It took a little time for Jessica MacCulloch to find her chosen career path in criminology. She studied interior and spatial design before undertaking a Bachelor of Design at UNSW Sydney.

Towards the end of my design degree, I found myself at a crossroads, not knowing what to do next,” she says. “Although I already had experience working in the design industry, and thoroughly enjoyed it, I realised it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue full time.”

After a three-month trip travelling through Europe, Jessica returned to Sydney determined to change her career path. She considered a number of options, and ultimately selected a Bachelor of Criminology. She says her decision was influenced by her love of crime documentaries and her experience undertaking jury duty.

“I chose UNSW because I had already completed a degree here, and I was aware of all the fantastic opportunities and experiences it has to offer,” she says. 

Jessica has certainly made the most of the ‘opportunities and experiences’ available at UNSW. She was 2019 President of UNSW Criminology Society, and her past roles have included Vice President (Marketing & Publications), Treasurer and Marketing & Publications Assistant. She says that applying for an assistant position at the UNSW Criminology Society in the first year of her degree was “the best decision” she made at University.

“This single decision not only enhanced my uni experience, but also opened new doors. Since then I have held multiple positions allowing me to gain leadership, management, marketing, finance and event planning skills,” she says. “Involvement in the society has also had the added benefit of networking with academics and industry professionals, which has subsequently exposed me to numerous opportunities.

“I have also played an active role in organising several educational panel events. They have broadened and strengthened my knowledge in specific topics, such as gender-based violence, policing, drugs, mental health and Indigenous issues.”

Jessica is also 2019 Coordinator of the Volunteer Army, which is a paid position at Arc @ UNSW. She has been a Student Ambassador representing Criminology at the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences Advisory Centre on Open Day and a conference volunteer at the 2018 Critical Criminology and Social Justice Conference at the UNSW Centre for Crime, Law and Justice.

“Get involved with a variety of activities on campus,” Jessica says. “It’s a great way to make friends and enrich your time at uni. Not only were they all enjoyable, but they also provided me with transferrable skills and/or developed my criminology, legal or industry knowledge.”

Jessica is currently interning at the NSW Inspector of Custodial Services, identifying trends and patterns through data analysis; helping prepare for inspections by locating, collating and summarising information; and assisting with the finalisation of reports by editing, checking facts and providing references.

“It has given me the opportunity to broaden my criminal justice and legal knowledge, apply theory to practice and develop my research skills within a government setting,” Jessica says. “I have particularly enjoyed learning more about correctional environments and the issues and trends within specific cohorts.”

After graduating, Jessica plans to remain in the public sector, at either a state or national level, within criminal justice policy or research. She is also considering further study such as an honours or postgraduate degree.

“Since I first started at UNSW, back in 2012, a lot has happened to me,” she says. “I have gained new knowledge, formed friendships, experienced a variety of opportunities, grown up, changed careers, and created new goals and dreams. I think UNSW has played a huge part in shaping who I am today.”

Her advice to students is not to compare yourself, or your path, to anyone else.

“Keep your options open and consider all possible pathways. Don’t be afraid to try new things or change directions. We all have our own timeline. If you work hard and persevere, you will get exactly where you want to be.”

Emma Followill