Samantha O'Hara

Assistant Professor of Sociology & Criminal Justice

Phone Number:
Office Location:
Wallace Hall 301
Office Hours:
Indianaola campus:
Tuesdays: 10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Wednesdays: 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Thursdays: 10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

T3 West Des Moines campus:
Wednesdays 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., prior to night class.

Ph.D. Criminal Justice, University of Nebraska at Omaha, 2006
M.A. Sociology, University of Northern Iowa, 1996
B.A. Criminology, University of Northern Iowa, 1994

Hello! I joined the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Simpson College in August 2013, and I am excited to be a part of the Simpson community.  Why? Keep on reading!

Background and Contributions to the Department

I hold interests in law enforcement training, domestic violence, courts/sentencing, community-based corrections, and ethics and leadership in the criminal justice system. I teach a variety of courses in the Department (click here for quick peek at our major/minor requirements:, in both sociology areas and criminal justice areas, face-to-face and online, and in the day traditional program, but also in the evening and graduate program.  Simply put, I enjoy a variety of courses, topics, and formats which allow me to work with many types of students!

Over the years, I have held a variety of teaching roles.  For example, from 2009 to 2012, I taught at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy as a law enforcement instructor, where I served the basic academy classes in multiple subject areas, provided in-service education across the state, and collaborated on leadership training for command staff. Before this role, usually in addition to full-time work in the criminal justice system, I taught courses at University of Northern Iowa from 1997 to 1998; DMACC from 2008 to 2013; and Simpson College in 2009 and 2012.

My criminal justice practitioner experience includes work as a sworn federal law enforcement officer from 1998 until 2008 with the U.S. Probation Office for the Southern District of Iowa, and positions with the Iowa 2nd Judicial District Department of Correctional Services in 1997 to 1998.

In addition to departmental teaching responsibilities, since August 2016, I have held the role of Director of the Master of Arts in Criminal Justice Program.  I have been assisting Dr. Fred Jones since 2015 on many of his projects, so I believe that the transition between us has been smooth.  I love working with graduate students in our Ankeny campus just as much as our undergraduate students in Indianola. Interested in our 4+1 option?  Click here for details:

Advising and Experiential Learning

One of my duties at Simpson College include advising students on possible internship/field experience sites, and leading their academic work during these experiential learning courses.   Because of my practical work experiences in social services and criminal justice, I really enjoy guiding and possibly contributing to our student’s success in these internships.  Please contact me via email at, or post a message on Facebook (,  if you are a student looking for some ideas, or an agency looking for outstanding students.

Service to the Field of Criminal Justice

There are many opportunities to contribute to this field. For example, since 2013, I have been a steering committee member and presenter with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office’s Crime Victim Assistance Division’s bi-anual Victim Justice Conference. Want more info? Click here:

Since 2015, I have been a member of the Institutional Review Board at  the Iowa Department of Human Right’s Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning Division.  In January 2017, I have been invited to be a chair of the Board, and pending federal oversight approval, I have accepted this additional responsibility happily.

I am always looking for ways to work with the public sector, non-profits, and private sector agencies, to benefit the field while creating pathways to students’ goals.  Our department majors have obtained internships at numerous agencies, including ones that I just mentioned.

Current Project 

My colleague Denise Leifker and I are collaborating on an assessment of Blue Courage (a police training curriculum) with the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Training and Standards, the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy and other researchers. We both have practitioner experiences and are excited to contribute to the field in this way.  We are excited to partner with a student in fall 2017 on research for this project.

In September 2016, we led a panel discussion about Blue Courage, with the Assistant Director at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy Kim Wadding, Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson, and Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner on Blue Courage.

In November 2016, Denise and I led a discussion about this research project at the American Society of Criminology Annual Meetings, found here:

We are looking forward to additional progress in 2017 with our National research group.



I look forward to hearing from you soon – drop me any email or call anytime, or come by my office- I’d love to talk to you about undergrad or grad programs in criminal justice!

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