Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Program Expands


Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Program Expands

The OU Extended Campus Criminal Justice program has added four new specialized concentration areas for undergraduates as part of the first major change to the program since it was implemented in 2008.

“The criminal justice field is undergoing a great deal of change,” said Todd Wuestewald, lead faculty and assistant professor for the Extended Campus Criminal Justice program, “and the curriculum needed to keep pace with the current challenges professionals face and also consider what is likely to come just over the horizon.”

The biggest change to the program is the addition of four new concentration areas—Homeland Security, Restorative Justice, Administrative Leadership, and Investigations and Intelligence Analysis—which will allow students to specialize the focus of their studies.

“The new concentrations were developed based on U.S. Department of Labor career projections for criminal justice, as well as input from subject matter experts working in criminal justice,” Wuestewald said. “These areas have been projected as strong demand areas by the U.S. Department of Labor in the coming years.”

Adding a concentration area for Homeland Security made sense for the program due to exponential growth demand for these services in both the public and private sectors since 9/11, Wuestewald said.

At the other end of the spectrum, Restorative Justice, which offers alternatives to institutionalization and emphasizes the rights of crime victims and community restoration, opens a path to a criminal justice career that isn’t law-enforcement oriented.

The biggest change to the program is the addition of four new concentration areas—Homeland Security, Restorative Justice, Administrative Leadership, and Investigations and Intelligence Analysis—which will allow students to specialize the focus of their studies.

“The folks in this area are interested mainly in providing services—support, counseling, mediation, coalition building, team building, etc.,” Wuestewald said. “With the recent emphasis on the problem of over-incarceration, Restorative Justice has generated a lot of interest and new career paths in victim advocacy, court diversion programs, community corrections, crime prevention and community building.”

A specialty in Administrative Leadership also remains a strong interest and need within criminal justice. Individuals who have been working in the field for several years and are ready to move into supervisory and leadership roles may find this concentration area particularly appealing.

“The field is currently undergoing a lot of change and will need innovative leaders to guide the direction and process of this change,” he said. “People who will supervise, manage and lead in law enforcement, corrections and community restoration are and will continue to be critical for the future.”

Similarly, Investigations and Intelligence Analysis has become an important, complex and high-tech knowledge area. On-the-job training is no longer sufficient to obtain most of these jobs, and specialized knowledge, skills and abilities are required in the field.

“With many people separating from the military and transitioning to civilian life—many with backgrounds in intelligence work—a degree specializing in Investigations and Intelligence Analysis may contribute to their formal training and help equip them with academic credentials to complement their work experience,” Wuestewald said.

The Criminal Justice program also elevated courses on American judicial processes, police and policing, the American correctional system, and juvenile delinquency from electives to core degree requirements to broaden the scope of the foundation of the modern, American criminal justice system that students receive.

Wuestewald sees the combined changes to the Extended Campus Criminal Justice program as a positive for both current and prospective students.

“The opportunity for students to develop a specialized area of study is a resume builder,” he said. “In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, they can identify specialized knowledge, skills and abilities that are and will be in demand within the field.

“These changes will also allow our program to better prepare our students for the real world, the job market, and their career progression, and hopefully play a small part in helping the criminal justice field adapt to changing expectations and dynamics of public safety in the 21st century.”

Visit pacs.ou.edu/undergraduate-degrees/bachelor-criminal-justice to learn more about the Criminal Justice program.

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Myk Mahaffey

Michael Mahaffey holds degrees in journalism and psychology. He is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience writing for print and digital publications, including award-winning coverage of the rodeo industry. In his spare time, he writes fiction, in addition to tinkering with graphic design and photography.