CJ College Adds Two New Student Organizations

Two new student organizations for graduate students and fraud examiners were launched this fall with roots in the College of Criminal Justice.

The Graduate Student Organization (GSO) is open to all graduate students in the College of Criminal Justice to facilitate and encourage research and theory development, effective training techniques and practices, and resource networks. It is open to Master of Arts, Master of Science and Ph.D. students in online and traditional College of Criminal Justice programs, including Criminology and Criminal Justice, Forensic Science, Security Studies.

The SHSU Chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) is a multidisciplinary group for those interested in careers as anti-fraud specialists in government, insurance, investigations, white collar crime and cybercrime, just to name a few. It is only the second chapter of the organization in the state Texas.

In the GSO, all graduate students are automatically considered voting members and there are no dues to join. Each person can determine their own level of participation in the group, said Molly Smith, a Ph.D. student at the college.

“There was really no way for graduate students to get together and get involved with one another,” said Smith. “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.”

Students in class in front of computers.
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.

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

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.

“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 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 group was needed to pull students together.

“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.”

Illustration of computer screen with locked and unlocked icons against number background.October is National Cyber-Security Awareness month and just in time, a new student chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) has hit the ground running. All Executive Officers and two Faculty Co-Advisors are in place, and meetings have been scheduled for the remainder of this semester. The organization is still in the process of obtaining approval by the SHSU Student Organization Board and then by the ACFE; however, with the outstanding slate of officers and advisors, along with resounding support from the Houston ACFE Chapter, neither seems like it will be an issue.

Keith Sanders, Jr., recipient of the Outstanding First-Year Student Leader Award at the 2012 Sammy Awards and Cindi Hoffzimmer, recipient of the Outstanding Non-traditional Student Leader Award and recent MS Accounting graduate, met for the first time after the Sammy Awards to discuss their interest in becoming Forensic Accountants. Hoffzimmer is founding this student chapter in hopes that Bearkats interested in pursuing Anti-Fraud professions will benefit from the establishment of this organization on campus at SHSU. Currently, only one other ACFE student chapter exists in the state of Texas and Hoffzimmer is working closely with the founders and current officers of the University of Houston – Clear Lake chapter throughout this process.

Sanders, President of the SHSU ACFE student chapter, said, “Our goal of being able to find a similar interest to help better our future plans, even with different majors, is becoming a reality. I have complete faith that this organization will blossom into something no one expected. With our great officers, advisors and overall the founder of the student chapter for SHSU, I know great things will happen for us.”

Photo of handcuffed man with money in his hands.The advisors to this club are Dr. Jurg Gerber of the College of Criminal Justice and Mr. Andy Bennett, Director of the Center for Excellence in Digital Forensics. The Executive Board consists of Sanders (Acc/Fin) – President, Thomas Abi-Hanna (CJ) – VP, Lisa Wasner (Acc) – Secretary, and Katherine “Katy” Curtsinger (Acc) – Treasurer. Hoffzimmer is serving as the Alumni Representative and Aaron “Clay” Holifield (Acc) will serve as the Historian.

The officers, Ms. Hoffzimmer, and Co-Advisor, Mr. Bennett, met last week to begin discussing their plans for hosting guest speakers beginning in January. They already have ideas for federal agents, prosecutors, and business executives with first-hand fraud-fighting experience, just to name a few. “We felt like our first meeting together was a great success,” commented Sanders and Hoffzimmer following the meeting. The group also discussed co-hosting regular evening speaker presentations in The Woodlands along with the Houston ACFE chapter. “With the passion, dynamics and prior experience of the founding members and advisors along with the drive to pull together existing campus and community resources, the future success of this new student chapter appears inevitable,” said Hoffzimmer.

Member of The Texas State University System