Criminal Justice: In-Demand and Now on Campus

Criminal Justice

In-Demand and Now on Campus

“What better advertising could there be than serious shows and movies depicting the complexities of the criminal justice system?” asked Douglas Davis while contemplating the skyrocketing popularity of television shows like Law and Order, NCIS, and CSI. “Aside from the entertainment, they show that people can and do make a difference. It’s an exciting time to enter the criminal justice field.”

Thanks in part to such programs, more and more students are taking an interest in criminal justice. Now, they can learn all about this in-demand and intense discipline, one of three new majors at Mary Baldwin College.

Criminal Justice at MBC
Criminal Justice at MBC

Students in Davis’ class had the opportunity to use a night vision scope and experience how professionals use the tool.

The Criminal Justice major was created to give students hands-on, real-world experiences in the subject’s many areas, both inside the classroom and out — and it delivers. Criminal Justice programs at other institutions often focus mainly on applied skills. Mary Baldwin’s is different in that it involves serious academics as well, providing a foundation of knowledge, theory, and analysis that will help graduates establish careers as leaders in the field.

Davis, who is the recently retired police chief from nearby Waynesboro, Virginia, is coming straight off the beat and into the classroom to teach a colloquium on criminal investigations. In his class, students don’t just read about crime-fighting techniques, they actually practice them.

“I try to include practical exercises in my classes,” Davis said. “We have taken inked fingerprints and lifted latent prints from multiple surfaces using magnetic powder. For our interview and interrogation chapter, I have a professional actor coming to class to play the part of a victim and a suspect.”

Students also will have the opportunity to work with local law enforcement agencies through internships as well as attend seminars and discussions with criminal justice experts from across the country.

“My students ask a lot of questions and ‘what ifs’. I see a lot of enthusiasm,” Davis said. “People want to help solve problems and affect change.”

Mary Baldwin’s criminal justice program allows students to broaden their minds while forging a sophisticated career path. Criminal justice incorporates criminology, law, deviance, social organization, service to the community, and more with solid scientific research and theoretical foundations. The major is available for students in both the undergraduate College for Women and the Adult Degree Program (through the Staunton and Weyers Cave locations for now, then through other centers as the program grows).

Professors Lend Expertise to Prevent Crime

Criminal Justice at MBC
Criminal Justice at MBC

In keeping with Mary Baldwin’s commitment to community outreach, sociology professors Daniel Stuhlsatz and Carey Usher are offering their research expertise to a local group dedicated to preventing gang violence. A grant from the governor’s office is making it possible for a student and a recent graduate to assist the professors in their analysis for Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro, or SAW, Coalition. It’s work that could prove valuable to other communities with similar demographics.

“There’s a lot of interest in this project,” Stuhlsatz said. “There’s been a lot of research in urban areas but not a lot in rural areas.”

Stuhlsatz and Usher recently unveiled part one of the Community Needs Assessment, a report which will help the coalition determine the best way to intervene and measure progress in its crusade to curb gang activity.