By: Elizabeth LaFond Coppez, ’03, M’07
Cheryl Bassett ’88 played softball and basketball while earning her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. “Westfield State was a great environment to cultivate social skills and self-confidence while maintaining discipline and learning good time management,” says Bassett.
Now the director of human trafficking training initiatives at the McCain Institute for International Leadership in Washington, D.C., Bassett puts her dedication and focus to work for the victims of human trafficking. She’s responsible for conceptualizing, creating, organizing, implementing, and managing programs in an effort to combat the crime, and she’s passionate about her work and the focus area.
“The McCain Institute for International Leadership, inspired by the late Senator John McCain, prides itself in
having values and principles that include helping the most vulnerable among us. I was given the awesome opportunity to be a part of this institution,” she says.
Bassett’s field work has taken her across the country this year and allowed her to speak to many people who are identifying and assisting victims of sex trafficking and forced labor, as well as arresting, prosecuting, and convicting the perpetrators. “It is rewarding to be in a position where we can gather information and ideas from experts in the field and provide solutions,” she says.
Prior to her current role, Bassett retired after 28 years of service to the federal government. The bulk of her career was spent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations. Her journey began with the opportunities she received in the University’s Criminal Justice Department.
She took part in Westfield State’s work study program and was offered a position as a student investigator with the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services upon graduation. Bassett was later selected to join the United States Department of Labor as an investigator. She then became a special agent with the Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which merged with United States Customs Service after 9/11. Bassett has served in various roles around the globe—from Boston to Washington, D.C., to Brazil.
Bassett has received recognition from the University recently. Last year, she was inducted into Westfield State’s Criminal Justice Alumni Hall of Fame. This year, she returned to campus to talk about her field work in human trafficking, and she was later recognized as the “2018 Alumna of the Year” by the Westfield State Alumni Association.
Bassett is also a Westfield State softball and basketball sports legend. In 1987, she ranked among the leading hitters in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference and earned Academic All-America honors. “Athletics taught me to be a team player, and this lesson serves me well in my law enforcement career,” she says.