The Loras College Criminal Justice major draws upon the perspectives of a number of academic disciplines, including criminal justice, social work, sociology, psychology and political science. Students who graduate from Loras with a Criminal Justice degree are able to apply their knowledge, assess consequences of alternative courses of action and make decisions based upon appropriate, legal, social and ethical considerations. The Criminal Justice learning experience culminates in a field-instruction component that puts into practice much of the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom.
Many graduates are employed in traditional criminal justice careers including law enforcement and community-based corrections. A significant number of students also pursue graduate-level education or law school programs. Loras Criminal Justice alumni have found success as assistant professors, federal probation officers, attorneys, state troopers, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, customs and border patrol and nuclear security officers.
“One of the most important and influential experiences was my senior field instruction. Dr. Decker was extremely helpful in getting my internship with a Criminal Justice agency planned out and organized. Not only was the required field instruction good experience, it allowed me to make the contacts I would need once I graduated. That practical experience was the culmination of all the things I had learned through the Criminal Justice program at Loras.”
—Michael Girsch (’07)
1. STUDENT EXPERIENCE
Criminal Justice courses include traditional classroom activities and experiential components such as police ride-alongs, courtroom observations, field trips and presentations by criminal justice professionals.
Majors receive individual assistance in designing their educational experiences.
Criminal Justice students regularly present their research at the Midwest Criminal Justice Association meetings.
Internship opportunities include a wide variety of settings at city, county and state agencies throughout the Midwest.
Loras College not only values and provides quality education in the classroom, but also understands the importance of real-world experience when it comes to being prepared for life after graduation. The Criminal Justice program provides ample opportunities for students to get involved in their area of interest. Read from past students about their internships and the value they received from the experiences.
Dan Duffy (‘14)
Internship Site: Cook County Sheriff’s Office
Dan’s comments about his internship experience: One valuable learning experience I gained from this internship was the importance of local government. This lesson, in addition to finding growth in a failed situation and valuing the priority of civil and human rights have been exceptionally modeled by the Evictions Department of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. Additionally, I have experienced and learned about employees at all levels of the Sheriff’s Office who have pushed for effective change in their county. This lesson speaks to me about the importance of local government; specifically, it shows that every day someone’s life is affected by your performance at your job.
Comments from Lt. Peter Pon of the Warrants/Levies/Evictions Department, Dan’s Supervisor: Dan started out with a great attitude in learning our processes and finished off by applying what he had learned. Dan expressed himself clearly in written and verbal communication. He was very open-minded in his encounters with staff and the public and displayed a genuine concern for those seeking information. Oftentimes Dan displayed true professionalism and was often thought to be a salaried employee by the public.
Hannah Wilson (‘14)
Internship Site: Madison Police Department, K-9 Unit
Hannah’s comments about her internship experience: Learning how the department works, different things they crack down on, and more about K-9 units was a recipe for a great summer experience. I would not trade the trainings and ride-alongs I went on for anything. I would say that the track was the most exciting thing I did during this summer internship. It is amazing that a dog is able to use just its nose to find people even if the track has been rained on, contaminated or just a heavy traffic area. These dogs can even track over ice! They are trained to find drugs and people, protect people and clear buildings. Gunfire does not bother them, and they are able to stay cool in some situations that I would never expect. I think that is pretty amazing.
Overall, the things I learned about police K-9 units were pretty awesome. I learned a lot about what it takes to train a police K-9 and what it takes to be a patrol dog handler as well as a lot about the Madison police. I could not have asked for a better experience and group of people to work with. I am very glad I chose this internship.
Comments from Sgt. Christine Boyd, Hannah’s supervisor: Hannah learned skills in helping with K-9 training exercises easily and performed well. I asked her to do many things for us and don’t recall her ever misunderstanding or needing me to repeat instructions. Hannah speaks confidently and clearly. She was very engaging with officers. Officers described her as asking good questions, thinking about answers and developing more questions. Hannah showed equal respect and comfort with various racial, ethnic and supervisory levels.
Hannah was a pleasure to work with. She was one of the most mature interns we have had the pleasure to work with. Her sense of self seems strong, she gets along great with others and she has a healthy appetite for learning. I would highly recommend her for any vocation she elected to pursue.
Kevin Healy (‘14)
Internship Site: Cook County Sheriff’s Office
Kevin’s comments about his internship experience: At the end of my internship I was capable of helping the Cook County Sheriff’s Office Intelligence Center, where I was able to work with a very large criminal case and gain experience with how they gather evidence and work to build a case in order to ensure they are prepared to make the arrest. By far the most interesting and useful experience I have had during this time was when I learned about fraud investigation and the process the sheriff’s office takes in stopping and investigating fraud. I was able to learn how it is actually the finance department that is responsible for the fraud investigation and review. This is something I am interested in pursuing as a career.
This experience has been absolutely amazing for me and taught me endless lessons about the criminal justice field that I would never have been able to learn in a classroom. I was surrounded by people who didn’t just give me work they didn’t want to do, but gave me work that would help me learn about the criminal justice world. They always made sure they were teaching and guiding me while I was doing work, and taught me lessons that I will take with me for the rest of my life.
Comments from Alexis Herrera, CFO, Kevin’s supervisor: Kevin was eager to learn our operations and did not have to be instructed more than once on how to accomplish the required tasks. Kevin was very interested and engaged in learning as much as possible. He was able to articulate himself and worked well with the staff always displaying a respectful and positive attitude. It is surprising that someone so young has such a professional presentation. Kevin was always willing to go the extra mile.
Meredith Brunkow (‘14)
Internship Site: Chicago Area Project (CAP)
Juvenile Justice Diversion (JJDP) Program
Meredith’s comments about her internship experience: In the criminal justice system we learn about many different theories and terms that can be applied to various forms of crime and offenders. Each of the theories we learn and the terms we study helps us to better understand and comprehend why an individual chooses a life of crime, what factors contribute to their criminal behavior and how victims and communities respond to the devastation of a criminal’s actions. However, learning about it and reading about these terms in class is not enough. As part of the criminal justice department we know that these theories and terms are reality.
During my summer internship I have been able to see the theory of community justice in action, and I have learned how it is making an impact on a community. I have learned the importance of being involved in a youth’s life and the importance of advocating for change where it is needed. During a training that I attended, a Board Member of the Chicago Area Project stated, “As a youth worker we do not fear the fight, we embrace it. We are fighting for our children and community.” That is exactly what agencies like CAP are doing. They are embracing the fight head-on and are standing up for today’s youth and the future they deserve.
Comments from Joy Hernandez, Meredith’s supervisor: Meredith’s communication skills both written and verbal are outstanding; her ability to express herself has grown, and she can convey a message on a very complex subject with ease. Meredith performed her assigned tasks above and beyond the call of duty and always in alignment with CAP policies and protocol. She is an excellent model of “walk your talk” and is an exemplary intern who is living the mission and goals of CAP’s JJDP program.
Working alongside Meredith has been a pleasure and has provided me with a great sense of hope for the youth of today and tomorrow. What a refreshing experience it has been for me and CAP. Thank you and Loras College for such a great opportunity to work with a dedicated and committed professional .
3. ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT
Through instruction in the classroom and real-world experiences via internships, the Criminal Justice program at Loras College is committed to preparing students for work in their field. Hear from Loras alumni about how their time here set them up for success in their careers.
Michael Girsch (‘07)
Officer, Waterloo Police Department, Violent Crimes Apprehension Team (VCAT), Firearms Instructor, Field Training Officer
I chose Loras College as a student-athlete because of its tradition and reputation of having one of the most notable Criminal Justice programs in the Midwest. I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in Criminal Justice, but I wasn’t sure what particular field I wanted to enter. That’s what was so perfect about the Criminal Justice program at Loras College. It didn’t just focus on one specific field; it hit all of the major areas in the Criminal Justice system. I could be learning Criminology in the morning and transition to Juvenile Justice or White-Collar Crime in the afternoon. The broad educational program didn’t limit my degree to one particular career.
Being taught by highly educated professionals with real-life experience was key to my success at Loras College. Not only did the professors teach me the material, they were able to relate it back to their experiences in the field. It gave me a better understanding of what was being taught.
One of the most important and influential experiences was my senior field instruction. Dr. Decker was extremely helpful in getting my internship with a Criminal Justice agency planned out and organized. Not only was the required field instruction good experience, it allowed me to make the contacts I would need once I graduated. That practical experience was the culmination of all the things I had learned through the Criminal Justice program at Loras.
Ann Kennedy (‘05)
Patrol Officer, Dubuque Police Department
I transferred to Loras after my freshman year. Although I wanted to get closer to home, another part of this change was due to the Criminal Justice program. When I came to visit Loras, I met with Dedra Tentis and I instantly felt welcomed and encouraged to pursue my goals. The program aimed at being interactive, but also required a personalized focus and dedication to my own learning experience. The Criminal Justice program also worked to teach the material through various means so that all students could benefit from the different ways each of us learns. We would not only have reading and writing assignments, but the professors included field trips, presentations and special guest speakers to bring in “real-life” perspectives on careers in law enforcement. One class that I found particularly helpful especially now that I am a police officer was Criminal Law. This class provided me with a solid basis for the definition of each major crime and taught me the beginning steps on how to apply a specific crime to certain criminal acts. It also gave me a clear picture of all the stages involved in the criminal justice system from the arresting stage to court proceedings. Each and every professor in the Criminal Justice program was great to work with, not only approachable and easy to talk to if a problem arose, but fun and down to earth. My only regret is not coming to Loras my first year!
Chris Melde (‘01)
Coordinator of Undergraduate Studies, Assistant Professor, School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University
My experience as a student at Loras College lived up to all of my expectations. The size of the student body and the culture of inclusion and open dialogue promoted by the faculty created the perfect environment for social and educational enrichment. I developed life-long friendships and a fondness for the learning experience offered through a traditional college setting that led to my own career in academia. The Criminal Justice faculty fostered an environment where students felt comfortable in discussing issues of law and justice despite diverse views on controversial topics. This environment encouraged the development of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that are essential in the field of Criminal Justice.
Wes Schilling (‘00)
Probation/Parole Officer, Dubuque Department of Correctional Services
The classroom instruction I received at Loras was top-notch. The professors do a great job teaching theory and its application, while the adjunct instructors bring “real-world” criminal justice experience to teaching. One of the most beneficial aspects to my time at Loras was the networking opportunities through instructors, as well as guest speakers who are already established in the field. Dr. Decker helped guide me in my choice of internship, and was great in helping me get it set up. I made several connections in my internship, which helped me get my career started in corrections. My supervisor in my current job was a guest speaker in one of my classes at Loras. Knowing people and having people know me really helped in my career advancement, and many of those connections started at Loras College. I would recommend Loras College’s Criminal Justice program to anyone who is looking for a job in this interesting and challenging field.
Callie Schmitt (‘05)
Hammer Simon & Jensen Law Firm, East Dubuque, Illinois
Despite being a non-traditional student, the Loras College staff and community took time to get to know me and treated me, along with every student, as an important and unique individual. I was encouraged to think critically and challenged by faculty members to achieve academic success. What I learned at Loras was essential to becoming the competent, professional and ethical attorney I am today. My professors in the Criminal Justice department were strict and critical of my work, a method that pushed me to set high goals and accomplish things they knew I was capable of. They expanded my learning experience beyond the textbook and gave me the opportunity to see and experience actual real-life situations in relation to the course material.
Most importantly, the faculty took the time to get to know me as more than just a student—as a mom, a friend and a future professional. I would not be the person I am today without the Loras College community.
The Loras College Criminal Justice major draws upon the perspectives of a number of academic disciplines including criminal justice, social work, sociology, psychology, and political science. Many Criminal Justice majors double major in Psychology, Sociology, or Social Work.
Students who graduate from Loras College with a criminal justice degree are able to apply their knowledge, assess the consequences of alternative courses of action, and make decisions based upon appropriate legal, social, and ethical considerations. Many graduates are employed in traditional criminal justice careers including law enforcement and community-based corrections. A significant number of students also pursue graduate level education, including Law school.
The criminal justice learning experience culminates in a field instruction component that puts into practice much of knowledge and many of the skills learned in the classroom. Internship sites are located in “real world” criminal justice settings such as probation offices, jails, prisons and court rooms. Students observe and participate in day-to-day decision making and actively contribute to the work of their internship organizations.
CJ courses include traditional classroom activities and experiential components such as police ride-aongs, courtroom observations, field trips, and presentations by criminal justice professionals.
Majors receive individual assistance in designing their educational experiences.
Criminal Justice students regularly present their research at the Midwest Criminal Justice Association Meetings.
Internship opportunities include a wide variety of settings at city, county, and state agencies throughout the Midwest
STUDENT INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITIES
Click here to learn more about the exciting internships available to Loras College Criminal Justice students.
Click here to see some of our recent graduates and find out how they're using their Criminal Justice degrees.
MAJOR REQUIREMENTS FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE
See the Major requirements and course descriptions for Criminal Justice here.
Criminal Justice faculty have Ph.D.s and belong to regional and national professional associations. Faculty members have expertise in applied research, risk assessment techniques, and military investigations. Academic advising with Criminal Justice faculty is based upon individual student needs and focused on developing a skill set that enhances the achievement of career goals.
Len Decker, Ph.D. in Sociology from South Dakota State University.
His favorite classes include: Criminology; Ethical Considerations
in Criminal Justice; Creating & Controlling Crime; Juvenile
Delinquency & Justice; CJ Field Instruction. His advice to students:
Desire is but the handmaiden of opportunity.
Dedra Tentis, Ph.D. in Sociology from South Dakota State University.
Her favorite classes include: Research Methods in CJ, Introduction to CJ,
Women and Crime, MOI: Crime Images and Realities.
Her advice to students: Never quit learning and be your best self.
Valerie Bell, Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati.
She teaches Introduction to Corrections, Senior Seminar, Victimology,
White Collar Crime, and Police & Society. One piece of advice
she has for students is: Study hard and visit your professors
during their office hours.