Faculty Spotlight – Meet Travis Matthews

Criminal Justice Program Director Travis MatthewsTravis Matthews, B.A., is the Criminal Justice (CJ) Program Director at our San Jose campus.

How long have you been at Carrington Travis, and how long have you been in the CJ field?

I joined Carrington in September 2008. I’ve been the Program Director for about a year now. Before that I had five and a half years experience working in Federal Corrections; I worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons at three different institutions, at three different levels of security, in my five plus years, so I really got some good experience. I also have a bachelor’s degree in Justice Administration.

As a kid, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I’ve always been fascinated by law enforcement; I just wasn’t sure what part I wanted to be in. I was kind of impatient though; After high school I really didn’t want to wait two years to reach 21 and be eligible for a lot of the jobs in the CJ field, so I joined the military when I was 19.

I lived abroad, got to do some traveling and I grew up really quick. I was 19 years old with a ‘Top Secret’ clearance in the U.S. Air Force. I also got to see how law enforcement worked in other countries around the world, from Italy to Saudi Arabia. As I said, the justice field has always fascinated me.

Why did you become a teacher?

What really got me into teaching was a job I took after corrections. I was an Anti-Terrorism Firearms Instructor for the Navy; for two years I trained the Navy’s advanced teams on firearms and close quarter hand-to-hand combat, like SWAT tactics essentially. That was on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

I loved that job because I was training the Navy to protect our assets and our country; I really took it seriously and I excelled. That was when I realized I had a way of building confidence in people; I could find a way to get them to pass the course. That was the job that awoke the teacher inside of me. I realized I could bring out the best in people and that I would make a pretty good teacher.”

What’s your teaching style?

I’m a no-holds barred instructor; I let my students know what they’re going to see, what they’re likely to face out there. If you’re going to become on police officer, you’re not just going to be writing tickets. When I was working in corrections I saw my first murder within a month of starting at the penitentiary, it happened right in front of me.

That’s why I’m a very realistic, real world type instructor. I don’t want to sugarcoat stuff; I want them to be prepared for what the world has to offer because it can be a pretty mean place. That’s why I encourage my students to watch the news, read newspapers and be aware of current affairs. They need to know what’s happening in the world around us. I also teach them to be firm, fair and consistent.

If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would you choose?

Man that’s a good question… I’d have to say Abraham Lincoln. People aren’t aware of the obstacles he overcame and the elections he lost, and yet he went on to become one of the most influential Presidents in our country’s history. That would be a very interesting evening.

If you knew you going to be stranded on a desert island, what book, movie & music would you take?

Book – Sun Tzu’s Art of War –that’s probably not a stretch right? You were expecting something like that!

Music – That would be Linkin Park.

Movie – I would say ‘Castaway’. Watching someone go through the same thing would give me hope.

Many people consider joining the field because of TV shows; is there any reality in shows like CSI?

Yes there’s reality in that there’s crime and people are trying to solve it, but that’s as far as it goes! There’s no other correlation between those shows and the real world. I tell my students to watch shows like Crime 360, The First 48, or some of the National Geographic shows. I want them to see the reality of it, not the Hollywood version.

CSIs process crime scenes; they don’t carry weapons or interview suspects. Most of those shows are as realistic as a cheerleader starting in the offensive line in the NFL! It’s just not going to happen.

We actually teach the CSI effect; criminals watch these shows too so it’s made the job of catching them harder because they know more about DNA and fingerprints etc. That’s another thing! Do you know how long it takes to get DNA and fingerprints back? Those guys get it back in like 20 minutes; it takes days or even weeks to get that evidence back!

What would you say to people considering Criminal Justice as a career?

Honestly I don’t think there’s a nobler career choice. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for doctors, nurses and teachers, but I think that a career in the criminal justice field is noble. From court reporters, to arresting officers, to probation officers, to corrections officers, to judges, I mean without those people society breaks down, without the criminal justice system you just don’t have a civilized society.

The law enforcement field is the same as teaching, the same as health care; those jobs aren’t going anywhere. Unfortunately our society will always need police officers, judges, corrections officers and so on. My father, a retired corrections officer, used to tell me to watch the news at night – we’d see bank robberies or shootings, and he’d say “that’s job security right there.”

If you weren’t a teacher today, what would you be?

I’m an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor; I still do that as a side job. I would probably do that full-time.

Tell me a little about your family?

My wife, Samantha, and I are coming up on our second anniversary. She has two kids, 18 and 21, they’re both in college. And I have a beautiful 15 year old daughter from my first marriage; she lives in Hawaii with my ex-wife. I see her about twice a year; not as much as I’d like to but she’s going to a really good high school over there that she really likes.

Last question – you get an unexpected afternoon off, what would you do with the time?

I’m not someone who can sit around and do nothing; there’s always something to be done whether it’s washing the truck or getting groceries. I think I drive my wife crazy sometimes. If my wife had the afternoon off too, we’d probably go to Santa Cruz and have lunch. We try to do something nice like that every weekend. We just try to get away and enjoy being here in central California.