ROTC Cadets Target Criminal Justice Degrees

SHSU Senior Joan Kim has dreams of joining the Department of Homeland Security or the Drug Enforcement Agency. She is commissioning as an officer in the U.S. Army and hopes her criminal justice degree and experience in the military will make that a reality.

Kim is one of 132 Army ROTC cadets at Sam Houston State University. More than 80 percent of the cadets in the program are pursuing degrees in criminal justice.

"As a criminal justice major, I wanted to see what other jobs might help my career," said Kim. "Everything in criminal justice includes policy and authority and a lot of that plays in the military. A lot of criminal justice majors want to go into the FBI or CIA. The military benefits you, helps you get there and prepares you for leadership."

Kim is the University’s top ROTC cadet, placing 41st out of 5,342 college seniors nationwide in the National Order of Merit, a ranking system based on academics, leadership, extracurricular activities and physical training. The high designation allowed Kim to be selective about the military branch and job she would take in the armed forces. Kim got her first choice in U.S. Army Military Intelligence. She will graduate in May and enter the program as a second lieutenant.

The College of Criminal Justice and the Army ROTC programs at SHSU compliment one another, both in practical preparation for careers as well as with similar goals and objectives. Dr. Holly Miller, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs at the College of Criminal Justice, said the two programs work well together.

"The majority of ROTC cadets are criminal justice majors," said Miller. "The ROTC and CJ students are interested in very similar things, like peacekeeping and protection."

"I think criminal justice appreciates the types of leaders we provide," said Lt. Col. David J. Yebra, commander of the university’s ROTC program. "Our cadets are physically fit; they work out a minimum three times a week. They are responsible, accountable and have leadership skills and discipline. They are taught basic rifle and marksmanship and understand the employment of weapons. We also track the academic progression of our students to ensure a high graduation rate."

While students can pursue degrees in criminal justice, forensic science and victims studies through the College of Criminal Justice, they can also get a minor in Military Science through the ROTC program. Students may take the lower-division courses without obligation for military service. They also may attend summer Army training, such as Airborne School.

Students who want to pursue upper-division can complete the ROTC program and compete for commissions as officers in the U. S. Army, Army Reserves, or Army National Guard. SHSU also has a Veterans Center which offers assistance for returning military veterans.

The commissioned ROTC program offers monthly stipends as well as scholarship opportunities at both the national and campus levels, and graduates of the program enter the military as officers in the Army as second lieutenants. They have opportunities to serve in many branches of the military, such as infantry, Military Police, transportation, medical services and field artillery, Yebra said.

The ROTC program includes classes in leadership, basic military skills, critical decision making, field training, physical training and communications. Students also work with military leaders in the field through an online program to address decision-making in real life situations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"They also have significant opportunity to exercise their leadership skills by leading small units," Yebra said. "Our students understand accountability, caring for subordinates, providing instruction and training, issuing orders, and leading by example."

Yebra has witnessed firsthand the benefits of the military and law enforcement working side-by-side. Before his last deployment to Iraq, Yebra was sent to the Los Angeles Police Department to work with officers battling gangs in South Central LA. His unit adopted many of the techniques and tactics used by law enforcement agencies.

Retired police officers are also assigned to Iraq and Afghanistan to help train soldiers in warrant based targeting procedures, including collecting evidence, taking witness statements and testifying in court.

“Our two disciplines have never had a greater need to share information,” said Yebra.

Member of The Texas State University System