CSI University of Scranton: Out of The Electric City, into the FBI

By Sandra Snyder / For The Scranton Journal

When Jenelle Janowicz became a student at the University of Scranton in 2003, a pop-culture phenomenon had only recently begun to fascinate the country.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” a.k.a. “CSI Las Vegas,” ushered in the millennium in fall 2000 and piqued a flood of interest in evidence based crime-solving, which then led to a wave of students seeking higher education in fields such as forensics.

For Janowicz, however, the fresh CSI frenzy didn’t so much fuel as cement her career ambitions.

“As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to work for the FBI,” the former criminal-justice major, who married in 2010 and became Jenelle Bringuel, said. “It’s the premier law-enforcement agency worldwide.”

So to combine a fascination with CSI and a career with the FBI? Bringuel, ’07, could not be more content.

While a student commuting to campus daily from her parents’ home in Spring Brook Township and holding down a demanding job, Bringuel planned out a careful path to get where she wanted to be, and the University – “a great school,” she says – prepared her well.

“The most important skill set an FBI agent (or FBI employee) has is critical thinking, and the education I received at the University of Scranton placed a huge emphasis on the development of this skill,” she said. 

As a sophomore, she said, she decided she wanted to pursue a master's degree in forensic science. Then, one of the few master's programs offered in that field to students not majoring in a “hard” science was at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Adding chemistry and biology to her undergraduate curriculum to better position herself made for a heavy workload, especially with her job, volunteer softball coaching and involvement with the University’s Sexual Assault Response Team. But her focus was unwavering. In fall of her senior year she landed an internship with the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico, Va., and moved to Stafford, Va., to which she returned after graduation in 2007 to start her master’s at GW.

Bringuel, who still resides in Stafford, then picked up another internship as a forensic analyst before securing a spot as a counterterrorism analyst for an FBI contracting company.

She struck gold during the spring of 2008, when the FBI went on a hiring blitz for intelligence analysts.

“This was a huge opportunity for me to get my foot in the door,” she said. She began working for the FBI that summer, with an ultimate goal of becoming an agent. In November 2012, she graduated from the FBI Academy as a special agent and was assigned to the Washington, D.C., Field Office, now her professional home.

To the casual observer, the process may seem quick, but the speed was an anomaly.

Getting into the FBI “can take a really long time,” Bringuel cautioned. “But if this is something you really want, and you can wait, you can get where you want.”

She and her husband, Andrew Bringuel II, “an army brat from Georgia” and fellow agent, will gladly tell anyone as much. They have made it an unofficial mission to serve as FBI recruiters, encouraging “the right people” to consider a career that will consume at least 50 hours per week of your life, including nights, weekends and holidays, and that may limit you geographically.

Those are indeed drawbacks – especially for young families like the Bringuels, who just welcomed their first daughter, Madison, in April – but ultimately an exciting life with a huge public-service component outweighs them.

Bringuel’s D.C. office is one of the largest of the 56 FBI field offices, with more than 800 agents. In the age of ISIS and homegrown violent extremism, her work still touches on counterterrorism, though these days she also deals with violent and white-collar crimes, such as wire and credit-card fraud.

“There really is no typical day,” she said, explaining the difference between working in a large field office and, say, the FBI’s Scranton office, a resident agency of the Philadelphia office.

A resident agency, or mini office, Bringuel explained, brings definite perks, but a big field office lets you “go out and do a lot of cool things.”

“The big part of our job is talking to people,” she said, which leads to issuing warrants, serving subpoenas and making arrests, tasks high-profile enough to lead to public recognition.

When Bringuel joined her squad almost three years ago, an investigation of mortgage and credit-card fraud to the tune of $3 million, much of it going overseas, was “really getting down to the nitty-gritty.”

After seven convictions, Bringuel was among five agents who received the U.S. Attorney’s Award in the Eastern District of Virginia.

“That was neat early in my career,” she said.

Shortly after, a search warrant was issued at the house of a convicted felon, and Bringuel found a loaded weapon and testified at his trial, a real-life experience she’ll not soon forget.

Now she can compare crime television and reality like the pro she is. She’ll tell you how techniques are not quite as-seen-on-TV, where, for example, a fingerprint is run and an exact match produced in 15 seconds. In reality, you’ll get seven to 10 possible matches, and a human being will make the match.

Bringuel gets home to the Scranton area fairly often to visit her parents, Michele and Stanley Janowicz, and her twentysomething brothers, Ryan and Justin. When she does, a certain proud-papa refrain is sure to surface:

“Every time I talk to my dad, I hear ‘I was talking to so and so and told them you work for the FBI …' It’s certainly a conversation-starter.”

Would Bringuel ever come home to Scranton permanently?

Possibly. But, it may surprise some to know, the FBI Scranton is a coveted workplace.

“When you apply, you rank your field-office choice between 1 and 56, and Scranton is in high demand,” Bringuel said. “If I wanted to get back to Scranton, there are probably 30 or 40 people ahead of me.”