BVU's program gives equal time to the distinct - though inter-related - disciplines of criminology and criminal justice, helping students to understand how theory and policy are connected.
Criminology is the study of the nature, extent, cause, and control of criminal events. Supported by both qualitative and quantitative research, criminological theory is strongly rooted in the discipline of sociology. It attempts to explain many social phenomena, including offender motivation, victimization, and public perception of criminal behavior. For example, a criminologist might question the effects of the media on how Americans perceive crime rates, which have been steadily falling for the last several decades even as police television dramas like CSI have been popular amongst audiences.
While criminology focuses on why people become criminals, criminal justice conentrates on strategies for dealing with people after they commit crimes. It further explores the possibility for improving these systems' policy, laws and practices.
The criminology/criminal justice academic program provides an education in criminological theory and criminal justice administration and policy grounded in developing research, critical thinking and communication skills. Students examine all major aspects of the criminal justice system, including law enforcement, juvenile justice, the legal system, and corrections. As the program progresses, students are encouraged to expand their studies from the generalist bases of the program to specialize in specific areas of interest. Classes are taught by two full-time faculty members - Dr. Stephanie Hays, assistant professor of criminology, and Dr. Neal McNabb, assistant professor of criminal justice. Classes are also taught part-time by Jeff Cayler, chief of police in Carroll, Iowa.
Courses in the program have foundations in evidence-based practices (EBP), a movement to evaluate the efficiency of everyday criminal justice practices scientifically to assess their value in preventing crime. With EBP, approaches to criminal justice that have problems are eliminated or modified. "For example, people often assume that D.A.R.E. programs and juvenile boot camps are effective strategies to keep kids away from drugs and correct problematic behavior in juveniles, respectively," says McNabb. "Research has shown that both of these assumptions are inaccurate. This has led to a decrease in the use of boot camps and a complete overhaul of the D.A.R.E. program to address some of its deficiencies."
Every criminology/criminal justice student completes either an internship or an intensive capstone research project. Both internships and research provide strong preparation for continued study. For more information on internships, see the SSPR Internships page.
I think the dual criminology and criminal justice aspect of our program really sets us apart from programs that don’t integrate both together. By providing students with an understanding of criminological theory and the practicalities of the justice system, we are producing students who are well-rounded in both fields.
Through a new partnership with the Innocence Project of Iowa, Buena Vista University criminology and criminal justice and pre-law students will review selected cases of individuals who claim to have been wrongly convicted of crimes. Read more...