Northwestern College is adding criminal justice to the majors and minors it offers. Beginning fall of 2014, students can enroll in a program that will prepare them for careers in law enforcement, corrections, the judicial system and related professional fields.
With Northwestern’s new criminal justice major, more students will be prepared to join alumni who are working in law enforcement and corrections careers, such as Zach Dieken ’12, who interned at the Lyon County Sheriff’s Department and is now an Iowa State trooper based in Des Moines.
“Our goal is to train students to think critically about the criminal justice system, to understand and implement evidence-based practices, and then to apply those skills in the pursuit of restorative justice,” says Dr. Scott Monsma, who helped develop the new major.
Northwestern has offered a career concentration in criminal justice since the 1980s. A number of its graduates are employed by area law enforcement agencies, including the Iowa State Patrol. By moving from a career concentration to a major, however, Northwestern can offer more courses and better fulfill the job requirements of potential employers.
“Of the prospective students I meet with during campus visits, probably 95 percent are interested in criminal justice,” says Monsma, chair of Northwestern’s sociology department. “This is an untapped market but also one of our strengths.”
Requirements for the criminal justice major will include three new courses to be taught by people working in the field. Maureen Hansen helped develop a course entitled Restorative Justice. The director of the Iowa State Residential Treatment Facility in Sheldon, Iowa, she has a master’s degree in sociology and more than 20 years of experience in the criminal justice field. She currently teaches Corrections and The Criminal Justice System for NWC.
Kelsey Iversen Callens, a 2002 Northwestern graduate with a master’s degree in criminal justice, will teach Criminology and Policing & Law Enforcement, the other two new criminal justice courses. She is head of the Sioux City Residential Treatment Facility and pursuing a doctorate in criminal justice.
According to Monsma, Northwestern’s emphasis on restorative justice will make its criminal justice program unique. “As people of faith, we want to be out there having an impact,” he says. “The United States incarcerates more people than any other nation in the world. We want people who are going to go into the field and ask ‘What are we doing and why?’ in ways that are really productive.”
Northwestern’s liberal arts education will be an advantage as well, producing graduates who are well-rounded—with a historical framework for issues, an ability to think critically, and an understanding of human development and psychology. Northwestern’s criminal justice students will also have access to jobs and opportunities for advancement available only to those with a four-year college degree.