Simpson Considering a Master’s of Criminal Justice

by Nicole ClervingaStaff Writer

A new Master’s of Criminal Justice degree may be in Simpson’s near future.

The program was first mentioned in the 1980s as an opportunity to address the needs of area law enforcement. At that point in time, the program was not a viable option, as there was only one professor completely dedicated to the department.

The program then resurfaced six years ago after encouragement from the Criminal Justice Advisory Board. This board is made up of 15-20 professionals working in the criminal justice field. Lora Friedrich, associate professor of sociology and chair of the Department of Social Sciences, explained how the board helps the criminal justice undergraduate program.

“The Criminal Justice Advisory Board serves as the eyes and ears for our program,” Friedrich said. “They let us know what classes we should be introducing and what’s new and changing in the field.”

The proposal has again been introduced and is now before the Educational Policy and Curriculum Committee (EPCC) where it was voted on Sept. 26.

The EPCC is a committee made up of 10 professors, two from each academic division on campus. The committee votes on proposals presented to them about changes or additions of programs to the academic catalog.

The addition of the Master’s of Criminal Justice degree wouldn’t be the first master’s program on Simpson’s campus. The existing Master of Arts in Teaching was introduced to the EPCC in March 2003, and classes began in January 2004.

The idea of having another Master’s degree program on campus is a great idea to many, but others are still weighing the effects the program may have on the school.

Fred Jones, professor of sociology and criminal justice and chair of the Division of Education and Social Science, commented on many positive aspects to the program.

“The program is very social justice and ethics oriented,” Jones said. “We’re looking to enhance people’s life-long learning opportunities, which go along very well with the mission of the college.”

The demand for a Master’s of Criminal Justice degree has grown immensely as the undergraduate degree has become more popular in the field. At this point in time, the closest schools that offer this graduate degree program are the University of Nebraska, Omaha and the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

John Epperson, professor of political science, has a different view of the new program.

“The basic question is whether we should move further in the direction of having master’s programs instead of what we are now, which is primarily a residential liberal arts college,” Epperson said.

Pointing out the advantages Simpson has in hosting such a program, Friedrich added her view.

“Given the reputation of our undergraduate program and geographic location, we are uniquely and positively situated in order to be able to create a successful program,” Friedrich said. “I can’t imagine all the possibilities or any liabilities.”

On the contrast, Mark Gammon, assistant professor of religion and EPCC member, offered another view of the proposed master’s program.

“Unlike our undergraduate pre-professional programs, there is no disciplinary breadth required for the Master of Arts and Criminal Justice degree,” Gammon said.

If the proposal is accepted by the EPCC board, it will then be voted upon by all Simpson faculty.

Kedron Bardwell, assistant professor of political science and EPCC member, understands both the pros and cons of the issue.

“There are clear benefits that this would provide to the criminal justice community in central Iowa and Iowa in general, but it is a change in identity in terms of what we do,” Bardwell said. “We have to weigh the benefits or costs that it may have for the undergraduate program here.”