Dr. Samantha O'Hara

Professor of Criminal Justice and co-chair of the Criminal Justice Program, Ankeny Campus


​Samantha O’Hara holds a BA in Criminology and MA in Sociology from the University of Northern Iowa and a PhD in Criminal Justice from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  She has been with DMACC since 2008.

In addition to her rigorous academic background, O’Hara has professional experience and current connections to the criminal justice field that she brings to the classroom. She worked in Iowa community-based corrections for a short time and then for 10 years at the federal level.  Following her work for the U.S. Probation Office for the Southern District of Iowa, she taught at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy and Simpson College.

O’Hara also served as co-project evaluator of Blue Courage© Police Training Assessment: Iowa to evaluate a police guardian training program in Iowa, part of a national consortium of researchers. The project was funded by the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) and U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).

Collaboration with community partners and service to the community are key values for O’Hara.    Bringing together communities across DMACC, criminal justice system agencies, and victim service providers makes the “community” in a community college tangible, she says.  Since 2018, O’Hara has led DMACC’s ad hoc National Crime Victims’ Rights Week committee, which culminates in a week-long event of activities in support of victims, victims’ advocates, and to provide education to all community members.

Dr. O’Hara also incorporates service learning strategies into DMACC’s criminal justice program. These include a multi-cultural fun fair, service to the Fresh Start Women’s Center (part of Iowa 5th District Dept. of Correctional Services), Project Iowa, and others.

“We know students benefit by experiential, hands-on, relational opportunities, and research backs up the benefits to the students, as well as to the community partners,” O’Hara said.  She documents this in “Learning by Service:  An Evaluation of a High Impact Teaching Strategy in Criminal Justice Classes,” which she presented at a national criminology conference.

“I really enjoy my students. They inspire me to be my better self, to teach better, to revise and refine and try again,” O’Hara said. “I have received grace, support, encouragement, and help from so many mentors along the way. I want to be sure to extend this grace to others. Kindness and education opened my eyes; I hope I can for others.”

In her free time, O’Hara enjoys spending time with her family and the outdoors, especially things she can do with them (like jogging with her daughter). 

Contact Samantha O’Hara at sjohara@dmacc.edu.  

» Criminal Justice Program

Samantha O'Hara