Criminal justice major among first to gain national certification

Penn State Harrisburg’s respected resident undergraduate Criminal justice major is among the first in the nation to earn certification from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

The resident major joins those at the University of Baltimore and Fayetteville State University in North Carolina as the select three to be endorsed by ACJS in its first year of national certification.

Professor of Criminal Justice Barbara Sims, the coordinator of the program says, “The ACJS Executive Board, along with the Academic Review Committee, worked diligently to ensure that criminal justice programs are held to as high a standard as are programs in other disciplines.”

Steven A. Peterson, director of the college’s School of Public Affairs, adds, “Penn State Harrisburg is committed as a college to achieving accreditation or certification for its academic programs whenever the opportunity exists. That focus on quality has made us the regional leader in accreditation and certification for our professional programs. The ACJS endorsement gives our undergraduate program an official recognition as meeting the national standards.”

In addition to the certification for the undergrad resident program, the Penn State Harrisburg Criminal Justice major delivered online through the University’s World Campus has also become the first of its type to be certified by ACJS.

The ACJS, an international association, sets stringent standards for criminal justice degree programs, including quality faculty, sufficient resources for faculty and students, an appropriate curriculum, and the use of evidence-based outcomes for assessing student learning. “As a result of the certification, students enrolled in either the 120-credit resident or online program can be assured they are receiving a high-quality education as they prepare for careers in the criminal justice field or for graduate-level education,” Sims adds. “The resident and online programs are identical with consistent standards of quality and a curriculum taught by the same resident full-time faculty here at Penn State Harrisburg.”

“We gave them everything they (ACJS) asked for in the three-year certification process,” Sims says. “We were able to document that we met every single standard of quality by all available indicators. Early assessment of where we stood with regard to the certification standards allowed us to look closely at our resources and curriculum and to make changes that would ensure we would meet the standards in the end. Close attention to how we were delivering our program allowed us to improve, and in several key areas.”

A relatively new social science discipline, Criminal Justice “has moved past the ‘cop shop’ programs of the 1970s to a quality higher education curriculum with theory, methods, and statistics while retaining the need to ensure that students have opportunities to learn from practitioners in the field or though internship experiences,” she says.

The Penn State Harrisburg resident program, established 20 years ago, has experienced steady enrollments, and on average, consists of about 80 students in any given semester. The online program now has about 140 enrolled and is expected to expand by about four to five percent each year.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010