Faculty Focus: William Sondervan

William Sondervan’s Quest to Put Troubled Teens Back on Track

By Amanda Agatstein |   October 2010

William Sondervan , Faculty

Criminal Justice
School of Undergraduate Studies

Story Update—10/22/2008

UMUC is proud to announce that William Sondervan was named Criminal Justice Alumnus of the Year by his alma mater, Jacksonville State University. He accepted the award at a ceremony and dinner hosted by the university's alumni association in Alabama on October 17, 2008.

In his long career in corrections, William Sondervan has met some of the world’s most infamous criminals. He’s had conversations with Charles Manson, George Wallace assassin Arthur Bremmer, John Lennon assassin Mark Chapman, Washington, D.C., snipers Muhammad and Malvo, and “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski. While he describes these encounters as “interesting,” they don’t constitute the defining moments of his career.
William, professor and director of UMUC’s criminal justice, investigative forensics, and legal studies programs, has always focused on how he can improve the state of prisons and the criminal justice system, starting with swaying troubled teens from ever turning to crime. Each year, he participates in youth leadership conferences, hoping to keep them from going down the wrong path.

“We take at-risk students from local high schools to a prison for a day,” says William. “They participate in breakout groups with real inmates, eat lunch in the mess hall, and take part in a panel discussion with correctional experts, judges, police officers, parole officers, and FBI agents.”
The students get a glimpse into prison life, and learn the fate they may face should they break the law. “It’s our chance to show them how the system really works. We get to give them one-on-one advice—and a reality check,” Sondervan says.

While he served as assistant commissioner, deputy commissioner, and then commissioner of the Maryland Division of Corrections, William ran 27 prisons and made significant improvements to the prison system. His achievements include turning around three notoriously out of control prisons and successfully establishing the first-ever American Correctional Association accreditation of two prisons: Western Correctional Institution (WCI) and Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI).

William remains passionate about having an impact on corrections. He regularly travels to correctional and distance learning conferences around the world and proudly represents UMUC.

“I recently went to China for a criminal justice conference and we discussed the value of online learning in the criminal justice system,” William says. “I shared how WebTycho helps students and explained UMUC’s mission as a leading distance education provider.” William will soon head to South Africa to discuss possible solutions to corrections issues.

All of his hard work and dedication to corrections and criminal justice education hasn’t gone unnoticed. William recently received the 2006–2007 Military Order of the World Wars National Law and Order Individual Award. The award recognizes lifetime achievement in criminal justice, and is the highest award the Order presents. 

What’s even more rewarding for William is watching his UMUC programs evolve. “Look at the new investigative forensics program,” he says. “In such a short time, we already have hired 45 new faculty members and founded three state-of-the-art labs at the College Park, Prince George’s Community College, and Shady Grove locations.”

An increasing number of these programs’ courses are beginning to move to the online format. CCJS 461 Psychology of Criminal Behavior recently became available online and 105 Intro to Criminology, CCJS 421 Computer Forensics, and CCJS 420 Medical and Legal Investigations will each be offered online soon. These offerings have helped fuel William’s ever-present enthusiasm.

“We’re moving full speed ahead with these programs, making them conveniently available online and offering more classes on-site, too. And we’re creating lots of new courses to prepare students for careers.” William exclaims. “I’d say we’re moving at about 90 miles per hour!”