Graduates of the new online Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management pose before Commencement on Aug. 6.
Graduates of the new online Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management met for the first time on Aug. 6 after two years of debating, learning and sharing via the computer and Internet.
"It has allowed me to use other resources and to make good friends," said Bill Livingston, who has been Police Chief for the Weimar Police Department for 18 years. "It has broadened my view of criminal justice."
Livingston and 19 others graduated from the new online program designed specifically for professionals in the field. It is one of three online degree programs offered by the College, which also provides a Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management for Military Police as well as a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.
Livingston already has used in his department the skills he learned in the program in his department. It helped him during budget preparation and in computer presentations and assisted in developing his portfolio. He also learned the steps he needs to take on employment agreements, and he taught that skill to other law enforcement managers.
Meanwhile, Patricia Cantu-Barrios, a juvenile probation officer from Cameron County, hopes to introduce the concept of community probation that she learned in her virtual classroom into the mental health component of her service. With significant budget cuts across the state, it represents a movement away from the institutionalization of juvenile probation into a community-based focus, similar to what community policing is doing in getting officers into neighborhoods.
While Barrios can apply what she learned to the probation field, even more importantly, she learned the value of networking with other justice agencies.
"I learned networking is extremely important," said Barrios. "You have to work as a unit together. You have to know what other people are doing to make it better. There is a great diversity in jobs in criminal justice and from a juvenile probation officer to police, everything comes together to meet in the middle."
This Master’s degree is designed for working professionals, who can complete the program wherever they have access to the Internet. The program is available 24/7 and is held in 7-1/2 week modules so students can complete the degree within two years.
"Congratulations to you for successfully completing our Master of Science online program," Dr. Janet Mullings, Associate Dean of the College, told the graduates. "I believe our online program enjoys a great reputation as a challenging and rigorous academic course of study. Please stay in touch with us as you move forward in your professional careers and let us know if we may be of assistance to you."
The program offers a wide range of learning opportunities, including lectures, readings, videos and discussion boards. With many criminal justice careers represented, the discussion board became a hot bed of learning. Everyone provided examples from their specific professions, expanding knowledge well beyond the classroom setting, Barrios said.
"I want to praise the students," said Professor Jerry Dowling. "I was impressed with the use of the discussion board. I saw a lot more participation than in my face-to-face classes."
Many students found unique ways to take the courses while holding down a job. Some set up a computer classroom in their homes, while other downloaded lectures onto thumb drives, listening during their spare time. Many read assignments or listened to lectures during their lunch hours.
One man was taking a mid-term when he wife went into labor with twins; another went through cancer surgery while taking his courses.
"It was very challenging," said Livingston. "It makes you become extremely regimented."
Without the online program, Barrios said she couldn’t have pursued this degree.
"The online program was an opportunity for me,” Barrios said. “It was demanding. It made me more disciplined and more organized. I am honored to have participated in this program.”
The graduates of the first online cohort include Alain Babin, Margaret Beaty, Catherine Betts, Patricia Cantu-Barrios, Nancy Darnell, James Dixon, Leigh Freeman, William Gollmitzer, John Griffin Jr., Wayne Isbell, Bill Livingston Jr., Erik Reyna, Bobby Smith Jr., Jeffery Spivey, James Summitt, Trevor Taylor, Ricardo Trevino Jr., Jennifer Watkins, Joseph Williams, and Brent Wilson.