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Criminal Justice B.S. Approved

Released: 03/14/2008

LSU at Alexandria will offer a baccalaureate (four-year) degree program in criminal justice beginning this summer, announced Dr. Tom Armstrong, interim chancellor and vice chancellor for academic and student affairs. The university recently received approval from the Louisiana Board of Regents to add criminal justice to its baccalaureate degree programs.

"This is a key component to our baccalaureate offerings as we target areas of need and economic development in the Central Louisiana workforce," said Armstrong. "The B.S. in criminal justice will offer immediate educational opportunities for many students, including working adults." The four-year degree in criminal justice supplements LSUA's associate degree program, which has conferred 170 degrees over the past several years.

Program coordinator Beth Whittington, who was a criminal investigator in the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Department before joining the LSUA faculty, said students may pursue several career paths within the criminal justice curriculum to match their interests. "This is a diverse field, and the career opportunities in our area are plentiful. One of the selling points for the B.S. degree is its application to the local job market," she said.

The LSUA criminal justice program prepares students for positions in law enforcement, probation and parole, corrections, forensics, law, the judicial system, private security and Homeland Security. The program also offers the only penology course in Louisiana that specifically deals with the federal prison system, which is a major employer in the university's service area. The class is taught by Mike Wright, who retired after 25 years as a federal prison administrator.

Whittington said she anticipates many students who hold a criminal justice associate degree will return to school to obtain a B.S. for career advancement. Applicants for federal jobs in criminal justice are typically mandated to hold a baccalaureate degree.

LSUA also will offer a minor in criminal justice. The associate degree will continue to be available.

The university was required to demonstrate community need, public support, economic impact, faculty development, research resources and laboratory equipment as part of its preparation for the criminal justice baccalaureate degree.

Three professionals in the criminal justice field spoke in support of the program at a press conference announcing the four-year program. Ninth Judicial District Judge Patricia Koch, who supervises LSUA criminal justice student interns in her office, said the baccalaureate program is vital to enhance the profession locally, and a B.S. in criminal justice is "an excellent foundation for students who seek to enter law school."

Sgt. Jeff Covington, a criminal investigator with Louisiana State Police, earned a criminal justice associate degree from LSUA before completing his baccalaureate requirements at another university. "I definitely would have stayed at LSUA had the four-year program been available when I was here," he said. "The quality of the program is outstanding, and much of that is attributable to many years of experience by the faculty in hands-on criminal justice work. I encourage my colleagues to continue their criminal justice education at LSUA."

Donna DeSoto, a decorated juvenile probation officer in Avoyelles Parish, said there is a "very strong need for well educated and superbly prepared graduates in criminal justice, and LSUA does that extremely well. Those of us who are already working in the field are delighted that a four-year degree is now available."