Graduate Student Spotlight: Esmeralda Portillo

November 3, 2022

Esmeralda Portillo is a Graduate Student in the School of Criminal Justice, completing her Masters Degree in Criminal Justice.

Photo of Esmeralda Portillo, a Graduate Student studying Criminal JusticeEsmeralda Portillo was born in the South Side of Chicago, and moved with her family to the South Chicago Suburbs when she was four years old. Esmeralda chose to pursue a career in law enforcement out of her desire to help protect those who were unable to protect themselves. Now, only a couple of months away from completing her Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice, Esmeralda’s career in law enforcement is just getting started.

Esmeralda has worked with multiple police departments over the four years in clerical and administrative roles in addition to serving as an Investigative Intern for the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Team. Currently, she works with the Homewood Police Department and has an ultimate career goal to become a Special Agent with the FBI or DEA.

After dedicating the past four years of her life to diligently studying and consistently working in law enforcement, Esmeralda is hoping to take time for herself after graduation and travel.

Outside of work and school, Esmeralda enjoys reading. Recently, she has been gravitating towards books written by Colleen Hoover. She also enjoys baking and crafting – Esmeralda even runs a small business that involves her baking and crafting hobbies!

Esmeralda says that being a student in the School of Criminal Justice has helped motivate and challenge her. She says that working with the diverse pool of professors and students in the school – many of whom (in the online masters programs) have experience working in law enforcement at the state or federal level – has been the most exciting part of pursuing career. Working with the professors and students in the school has also shown Esmeralda that mistakes do not define your success.

The adversities Esmeralda has endured as a Latina pursuing a career in law enforcement have not – and will not – hold her back. Esmeralda became the youngest Latina to graduate from Western Illinois University in 2021 after completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Law Enforcement and Justice Administration at 19 years old!

Esmeralda says she will continue to fight for her education, success, and goals; she also says that there is no limit to what you can accomplish by staying true to yourself and believing in yourself.