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Criminal Justice professor encourages students to follow their dreams

Antonio “Tony” Passaro Jr. spent the first fifteen years of his career working as a state trooper. He was later assigned to high-tech computer crimes for the Virginia State Police and held a cross-designation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency.

Today he is the Criminal Justice program director and department lead for the Norfolk Campus.

“I enjoyed my time in law enforcement, but I like what I’m doing now because I get to encourage students,” Passaro said. “Learning is a choice and it is my goal to mold aspiring minds.”

Passaro says his passion for criminal justice and law enforcement stems from his extensive training and police background, and his education. He holds a master’s in criminal justice with an emphasis in management and planning.

To get students interested in the subjects he’s teaching, Passaro conducts mock scenarios and gets students to answer pertinent questions. “I encourage them to think critically about what we’re learning and then share their conclusions. This creates a great dialogue in the classroom and that’s what students will ultimately remember,” Passaro said.

The Criminal Justice program is offered on all four of TCC’s campuses and online. “Working with faculty on the other campuses is definitely a highlight,” he said.

To remain pertinent to the curriculum, Passaro does plenty of research. “In the classroom, we look at everything from controversial issues like the legalization of marijuana, to the ever-changing traffic laws,” he said. “I tell my students that knowledge is power and the more you know, the better prepared you will be for your future department.”

“In every class I teach, I encourage students to go beyond their comfort zones and expand their critical thinking to help them become better investigators,” Passaro said. “I want them to find work they love and not let anyone stand in their way, and believe by faith that everything will work out.”

In his free time, Passaro uses his investigative experience to act in true crime shows on the Investigative Discovery channel, making appearances in “Wicked Attraction,”  “Ice Cold Killers,” and “Last Moment of Clarity.”

Passaro is at work on a doctorate in Higher Education Leadership with an emphasis in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Old Dominion University. He will complete the program in December 2020.

He is also a member of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and serves with the NASA Federal Law Enforcement agency at Langley Research Center having successfully completed training at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida.