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MCCC “Was the Start of Everything” for Professor, Attorney and Former South Brunswick Police Captain Allen Sondej

7/18/18


Professor, attorney and retired police captain Allen Sondej calls himself "every non-traditional student."

West Windsor, N.J. – Allen Sondej, J.D., D.Sc., ’94 (A.S., Criminal Justice) spent more than the average number of years earning his associate degree at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) – a decade, in fact.

During those years as a part-time student, he learned a lot, including life lessons that have served him well: the power of perseverance, the importance of education, and the satisfaction of realizing one’s potential.

“I’m a kid from Trenton, New Jersey. My high school teachers never pegged me to have a doctorate, or a law degree, or to even finish college, and I wouldn’t blame them,” Sondej said. “I came to Mercer and they didn’t see me that way. They saw me as a college student and welcomed me.”

While at Mercer, Sondej did a lot of growing up. After enrolling in 1984, he recognized that he wasn’t ready to apply himself academically. Instead, he joined the Marine Corps.

Once he left the Marines, Sondej was ready to concentrate on his education. “I wanted to get my degree,” he recalled. “When I returned to Mercer, I felt very welcomed. They made it easy for me to come back.”

By this time, Sondej was married and was starting a family. He was also working in law enforcement, first with the Trenton Police Department (1988-90) and then with the South Brunswick Police. (He served in South Brunswick for 25 years, retiring as Commanding Officer/Captain in 2013).

As a non-traditional student taking one or two classes per semester at Mercer, Sondej proved adept at juggling multiple responsibilities. “I’ve always been a hard worker. My parents instilled it in me,” he said, adding that Mercer did its part to help him succeed. “The flexible scheduling made it possible, and my advisors and professors were helpful working with my schedule.”

After earning his associate degree, Sondej transferred to New Jersey City University, which accepted all of his Mercer credits. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with a concentration in security management.

These days, Sondej is a full-time professor in Justice Studies at Berkeley College Woodland Park Campus and an adjunct professor at New Jersey City University. He has added significantly to his academic credentials over the years, earning a law degree from Seton Hall University in 2006 and a Doctorate of Science in Civil Security Leadership, Management, and Policy from New Jersey City University in 2016.

The first in his family to attend college, Sondej credits Mercer with giving him his shot. “Mercer was the start of everything. If it wasn’t for Mercer, nothing else would have followed. It changed the arch of my life,” he said.

He still remembers MCCC professors who accepted nothing less than his best. He recalls then Professor of English Robin Shore (who retired as dean of Liberal Arts in 2016) as a tough instructor. “But he taught me to write,” Sondej maintains. He also credits Professor Peter Horne, Coordinator of the Criminal Justice program, as playing a key role in his academic and career growth. “Most of what I learned was applicable in my career,” Sondej said.

Sondej also had some good times on the airwaves as a DJ for the college’s student radio station, WMCC. “I did it for fun. I learned how to be DJ and got to be with friends,” he said.

Sondej has never forgotten his Mercer roots or the school’s impact on his life. “It opened a lot of doors for me and continued to serve me afterwards. Mercer is all about opportunity and competency. Once a Viking, always a Viking,” he said.

Even in recent years, Sondej has utilized the resources at MCCC. He spent time at the Mercer library working on his doctoral dissertation on drones, law and policy while his son played hockey nearby at Iceland. “They even gave me a library card because I was an alumnus,” he said.

Considered an expert on law enforcement policy and best practices, Sondej is the co-founder of the PEEL Institute of Applied Policing, an organization that focuses on public safety/security best practices and police culture. He served as president of New Jersey Public Safety Accreditation Coalition from 2012 to 2016 and, in 2015, authored “Operational Policymaking for Professional Security,” published by Elsevier. He is currently conducting research and training on unmanned aircraft systems deployment in emergency services.

Sondej has some advice for current students, especially for adult students. “When someone opens the door for you, or gives you an opportunity, you have to take it,” he said. “I haven’t achieved anything that anyone at Mercer can’t achieve. I am every non-traditional student."

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