USC Criminal Justice Commencement: Admiral Tiffany Danko’s Leadership Lessons for 2024 Graduates

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tiffany danko 2024 commencement speech
Professor Tiffany Danko addresses Bovard College Class of 2024.
Photo: Stella Kalinina

Hailing from 8 different states, 49 Master of Science in Criminal Justice program graduates, of whom 16% are military-affiliated, gathered on USC’s University Park Campus yesterday to celebrate their achievements with family, friends, and peers.

Dean Anthony Bailey kicked off the ceremony by recognizing the important role that family and friends play in supporting graduates on their journey. After congratulating students on their achievements, including a few Order of Arête winners and the first-ever Bovard winner of the Order of the Laurel and the Palm, he went on to thank the faculty. He expressed gratitude to faculty present at the ceremony and also those around the country, whose real-world experience and dedication to students is a hallmark of USC Bovard’s commitment to excellence in teaching and mentorship.

This year’s commencement speaker was Tiffany Danko, currently at the rank of Rear Admiral in the United States Coast Guard and a professor in the MSCJ program. Professor Danko is a leader in emergency management, maritime and homeland security, intelligence, and international affairs. In her speech, she spoke about the “growing complexity of leading for the future,” and shared some valuable lessons for Bovard graduates. These lessons included demonstrating your capabilities, leading from the front, building up other people and being authentic by recognizing and capitalizing on your strengths. “Leaders who harness their own strengths build inclusive teams that capitalize on what everyone brings to table, becoming more impactful and successful together,” she remarked.

The 2024 graduates from the MSCJ program hold diverse roles within the criminal justice system, including Police Officer, Federal Air Marshal, Deputy Sheriff, Asset Protection Detective, and Juvenile Probation Officer. However, USC’s MS in Criminal Justice program also serves as a valuable foundation for individuals seeking career changes and entry into the field. In addition to traditional criminal justice roles, the graduating class includes students with titles such as Florist, General Warehouse Associate, Front-Desk Manager, Social Media Intern, and IT Support Associate.

Designed with flexibility in mind, students can complete the MSCJ program on either a 1-year track within 12 months or on the 2-year track in less than two years. There are 24 units of coursework and classes are offered in the fall, spring and summer semesters. No GRE is required, and students have their choice of three enrollment dates each year.

In her closing remarks, Admiral Tiffany Danko encouraged graduates “…to build the bench, lead from the front, and be the example that others want to follow.” With a curriculum created by top experts in the criminal justice field, and a theoretical framework that takes into account human rights, integrity and accountability, the MSCJ program prepares students to become decision-makers and effective leaders.

Watch the 2023 commencement ceremony here.

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