All college majors come with assumptions. What I mean by that is, when I started three years ago as a first-year psychology student, I had dreams of psycho-analysis classes and experiments with other students on campus. Granted, those things do exist, but not without a handful of entry-level courses to prepare you for the “good stuff,” or whatever you’d like to call it.
Keeping this in mind, we thought it might be a good idea to reach out to department heads and students in order to dispel some of the common misconceptions about certain college majors and prepare our readers for the major they may be considering.
This week, we spoke to Dr. Gerald C. Clark, a current professor here and former F.B.I. agent with a passion for psychology, law and criminal justice.
“The kind of students we see interested in criminal justice are those who have an interest in investigation. And that’s important; the exercises we do here are very hands on, and I always say it’s like putting a puzzle together,” Dr. Clark said.
And what kind of students is the department currently looking for?
“The Criminal Justice Department at Gannon is looking for students who are motivated and eager to make a difference. The most important thing a law enforcement officer has is their integrity, and we’re here to protect and serve, so we’re looking for individuals who have that integrity, ethics and non-bias.”
It seems that criminal justice students usually start their college careers with only two job options in mind: enforcement and corrections or working in the private sector. But there are actually 65 federal law enforcement agencies, very few of which are commonly discussed (the F.B.I , the D.E.A, etc.).
Luckily, there are plenty of minors a student can pair with a criminal justice major that may guide their future career interests.
“One of the best minors I’ve seen paired with a criminal justice major is psychology,” Dr. Clark said. “As a law enforcement officer, your job is actually based on interviews. And these people were the only ones at the scene of the crime. You weren’t, so you have to know how to speak to them in order to find the truth.”
“Psychology isn’t the only minor that pairs with criminal justice, though. Legal studies and forensic science can both be very helpful minors for our students, and believe it or not, so can minors in accounting or business.”
So what kind of assumptions get made about Criminal Justice departments and their students?
One can imagine, but Dr. Clark would like to rid the program of these misconceptions by selecting the right individuals for Gannon’s program and training them properly.
“One thing is certain, and that is the fact that we never want to put an officer in the field who has never been properly trained. Some people believe that a criminal justice major is ‘easy,’ to obtain, but our criteria refuses to accept that. We are looking for professional, intellectual individuals who can excel at critical-thinking.”
When asked what one thing every student thinking about majoring in criminal justice should know, Dr. Clark beamed at the chance to speak about his program.
“We are now offering a masters in Criminalistics. It’s online, and it’s a 4+1 program” A 4+1 is an accelerated program that allows a student to earn their bachelor’s and masters degrees in 5 years instead of 6 or 7. “Something like that is immensely helpful to our students, and that’s what this whole program is about: combining field-based and academic knowledge to best prepare our students for a job in law enforcement. So they can follow the evidence and find the truth without bias.”
Students outside the major might view criminal justice through a very singular lens, but like other majors here at Gannon, there as so many ways to approach the utilize the degree and experience it provides to suit whatever future plans a student might have. Students with the passion and mindset for the field, will find a very good fit in Gannon’s Criminal Justice department.