June 22, 2024

How CSU Professor Dr. Terrance Hinton is Changing Lives with His Calling

Black History Month recognizes the achievements of Black Americans and their contributions and more to the economic, political and social tapestry of the United States. To honor this special month, CSU would like to recognize some of the achievements of a few of our Black faculty members who have excelled in their communities and within their respective fields.

If you would have asked Dr. Terrance Hinton where he would be now 10 years ago, he would have told you how he moved up the ranks as a special agent in the FBI. Being an agent in the FBI is what he wanted to do, but he quickly learned that what he wanted was different than his life’s calling.

“I originally wanted to be in law enforcement, applied and was accepted into the FBI Academy as a special agent,” he said.  “Around that same time, a number of my family members became incarcerated. What I saw when they got out was they had a lot of obstacles. For me, I asked myself how people are supposed to reintegrate back into the community after being given a second opportunity, and it was then when I realized I was called to do something different.”

With a new path in mind, Dr. Hinton went back to school to obtain his doctorate in public policy and administration. From there, he started working at a nonprofit organization called Alvis dedicated to working with individuals who are incarcerated coming out of prison.

“Most of my work is involved around assisting individuals who live in poverty, lower education, lower income communities because we know from the research that when we start talking about crime and where crime occurs a lot of it happens in areas of poverty and low education,” he said. “There’s underlying socioeconomic issues that contribute to that. I’m on the side of public safety where I am a believer in education to employment to work force development, so a lot of my volunteer activities center around those dynamics.”

Dr. Hinton says his work is not only an opportunity to give back and serve his community, but also to make connections that can help someone get the support they need.

“I’ve worked with close to 3500 people who have been formally incarcerated, and at any given time I will get a text me saying, “Hey Dr. Hinton I’m homeless, can you help me?” Or “I need a job Dr. T.; can you help me?” So, I make a lot of connections within the community because at any given time I will have an individual that is reaching out for help. One of the big things I do right now is within my county where we do a pop-up event that happens monthly, and we call it “First Steps”. If you are an individual with a felony background, there are vendors there that can help with employment, enrolling in health insurance, child support and all aspects of those next steps.”

In this field, connections are key, and for Dr. Hinton, being a member of the National Criminal Justice Association has made helping others easier.

“At this organization, you can connect and exchange ideas to see what’s working and what’s not in different places because it takes a village,” he said. “I can’t do this work myself and there’s strength in numbers.”

During his time working in this field, Dr. Hinton has come to find that his calling has changed his entire outlook on life.

“When you are working with individuals a lot of times you become invested in their lives, so you begin to see a lot of things going on in their life,” he said. “You then realize while you don’t condone the behavior of the criminal activity or the crime that the person committed, you do understand those underlying issues or the timeline of things that happened before the crime that contributed to the unfortunate act they committed. I’m a believer in second chances. I go into prisons a good bit and talk to my clients and tell them I’m not necessarily concerned about what you did to get in here, but what you are going to do next. That’s been a personal aspiration for me because it’s a calling.”

He also felt the call to share his experiences in a classroom setting and thought Columbia Southern University would be a perfect fit.

“After getting my Ph.D., I realized I wanted to teach,” he said. “I started out part time then went into full time six months later and I’ve been here ever since. The most rewarding part is being able to give back and educate our students at CSU as many of them are current law enforcement officers, detectives, police chiefs. I think the biggest thing for me is being able to give back to our current and next generation who are apart of all aspects of the criminal justice field. Being a professor at CSU, as I’m engaging with students, they know that the professor that they have is in this field doing this work as well.”

Over the next few years, Dr. Hinton hopes to be a part of new advancements to the re-entry field that will continue changing lives and restoring hope for people starting over.

“One thing I look at is moving into the policy space and addressing policies along workforce development,” he said. “There are barriers that prevent people from obtaining certain licenses that they are qualified for but cannot get because of their charge and the economic impact that has not only on the individual themselves, but their family. That’s the direction I seem to be gravitating to.”

How can you be the change in the world you want to see? Dr. Hinton says it all comes back to the thing that changed his life—the calling.

“Don’t do what you want to do, do what you are called to do because that is where you are going to make the biggest impact,” he said. “I don’t ever feel like I’m working because I love what I’m doing.”

To Learn more about Alvis, visit


Disclaimer: These testimonials may not reflect the experience of all CSU students.
Multiple factors, including prior experience, geography, and degree field, affect career outcomes.
CSU does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase, eligibility for a position, or other career growth.