employee.
She enrolled in 1971 and then went to Washington, D.C., the summer after her freshman year. A clerical job with the federal government turned into full-time employment, and she transferred back to the Chicago area.
“At that point, I returned to COD and finished my degree with night classes,” she said. “COD gave me the opportunity to get the basics out of the way while I explored different interests, including architecture and accounting.
“I was working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Law Enforcement, at a time when there were no female special agents. I began accompanying male agents in an undercover capacity, posing as a niece, wife or girlfriend. I had a forward thinking manager who guided me to learn the legal aspects of wildlife law and encouraged my continued education with a goal of becoming one of the first female special agents.”
After earning an Associate in Arts degree with honors from COD, Halpin transferred with ease into the Social/Criminal Justice program at Lewis University. She attended full-time at night while continuing to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until graduating with her bachelor’s degree in December of 1975.
Halpin then was hired as the first female Wildlife Inspector in Chicago, specializing in enforcement of federal laws and treaties regarding the import and export of wildlife and wildlife products. The following year, she was promoted to a special agent and sent to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center for the required federal Criminal Investigator basic training.
“I was a special agent for eight years and loved my job!” she said. “I was involved in all aspects of criminal investigations, including considerable undercover work, interviewing, testifying, arrests, serving search warrants, but also fieldwork as a federal game warden and considerable travel. It was such a great job – I could not believe I was paid to do it!”
But when her second child was born, Halpin struggled with the increasing difficulty of being employed full-time and working as a full-time mom, so she made the decision to focus on her children. After eight years, she returned to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to supervise the Wildlife Inspection program. In addition to enforcement of federal wildlife laws, the program focused on educating the public about wildlife laws and protection and was highlighted on Animal Planet, Wild Chicago, Bozo’s Circus and Behind the Scenes with Joan Lunden. Halpin attended the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and traveled to Nepal to conduct training as part of an U.S. Agency for International Development program.
After 30 years with the government, Halpin choose to retire – and returned to her COD roots, now working part-time in the Cashier’s office.
“I greatly enjoy assisting the students solve their problems and answer their questions, which tend to reach far beyond making payments at the Cashier’s office,” she said. “The students do not have a way of seeing that their issues are common to other students, nor do they have a community voice to request change. Despite the best efforts on the part of management to implement reasonable policies and procedures, the true test is the ability of the students to comprehend and comply. I have made it my personal goal to identify problem areas or areas of inefficiency and propose solutions to enhance the student experience.”
Halpin’s daughter, Lorene, also followed in her mother’s footsteps, graduating from COD with honors with an Associate in Arts degree. She then transferred to Western Illinois University and received free room and board her junior year due to her success at COD.
Halpin believes College of DuPage is the best place to start, especially for students who want to continue for a bachelor’s degree.
“If you plan to transfer, make sure you follow the plan and take the variety of required courses to actually earn your associate’s degree at COD,” she said. “This will give you junior status at almost any college in the country, and you will not risk losing any credits.”
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