As a young man, Alan Scharn had no idea what he wanted to do with his life until a friend talked him into joining the Marion County Sherriff’s Office reserve academy. It was there that he first connected with his passion for law enforcement. The 30 years of service that followed led him to work as a school resource deputy in Keizer, a patrol officer, homicide detective, Deputy Director for Oregon Police Academy, Assistant Chief in charge of the Special Investigations Unit for Oregon Department of Corrections, and eventually as the director of Corban’s criminal justice program.

Though teaching had always been a component of Scharn’s various roles, it wasn’t initially at the forefront of his mind. That changed when a four-year investigation into a double “no-body homicide” led to the country’s first ever conviction based solely on circumstantial evidence. “It was a landmark case,” says Scharn, “and from that I went around the country doing a lot of training on no-body homicide investigation.” It was through this experience that he began to open up to the idea of teaching and training others for careers in criminal justice.

When Corban reached out to him in 2011 with the opportunity to spearhead the growth of their new criminal justice major, Scharn was eager to step into a new role, helping young individuals connect with the passion he was introduced to more than 30 years ago. 

“I jumped in with both feet and started building that program,” says Scharn. “It was a great opportunity to serve our students and community by teaching and helping to train our future criminal justice professionals. And it was a great opportunity to work in a Christian environment, which I had never done before.” Under his direction, the program grew each year and has now more than doubled since he began. Scharn was also instrumental in establishing a firearms training program, the new forensic psychology major, and the Master’s in Public Safety Administration degree, as well as building Corban’s diverse and expert pool of adjunct instructors.

“Knowing what police officers need to know and how they learn helped me develop the courses I’m teaching at Corban,” says Scharn. “I wanted to make sure that the people teaching our courses had actually been in the field and done the job. I think especially with criminal justice and forensic psychology, those are such hands-on professions that are changing all the time, so there’s a real value in having practitioners as instructors.” Because of the diversity of the field, Scharn was quick to augment student experience by inviting in expert guest lecturers and hiring professors with experience in areas outside of his own specialty.

“When you work in the criminal justice profession for 30 years, you meet and know a lot of people,” Scharn says. “I was able to go out and contact people I knew that I had worked with on cases and get them excited about coming in and teaching at Corban.” One of the first individuals he turned to was Dr. Sandee Flint, who is now Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Forensic Psychology at Corban. “She’s an awesome instructor with a 30-year background in the FBI and law enforcement,” says Scharn. “We’ve been very fortunate to have people like Dr. Flint come in and teach in our program.”

With Professor Scharn set to retire from his position as Director of the Criminal Justice program at the end of this school year, Dr. Flint is poised to continue where he left off. “2021 will be my tenth year at Corban, for a total of 40 years in the field. So, I thought it was probably time for me to retire and let others step in,” says Scharn. “I know Sandee will come in just like I did and really take this program to the next level.”

Under Scharn’s direction, and with the help of colleagues like Dr. Flint, Corban’s criminal justice program has gained a wide reputation for producing professionals who serve with competence, compassion, and integrity. “Police departments love it when Corban students apply to their department,” says Scharn. “They don’t have trouble getting hired. They know what they’re getting with a Corban student—someone with ethics and integrity who can handle the job.”

Scharn believes Corban’s unique, biblically-grounded focus, and the faith his students carry with them, is their greatest tool for success in the field. “Being a Christian is an advantage,” he says. “It’s a very difficult and challenging profession emotionally. It’s a heavy burden, and having a Christian faith to lean on is important.” Now more than ever, and in light of the current narrative concerning law enforcement, Scharn sees a growing need for criminal justice professionals who are trained to be competent and operate ethically.

From his perspective gleaned through 30 years of service, Scharn disagrees with the sentiment shared by some that law enforcement in general is burdened by systemic issues, but he does agree that much can be done to alleviate current tension, both on the side of law enforcement and the general public. “There have been bad actors out there who have done bad things intentionally,” he says, “but I think the vast majority of it comes down to poor training and poor department policies, and those two things combined with a volatile situation have created a lot of these instances.” 

For the public, Scharn encourages everyone to take advantage of opportunities like ride-alongs, which increase the understanding of the services a police officer provides and what they encounter on a day-to-day basis. He firmly believes that Corban can play a large role in helping to lead by example and helping to reshape the narrative. “We need compassionate, smart, educated, well-trained officers out there,” he says. “The fact that we’re sending Christian students out into the field certainly does help. They have a different worldview that the world needs. Often times the people that we are dealing with are at their lowest point in life, and a police officer has the opportunity to be a light in that person’s life when they’re having a really tough time.”

With the need for highly-trained and ethically-equipped law enforcement officers at an all-time high, Scharn is confident that Corban’s role in educating criminal justice professionals who will make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ will remain secure under the guidance of Dr. Flint. “I couldn’t imagine anyone better to leave the program with,” he says. “She’s an incredible professor, incredibly passionate about her students, and has a wealth of knowledge and experience that will serve Corban and the students very well.”

Scharn looks forward to the future, watching as others carry on his mission of training students to pursue their passion. “Between our current adjuncts and Sandee leading the programs, it’s going to be awesome.” As for Scharn himself, he hopes to stay involved post-retirement, perhaps even teaching a few adjunct courses when needed.

Throughout his career, Professor Scharn grew from that young man, locked in a place of indecision, to a seasoned veteran with the talent and experience to help others discover and prepare for their passion. His service has left an indelible mark on the Corban community, and the community he faithfully served for more than 40 years. “It’s been an honor teaching at Corban,” he says. “I’m going to really savor my last semester.”