CHARLESTON — Although the new criminology/criminal justice major at Eastern Illinois University won’t begin to be offered until the fall, organizers are already confident that it will soon become one of the school’s most popular degree programs.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity,” said Darren Hendrickson, chair of Eastern’s Department of Sociology/Anthropology. “There’s been a growing demand for this type of program and we’ve built it the way we think it should be done.”
“We’ve offered a criminology minor for several years,” he continued. “In fact, that very successful minor led to the development of the major.”
A recent report indicated that the department received more than 200 specific freshman inquiries about a major over the past three years. More than 330 inquiries were received from potential transfer students during the same period. While most community colleges in the region offer associate degrees in criminal justice, those institutions indicate that a large number of their graduates desire a four-year degree in the discipline.
“We believe that as word gets out, our initial enrollment rush will be individuals who have already earned their associate degree in criminal justice,” Hendrickson said. “Combine those students with interested incoming freshmen and current EIU students transferring from the criminology minor that they’re already enrolled in, I think we’re destined for a popular degree program.”
For those students entering the program after obtaining an associate’s degree in criminology from any of Illinois’ community colleges, Hendrickson anticipates a “seamless transition.” The process will be especially stress-free for former Lake Land College alumni, though, as the Mattoon-based college is collaborating with EIU in providing its four-year degree.
Requirements for Eastern’s degree program include 49 semester hours of disciplinary coursework; 31 of those are courses in criminal justice, sociology, political science and philosophy. Two of those core courses – “Criminal Investigation” and “Criminal Evidence and Procedures” – must be taken through Lake Land. (In time, this could be any interested community college offering as associate’s degree in criminal justice should they wish to partner with EIU.)
The remaining 18 hours are to be selected from a list of disciplinary electives from the departments of political science and philosophy, as well as communication studies, economics, health promotion and psychology.
Many classes will be available both in the classroom and online.
According to Hendrickson, an undergraduate major in criminology and criminal justice will prepare students for a variety of careers in law enforcement (local, state and federal), as well as related professions such as probation/parole officer, caseworker, corrections officers, victim advocacy, crime prevention specialist and private/corporate security. The major will also prepare students for graduate school in criminology, criminal justice, law, sociology and other social science disciplines.
Dustin Heuerman, coordinator of Criminal Justice Programs at Lake Land, knows first-hand how valuable Eastern’s new major can be, especially for residents in the region who wish to go into law enforcement.
A former deputy sheriff, chief of police and drug task force member, Heuerman said he got his online degrees – both a bachelor’s and a master’s in criminology and criminal justice – through Indiana State.
“I believe this new program through Eastern offers an amazing opportunity for law enforcement in the region,” he said. “If a student graduates from an area school, they’re more likely to stay in the nearby community. And I believe that will be increasingly more important as many of our current officers reach the age of retirement.”
According to Heuerman, criminal justice, with approximately 130 majors, is the third largest major on the Lake Land College campus. Approximately 75 percent of those who graduate intend to go into law enforcement. At one point or another, most transfer to another school to advance their education.
“An individual must be 21 to work as a law enforcement professional,” said Hendrickson. “So if a student enrolls in a community college straight out of high school, he or she may not yet be at the age where they’d be eligible for the job, even with an associate degree.
“It makes a lot of sense for them to continue their education and increase their marketability while they’re waiting,” he said.
For more information on Eastern’s criminology major, please seehttp://www.eiu.edu/eiucrim/.