The new degree was approved by the Texas State University System Board of Regents and joins as existing bachelor of arts and a master’s degree in victim studies. Sam Houston State University is one of only a few institutions in the country to offer degrees in this discipline.
The victim studies degree prepares graduates to work in a wide array of careers, including victim service agencies; police departments and correctional facilities; child protective services; programs serving at-risk youth; and legal advocacy for victims.
"There is a growing awareness of the need to integrate victims into the criminal justice system," said Dr. Leana Bouffard, a professor in the College of Criminal Justice. "In the past, victims didn’t have much of a voice. Now there are victim advocacy groups and community service agencies for victims."
In addition to providing a new degree program, the curriculum was revamped to streamline the course offerings for students, with core classes concentrated in criminal justice. Historically, core classes were spread across several different Colleges at Sam Houston State University, but with changes in curriculums across campus, many were becoming unavailable.
"It's now more self-supported with core courses, of which most are in criminal justice," said Dr. Bouffard, who served on a committee to revise the program. "They can take electives in other departments, like sociology, psychology and political science."
The differences between the bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degree is that a BA requires foreign language courses, while the BS requires more science. Victim studies majors are required to take five core criminal justice courses as well as six credits in victim specific classes – including child abuse, family violence, crimes against women or the elderly -- as well as victim services classes – such as trauma, victims rights, interviewing or services delivery.
In addition to the core curriculum, the electives include two courses in social justice and three additional offerings in criminal justice, sociology and psychology. A number of internships also are available in victim service agencies.
To enhance opportunities for victim studies majors, the College recently revitalized The Crime Victim Services Alliance. The student organization is open to all who are interested in preserving and enhancing victims’ right. In the past the organization has provided guest speakers and site visits in the field as well as raised funds and awareness on victim issues.