News Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: Daniel Wackershauser, Marketing Specialist
Phone: 608.822.2303
Mail: 1800 Bronson Blvd., Fennimore, WI 53809
Date of Release: January 25, 2024

Students gain experience at Iowa County Sheriff’s Office

Mentorship program to expand in the fall

Fennimore -
Students, sherriff's office staff and Southwest Tech instructors.
(L-R) Lieutenant Mitch Schauff, Iowa County Sheriff’s Office; Sheriff Mike Peterson, Iowa County Sheriff’s Office; Matthew Morris, Skyler Burkholder, Jayden Brecker, Academy Coordinator Ken Straka; and Instructor Tom Kretschman.

In December, the first three Southwest Wisconsin Technical College students to participate in the new Law Enforcement Mentorship Program were recognized at the Iowa County Public Safety meeting. Iowa County Sheriff, Michael Peterson invited the participants to the meeting not only as recognition for participating in the program but also to share their experiences with the Public Safety Committee.

The program is a work-based learning partnership between the Southwest Tech Criminal Justice Department and the Iowa County Sheriff’s Office. “This program has been an amazing opportunity for both the program and the sheriff’s department,” said Tom Kretschman, criminal justice instructor.

Police graphic image

Interested students applied to participate in the program and were selected through a competitive process. Those who were selected spent 72 hours conducting job shadows with members of the Iowa County Sheriff’s Office. “The goal was to allow students to see firsthand what the career involves and what ‘life is like’ for an employee at the Iowa County Sheriff’s Office,” said Kretschman.

Students who completed the program include Matthew Morris, Hillsboro; Skyler Burkholder, Lancaster; and Jayden Brecker, Belmont. According to Peterson, his staff worked with the students on corrections, patrol, investigations, ERT (Emergency Response Team) training, and 911 center operations. “It worked very well, as we had enthusiasm from both our team and the students,” he said. “It gave our team members more opportunities to show off many aspects of law enforcement.”

Peterson plans to continue to grow the program to keep students interested in law enforcement. “I am excited for the future of our partnership with SWTC,” he said. “Going through the SWTC Criminal Justice program myself, 20 years ago, I understand the importance of partnerships like this one to be able to enrich our future in law enforcement and starting the passion for the profession that will make them be the best that they can be coming out of college and into the workforce.” 

One credit of the Law Enforcement Academy Prep class is devoted to work-based learning. This equates to 72 hours of total time in the semester. These 72-hours were conducted at the Iowa County Sheriff’s Office. “This allowed students to get real-world experience and knowledge about their careers before they enter the law enforcement academy in the spring semester,” said Ken Straka, academy instructor at Southwest Tech. “We believe this will help with student learning and success, as the students will have an understanding of the context of the course material by being able to see the work firsthand in the field.”

The fall 2023 semester was the first semester this program was offered and incorporated directly into a program class. The concept was based upon a collaboration between the Iowa County Sheriff’s Office and the Southwest Tech program. The program was the result of work-based learning concepts designed by the late-Dr. Katie Garrity, coupled with a plan developed between Peterson, Chief Deputy Austin Durst, Instructor Gary Roberts and Kretschman.

“The feedback from both the students and sheriff’s office staff has been excellent,” said Kretschman. “Two of the three student participants have been hired locally in our college district as law enforcement officers, prior to the start of their final semester and law enforcement academy training.”

All five sheriff’s offices in the Southwest Tech district (Iowa, Richland, Crawford, Grant and Lafayette) will be participating in the program in the fall 2024 semester.

To learn more about the criminal justice program at Southwest Tech, visit

| Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, is one of 16 institutions that comprise the Wisconsin Technical College System. Southwest Tech offers more than 60 programs in a wide variety of disciplines. Courses are offered on campus, online, HyFlex and in a blended format. The college provides apprenticeship, certificate, technical diploma, and associate degree programs that respond to district workforce needs and prepare student for family-sustaining jobs and career advancement. |

Posted in Criminal Justice