Aaron Kinzel

2017 The Reformed Advocate


What makes you a Difference Maker?

I have re-invented myself and become a difference maker through my mistakes and disadvantages from my earlier life as an impoverished child who grew up in high crime areas; was involved in delinquency and criminality and spent ten years in prison.

Now I am a faculty member and a pre-doctoral candidate in the College of Education, Health, and Human Services at UM-Dearborn. I have worked for nearly 9 years post release to improve public policy, society and mentor juvenile delinquents, prisoners and parolees to create engaged citizens that promote public safety and serve their communities.

Campus achievements

Awarded the best scholarship at UM-Dearborn: King, Chavez, and Parks Future Faculty Fellowship.

Awarded a $1000 grant from the Teaching and Learning Hub to plan a student and faculty trip to the Cell Block 7 Prison Museum in Jackson, Michigan.

Just developed a new criminology and criminal justice studies club student organization in which I am the president.

Leadership experiences

Currently a 2016 finalist for an Open Society Foundation's Soros Justice Fellowship, which is a prestigious grant that is awarded to about a dozen individuals every year from around the world who are leaders in criminal justice reform.

Conducted several executive level training seminars for upper level corrections and law enforcement personnel for the United States Department of Justice.

Linkage Project Fellow through the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor's Prison Creative Arts Project to work collaboratively with incarcerated artists.

What is your dream career?

I want to assist in the development of a transparent government that places the needs of the people above corporations. I advocate for sound public policy reform that improves the welfare of the most disadvantaged members of society, including those affected by the prison industrial complex and improve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

What was your most defining moment at UM-Dearborn?

Being hired last year by the Director of the Criminal Justice Studies program, Judge Donald Shelton and the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters as a faculty member to teach: Criminology; Race, Crime, and Justice; Criminal Justice Systems and Policy three years after receiving a graduate degree from the same college. I think that my personal narrative and academic knowledge helps to create a rich and interactive learning experience for my students. I appreciate the opportunity and guidance that Judge Shelton provides me throughout every semester. We are certainly the odd couple coming from opposites sides of the criminal justice coin but we share a strong respect for each other and our passion to give our students real life experiences and knowledge to prepare them for their future careers.