Graduate Student Organization Added in CJ

logo for Graduate Student Organization.

The College of Criminal Justice launched its seventh student organization this fall to help unite Criminal Justice & Criminology graduate students and allow for improved peer mentoring, linking students to research or other opportunities including professional networking and social events.

The new cohort for the Master of Science in Forensic Science Program.The new cohort for the Master of Science in Forensic Science Program.

The CJ Graduate Student Organization (G.S.O.) is open to Master of Arts, Master of Science in Criminal Justice (online program) and Ph.D. students in the College of Criminal Justice, which includes Criminology and Criminal Justice, Forensic Science, Security Studies and Online students. Its focus will be to facilitate and encourage research and theory development, effective training techniques and practices, and resource networks within the College.

“There was really no way for graduate students to get together and get involved with one another,” said Molly Smith, a Ph.D. student at the College. “I’m hoping to make the graduates a cohesive group. We want to increase awareness and find out what research is being done and what other opportunities are out there. We also want to have social events as a way to de-stress and celebrate our accomplishments.”

The new group plans to meet once a month and to host social activities throughout the year, such as outings to local restaurants, holiday parties and end of the year celebrations. Each meeting would feature a faculty member or graduate student presenting the research they are doing. The group also could help troubleshoot common issues among graduate students, such as problems with equipment.

Ph.D. Students at the College of Criminal Justice.
Ph.D. Students at the College of Criminal Justice.

“There are a lot of new graduate students this year,” said Smith. “We want to welcome them.”

The first meeting for the new group will be on Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. in the Criminal Justice Center in the Flag Room. All graduate students are automatically considered voting member of the new organization and there are no dues to join. Each person can determine their own level of participation in the group, Smith said.

Dr. Gaylene Armstrong, Director of Criminal Justice and Criminology Graduate Programs, said the College had a graduate student organization in the past, but it had not been active for several years.

Graduate students in Security Studies.
Graduate students in Security Studies.

“Maximizing educational and professional growth during graduate school must include learning opportunities that occur both inside and outside the classroom. We are delighted to support and encourage the reestablishment of the CJ GSO,” said Armstrong. “An active GSO membership holds the potential for contributing to this growth, uniting the Master’s and Ph.D. students in these efforts, and will serve as a conduit for quality information-sharing among graduate students and between graduate students and the College.”

The revised organization was the brainchild of Smith and Sara Simmons, who met as counselors at the CJ Summer Camp for high school students this year. Smith just began the Ph.D. program for Criminal Justice and Criminology after graduating from the SHSU Master of Arts program; Simmons is a second year Master’s student. Smith’s thesis was on factors contributing to prison violence, while Simmons’s interest lies in victimology and intimate partner violence.

Smith said that graduate studies are much more intense and collaborative in nature, and felt a a group was needed to pull students together.

Students pursuing a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice.
Students pursuing a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice.

“You are working harder and you are more engaged,” said Smith. “You are also a much closer group and you are working more together.”

Simmons said undergraduates get a broader knowledge of the criminal justice field, while graduate students hone in on their specialty. Many incoming graduate students sometimes don’t know what field of study they want to pursue.

“It would be beneficial if you don’t know what you want to do and to help people decide what they want to focus on,” Simmons said. “You also can have a good sounding board.”

The College of Criminal Justice offers seven student organizations covering a variety of aspects of the criminal justice field. They include Alpha Phi Sigma, the Criminal Justice National Honor Society; Lambda Alpha Epsilon, the American Criminal Justice Association; the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice; the Society of Forensic Science; The Crime Victim Services Alliance; and Phi Alpha Delta, the only Pre-Law organization at SHSU.

Member of The Texas State University System