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Criminal justice graduate is second from NMSU to get Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Wesley Hazen, a December criminal justice graduate at New Mexico State University, soon will be traveling overseas to study crime and punishment. Named a 2013 Gates Scholar, the native New Mexican will spend nine months researching the criminal justice system at the United Kingdom's Institute of Criminology beginning in October.

upper body shot of Wesley Hazen
New Mexico State University recent criminal justice graduate Wesley Hazen has a received the internationally prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship to study in the United Kingdom. (Submitted photo)

"This is definitely in my top five accomplishments of my life, and it's near the top of the list," Hazen said. "I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I got it."

Hazen, a graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences, is among 39 students nationwide to receive the full-cost scholarship, and only the second NMSU student to receive it. Mohammad Ghassemi, an electrical and computer engineering graduate received the award in 2010.

Gates Cambridge Scholarships were set up in 2000 by a $210 million donation by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They are awarded to outstanding applicants from countries outside the U.K. to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree in any subject available at the University of Cambridge. The program aims to build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others.

"The Honors College is very proud of Wesley and his accomplishments," said Mark Andersen, associate dean in the Honors College. "His story is an inspiration to the whole university community, and I hope that it serves to remind our students that even the most prestigious competitive scholarships are not out of reach, given hard work and dedication."

At Cambridge, Hazen plans to focus on the corrections aspect of criminology and inmate reintegration while working with the university's Penal Ethics and Theories Centre and the Prison Research Centre.

"I'm most looking forward to experiencing the English culture and how their education system differs from ours here in the United States," Hazen said. "I'm also looking forward to meeting and getting to know people from other countries and cultures."

When he completes his studies at Cambridge, Hazen plans to go to law school.

"After law school I want to go into law or start a company to help reshape and improve the United States Corrections System and the programs it offers inmates to better themselves and give them fresh starts once they pay their debt to society," Hazen said.

Hazen said the application process wasn't difficult. He submitted essays about his interest in Cambridge. He also had to write about his leadership abilities and future goals, as well as his determination in improving the lives of others.

He was then invited to a formal interview in Washington, D.C., and spent the next month preparing.

"When I finally got to D.C., I was really nervous and excited at the same time, because I only had 20 minutes to impress the committee panel," Hazen said. "I then found out I had received the scholarship the following Tuesday, so the selection process was very quick."

Hazen graduated with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice in December 2012. He received an Associates of Applied Science in legal assistant studies from San Juan College in Farmington in 2010 after graduating from Kirtland Central High School in Kirtland, N.M., in 2008.

"Being chosen for this scholarship is a once in a lifetime and life changing opportunity that I am very grateful for receiving," Hazen said. "I wouldn't be where I am without the support of Dr. Andersen in the Honors College, Professor Andrea Joseph of the criminal justice department, Dr. Timothy Cleveland of the philosophy department, Associate Provost Dr. Roberta Derlin and many others who have supported me."