Congrats to the Grads! Profiles in Success—2015

Denise Hill-Otto: A Study in Reinvention

Driving nearly 50 miles each way between Irvington, N.J. and Lakewood is tough. But so is reinventing yourself after a job loss.

DeniseThat’s how Denise Hill-Otto found herself back at Georgian Court, more than 20 years after she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. She landed work right out of college as a medical technologist and that job led to her becoming a pharmaceutical microbiologist. In 2010, swift corporate changes and an industry merger changed everything.

She was out of work but full of promise. And she knew it was time to pursue the passion she’d always had for criminal investigations.

“I’ve always been drawn to the field,” says Denise, who is hooked on programming like ID: Investigation Discovery. “What is it that makes people snap, or that pushes them to make decisions when they know there are dire consequences?”

Knowing she was ready for graduate school, Denise did her homework and decided to pursue a master’s degree in homeland security at Georgian Court. She knew GCU professors had the real-world experience that would benefit her, and was confident they would offer the expertise—and professional connections—she was need for her next career.

“During my undergrad experience at Georgian Court, the professors I encountered were passionate about their subjects they taught. The classroom size was small therefore, you were not just a number and the professors knew you,” she recalled. Not only were her professors passionate, but they challenged her in new ways.

Difficult topic, tough research

Her master’s thesis focused on gangs, and getting access to gang members would not be easy.

“Dr. Robert Louden made it possible for me to intern with the New Jersey Parole Board, and they connected me with gang members who were about to be paroled.” For months, Denise reported to a residential re-entry center several times a week to meet and talk with current and ex-gang members. As the 18- to 50-year-old residents opened up, Denise learned more about what they found in gang life—security, escape from broken homes, a sense of fitting in, and a way to make money.

As they approached parole, some said their perspective was changed.

“They’re searching for an opportunity for another kind of life,” says Denise.”They want to know ‘How can I leave all of this behind?'”

 


“You do not go through the process of earning a graduate degree by yourself. You are advised and guided. Although I knew my advisor had other students, I always felt that I was given undivided attention. Failure is not an option at GCU.” 

— Denise Hill-Otto


 

 

With her previous career experience and degree in homeland security, the former pharmaceutical scientist is ready to go in a new direction. “Since December I’ve interviewed with two major federal agencies, and my applications are pending background checks. These opportunities came because of my combined majors, which I received from GCU, and my work experience.”

Next — Meet John Ruppert: Ready to give back

 



Return to our Commencement 2015 roundup, or contact the  Office of Marketing & Communications to learn more about our standout students! 

Denise Hill-Otto: A Study in Reinvention

Driving nearly 50 miles each way between Irvington, N.J. and Lakewood is tough. But so is reinventing yourself after a job loss.

DeniseThat’s how Denise Hill-Otto found herself back at Georgian Court, more than 20 years after she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. She landed work right out of college as a medical technologist and that job led to her becoming a pharmaceutical microbiologist. In 2010, swift corporate changes and an industry merger changed everything.

She was out of work but full of promise. And she knew it was time to pursue the passion she’d always had for criminal investigations.

“I’ve always been drawn to the field,” says Denise, who is hooked on programming like ID: Investigation Discovery. “What is it that makes people snap, or that pushes them to make decisions when they know there are dire consequences?”

Knowing she was ready for graduate school, Denise did her homework and decided to pursue a master’s degree in homeland security at Georgian Court. She knew GCU professors had the real-world experience that would benefit her, and was confident they would offer the expertise—and professional connections—she was need for her next career.

“During my undergrad experience at Georgian Court, the professors I encountered were passionate about their subjects they taught. The classroom size was small therefore, you were not just a number and the professors knew you,” she recalled. Not only were her professors passionate, but they challenged her in new ways.

Difficult topic, tough research

Her master’s thesis focused on gangs, and getting access to gang members would not be easy.

“Dr. Robert Louden made it possible for me to intern with the New Jersey Parole Board, and they connected me with gang members who were about to be paroled.” For months, Denise reported to a residential re-entry center several times a week to meet and talk with current and ex-gang members. As the 18- to 50-year-old residents opened up, Denise learned more about what they found in gang life—security, escape from broken homes, a sense of fitting in, and a way to make money.

As they approached parole, some said their perspective was changed.

“They’re searching for an opportunity for another kind of life,” says Denise.”They want to know ‘How can I leave all of this behind?'”

 


“You do not go through the process of earning a graduate degree by yourself. You are advised and guided. Although I knew my advisor had other students, I always felt that I was given undivided attention. Failure is not an option at GCU.” 

— Denise Hill-Otto


 

 

With her previous career experience and degree in homeland security, the former pharmaceutical scientist is ready to go in a new direction. “Since December I’ve interviewed with two major federal agencies, and my applications are pending background checks. These opportunities came because of my combined majors, which I received from GCU, and my work experience.”

Next — Meet John Ruppert: Ready to give back

 



Return to our Commencement 2015 roundup, or contact the  Office of Marketing & Communications to learn more about our standout students! 

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