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Tariq Rashad, MLS ’20, Applies Lessons from Criminal Law Coursework in U.S. Army Role

Photo of Tariq Rashad

June 04, 2021

Tariq Rashad, MLS ’20, is a special agent with the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigations Command (CID), and he recently completed a one-year assignment working with Department of Defense personnel at the Pentagon.  

Rashad, who graduated from the Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program in 2020, often conducts joint investigations with personnel from other federal agencies, so gaining more “knowledge of civilian criminal law, torts, and modes of adjudication under our common law system” through coursework directly benefited his career. He noted that the MLS program allowed him the “ideal” opportunity to enhance his criminal investigation skills while also advancing his understanding of the U.S. legal system.

Rashad recently answered a few questions about the program.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree? How do you plan to put your degree to use?

My career as an agent with the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigations Command (CID) necessitates familiarity with the military’s codified laws of jurisprudence—commonly known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

However, my career also affords opportunities to sometimes conduct joint investigations with agents from other federal agencies. So, knowledge of civilian criminal law, torts, and modes of adjudication under our common law system becomes crucial. Drexel University’s MLS graduate program was an ideal opportunity to acquire greater understanding of the American legal system—while also enhancing my skills at criminal investigations.

What challenges (personal or otherwise) did you face while working towards your degree? How did you balance your schoolwork with your other responsibilities?

My career field requires extensive travel—both domestic and international. In addition to conducting criminal investigations, CID agents provide protective service for executive-level leaders within the Department of Defense. Navigating a peripatetic schedule—while simultaneously keeping pace with the rigors of the MLS program—was indeed difficult.

Compounding these challenges were the events unfolding during the catastrophic Covid-19 pandemic. Among these were the increased threats to military personnel upon the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, civil strife in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, and January 6th’s insurrection in the U.S. Capitol. The confluence of these events was unprecedented. However, the support and encouragement from the law school’s faculty—and crucially, my family—enabled me to balance academic and career responsibilities.

Why was online learning the right choice for you?

Drexel University’s Kline School of Law possessed the online infrastructure, and faculty talent, that made it the ideal platform to successfully navigate the demands of career and academics.

Why Drexel? What made this school (and this program) stand out?

Drexel belongs to the rich cultural tapestry of Philadelphia. The university has a reputation for technological innovation in post-graduate education, strong ties with regional companies via its co-operative education, and support for military veterans. The MLS graduate degree was the ideal credential that continues to enhance my career.

What was/is your favorite class?

Two MLS classes that were favorites were LAW-558S: Criminal Law; and, LAW-670S Criminal Procedure. I continually reference both courses. Both classes made me more knowledgeable regarding civilian court procedure, constitutional law, and the foundations of American jurisprudence. 

What was your favorite interaction with a Drexel faculty member?

Overall, each law professor was quite supportive and—most importantly—accessible.  Among the more memorable interactions with faculty occurred after class lectures concerning federal statutes, legal writing, and research. Two professors—Veronica Finkelstein and Lisa Lewis—are each a U.S. Attorney and Federal Public Defender respectively. 

If applicable, can you give an example of how you applied what you learned directly to your job? 

Upon appointment by the President as the new Secretary of Defense, retired general Lloyd Austin immediately tasked his office to begin implementing a series of reforms throughout various components of the military. Repurposing CID is but one of these welcome reforms. Specifically, incidents of sexual assault, racial bias, terrorism, espionage, or membership to violent extremist groups are major concerns under his leadership. Without question, CID agents will play a vital role in any future reforms in how these crimes are investigated and accurately adjudicated. 

During a prior briefing arranged for commanders that covered international terrorist networks, I was able to segue into how a joint operation between CID, FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security could theoretically proceed by explaining each agency’s jurisdiction, and which military codes parallel federal criminal statutes. 

The knowledge gained from the MLS program—concerning how constitutional law, civilian courts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and investigators ideally function—empowered me to objectively advise fellow agents and commanders.

An increased acumen with legal reasoning ideally positions me to facilitate greater synergy between all stakeholders during future investigations.