Charlotte Braziel spent nearly three decades with the FBI. Now, she's taking all of her unique experiences and incorporating them into hands-on activities in her classes at Saint Leo University.

An instructor in Saint Leo's Department of Criminal Justice, the native of Naugatuck, Conn. Now resides in Seminole, Fla. She attained her bachelor's in public policy and government from Eastern Connecticut State College, an MBA from Sacred Heart University and her master's in criminal justice from Saint Leo in 2009.

A Fatherly Influence

Early in her career, she worked for the state of Connecticut and then for an insurance company. In 1987, she was hired by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"When I was working on my MBA, my father came across an ad saying that the FBI was recruiting females," she recalls. "So, when I took the job, I was the first in my family to get into criminal justice."

She primarily worked as a special agent doing criminal investigation work at the federal level. She was also part of the FBI's crime scene team and helped collect evidence for various cases.

"I got exposure to organized crime, including the Gambino family and John Gotti, Jr. I also worked on some bank fraud cases and the Sami Al-Arien case out of Tampa."

Her FBI career lasted 26 years.

"It was a great career, and I thoroughly enjoyed it," she says. I grew up in a small town in Connecticut, but this job had me traveling to Israel, Budapest, the Philippines and many other places. I was exposed to the world, and I like to say that this shows that anyone from anywhere can go on to do anything they want if they work hard."

As time went on in her career with the feds, part of her work involved training new FBI agents.

"I knew I was inclined to go into teaching because I enjoyed mentoring younger people," she says.

Educating Saint Leo Criminal Justice Students

In 2015, Braziel became an adjunct faculty member at Saint Leo's Ocala Education Center. She took on a full-time role the following year and now mainly teaches at University Campus.

"I think the big strength of Saint Leo is that we hire practitioners who have lots of real-world experience," she says.

Braziel teaches undergraduate, on-ground classes on a variety of subjects, including forensics, courtroom testimony and ethics. Plus, she has been involved with the university's CSI camp for high school students and other activities held in its crime scene house next to campus.

"I love teaching all of my classes," she says. "Having the students get their hands dirty by doing lots of practical exercises is a lot of fun."

She points to Phillip Neely, Robert Diemer, Joseph Cillo, Fern Aefsky and several other faculty members who have positively impacted her teaching style.

"We all have the same goal of helping our students be successful."

She believes having many years' worth of experience in criminal justice makes her courses more engaging, especially to traditional-age college students.

"Not only can I have textbooks for my classes, but I can also talk about John Gotti Jr.'s hitman and lots of other people I dealt with over the years. It makes it very real to the students. All of my students have been awesome. You can tell that they're there to learn and want to grow."

Another Unique Passion

In addition to educating students, Braziel is a breeder for Southeastern Guide Dogs, a school in Palmetto, Fla. that trains and provides guide dogs to blind and visually impaired individuals.

"I have three dogs right now – two labs and a golden retriever. Their names are Nicie, Jane and Mattie. They get me up early and keep me in shape. I always have a bonus question on my exams about the dogs."