New M.A. So Good It's Criminal

Masters degree in criminal justice teaches students the value of research in law enforcement administration.

Like most fields, law enforcement is research driven.

You wouldn't know that watching TV police programs or the nightly news, but it is.

Research tells policy makers what is going on and where -- from inner city street crime to suburban drug abuse; from bloody gang wars to the organized criminals of La Cosa Nostra.

Good research enables law enforcement to target pockets of crime and aids policy makers in determining how to best spend ever-limited funds.

It's bad news for criminals but good news for students in Rowan University's all-new Master of Arts in Criminal Justice program. The program prepares students to conduct original research and evaluate work done by others as they ascend the career ladder or land that first, crucial position.

"Agencies have to determine which programs are working," explained Dr. Wanda Foglia, professor of Law and Justice Studies and coordinator of the masters program. "We're emphasizing applied research where you go into the field and see, for example, whether community policing is working or whether drug courts or rehabilitation is working. Policy makers rely on that research to choose where to spend the money."

The 36-credit program is geared toward working law enforcement professionals, traditional students not yet in the field and aspiring academics.

Though there are roughly 500 students in the undergraduate Law and Justice Studies program, the M.A. program will be kept small so students can work closely with faculty on research projects, Foglia said.

Michael Funk, assistant chief of Rowan University's Department of Public Safety, was among the first to enroll.

"Officers can only go so far today with a bachelors degree," he said. "With issues like collective bargaining agreements and social issues on the street, a masters degree will give me a better understanding. It will help me become a better police officer, a better administrator."

Funk, 30, is already certified as a police academy instructor but wants the option to teach some day on the college level.

"For now the goal is to further my career up the chain of command," he said.

Vaughn Crichlow, another student who gained early acceptance into the program, spent seven years teaching English in his native Trinidad and recently completed a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of London in England.

His goal is a Ph.D. and a tenure-track position in a university.

"I'm interested in the law but not necessarily (a career in) law enforcement," he said.

"I've been exposed to the teaching profession and enjoyed it and can see myself eventually teaching in this area," said Crichlow, 30. "For now I'll be in class with people of different experiences and I'll be learning from those experiences."