Meet the New Chair of the Criminal Justice Department: Paul Sylvestre

Criminal Justice Department Chair Paul Sylvestre with students in the classroom

After serving for over 20 years on the Pawtucket Police department, Paul Sylvestre realized it was time for a change and academia was the perfect avenue for him to combine his passion for law enforcement and his desire to help influence the future of criminal justice education. In his new roll as the department chair of the Criminal Justice department at Johnson & Wales University, he has the opportunity to do just that.

Sylvestre worked undercover for two and a half years and remained on the Pawtucket Police department's narcotics unit conducting drug raids and survelliance operations for the remainder of his career.

"So that's really my area of expertise—drug investigations," Sylvestre said. "But at one point I decided it was probably time to leave, so while I was on the job I got an education and I decided to get into academia."

Sylvestre obtained his Master of Science in Administration of Justice and recently completed his Doctor of Philosophy in Humanities and Law Enforcement at Salve Regina University.

It's this combination of education and practical experience that make the Criminal Justice program at Johnson & Wales unique. 

"I know when I was an undergraduate going to school, you had people teaching in criminal justice who had sociology backgrounds—they did not work in the field," Sylvestre said. "I know if I want to go to school, I want to learn from someone who works in the field. It's a big difference. You have a lot of universities now who are moving toward that trend. [Johnson & Wales is] already here."

And it's not just the full-time faculty that have worked in law enforcement in some capacity, even the adjunct faculty in the criminal justice program have industry experience. Both the Rhode Island Attorney General and warden of the prison system have taught classes at Johnson & Wales.

"We make sure the adjunct faculty teach in their area of expertise," Sylvestre said.

JWU students at mock crime scene

This coupled with the program's crime lab and crime scene staging room allows students to gain a practical, rather than strictly theoretical, understanding of the material and concepts they're being taught. 

Take a closer look at our Criminal Justice program on YouTube.