CLEMSON — The Clemson University sociology and anthropology department has established a new justice studies undergraduate degree program. The department previously offered a criminal justice concentration in sociology that encompassed criminology, deviance and law enforcement, but the new justice studies degree program greatly expands on this concentration.
The department made classes in the program available to students for the fall 2016 semester and more than 30 new major students have already enrolled. Professor Marjie Britz said the new degree offering will allow students to further explore topics in criminal justice and better prepare them for careers in the field.
“The program will more fully immerse students in the world of criminal justice, but it is also designed to address the increasingly complicated ethical and social issues facing law enforcement and criminal justice organizations today,” Britz said.
Britz began work to establish the degree program at Clemson in 2011 and has been the primary force behind getting the program off the ground. The department offers both a Bachelor of Art and Bachelor of Science in justice studies. The Bachelor of Art degree includes language courses, while the Bachelor of Science focuses more on methodology.
Both degrees include general criminal justice and leadership concentrations as well as a mandatory nine hours of work in social justice courses, which Britz said became a key component in the design of the program. Through these courses and the degree program, Britz and university leaders seek to produce justice studies graduates who see the importance of issues of ethics and diversity in the field of criminal justice.
“Well-educated criminal justice professionals stand the best chance of affecting real, positive change in the field,” Britz said. “Ethical issues are more important now than ever, and we hope to attract a diverse student audience to this program while increasing research opportunities in the field.”
The new justice studies major was one of the factors that attracted the sociology and anthropology department’s new chair, David Eitle, who will teach courses in the major and work to promote its success in the university. Eitle’s main area of research is in criminal justice, and he previously served as head of the Montana State University sociology and anthropology department, where he helped grow a program similar to Clemson’s justice studies.
“We saw a growth of over 50 percent in our majors in less than five years after we launched the criminology option,” Eitle said. “Student demand is great, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we surpassed those percentages at Clemson. A new major and new faculty in a new college — these really are exhilarating times for the department and for faculty and students alike.”
Eitle said two new tenure-track faculty will be added in the fall to bolster the core of research faculty and help build on the strong foundation the major program already has in place.
Eitle praised the relationships Britz has cultivated with such law enforcement agencies as the U.S. Marshal Service and FBI. Britz said these relationships have afforded students unique learning experiences over the years and should increase in the future.
The trips Britz has arranged during her time at Clemson include closed FBI sessions with a Cuban spy, a meeting with former New York mobster Michael “Yuppie Don” Franzese and annual trips to ground zero and the NYPD real-time crime center in New York City. In April 2016, the department’s Criminal Justice Club hosted its first annual Criminal Justice Career Fair, which attracted more than three dozen agencies at all levels of government from across the East Coast.
“We provide unprecedented access and learning opportunities for our students, many of which have already started careers in the FBI, SLED and the U.S. Marshal Service directly after graduation,” Britz said. “The new justice studies degree program will allow us to do so much more and for many more students.”
This story was written by Michael Staton, Eugene T. Moore School of Education, Clemson University.