Daemen Offering New Criminal Justice Major Starting Fall 2024

By Cadence Russell, editor-in-chief

Starting in the fall of 2024, students at Daemen will be able to take classes in the newest major on campus, criminal justice. 

“We’ve built a pretty solid program here, where it’s really grounded in both political science and psychology and will give students kind of a very firm background in and kind of understanding of the criminal justice system,” Dr. Jay Wendland, associate professor, chair of the history and political science department, and program director of the criminal justice major said.

Criminal justice is a broad field and provides potential employment in fields such as criminology, law enforcement, forensic science, and the legal system.

“We partnered with psychology, to make sure that what we’re doing with the program is bringing together both the kind of understanding of political systems and government and law and coupling that with kind of an understanding of people,” Wendland said.

The major is housed in both the psychological sciences department and the history and political science department and has three specialization options for students to pursue: forensics, mental health, or criminal law and critical legal study.

“We knew that we wanted it to be interdisciplinary. So you know it was going to have a strong content focus with psych and political science, but we also knew we wanted to have other disciplines involved as well, that collectively could really prepare students well for any number of positions in the criminal justice field,” Dr. Denise Emer, professor and chair of the psychological sciences department, and program director of the criminal justice major said.

All students in the criminal justice major take foundational courses such as criminal law, forensic psychology, and biological psychology. However, students are then able to choose their interest in a specific field of criminal justice through the specialization tracks.

“So if a student wants to pursue more the forensic mental health aspect, they’re going to take a series of courses that would really prepare them to be involved in the forensic mental health domain, where they’re getting both psychological information, information about how mental health manifests in criminal populations, what that means for the criminal justice system,” Emer said.

The major has been something that Emer has been interested in developing for some time but became a reality after Dr. Heather Maloney-Stassen, the founding dean of arts, sciences, and education, brought the initiative to create the major to Emer and Wendland.

“I can’t tell you the number of students who come and ask about, do you have a criminal justice program?” Emer said. “So there’s clearly an interest and a demand out there in the student population that want to get trained, want to get educated, to move into this area.”

Part of the reason the program was able to get up and running so quickly is because it is built using the courses that were already being offered at Daemen.

“We’ve just basically packaged them [courses] all together and said if you take this series of courses, you’re going to graduate with a criminal justice major,” Wendland said. “So the nice thing is that nothing is going to be delayed or stalled in the rollout here. Really, we’re ready to hit the ground running.”

The program is also built to be transfer-friendly for students coming from other institutions, as well as being open to double majoring for students already at Daemen in different majors, who may be interested in the new major offering. 

“Students have actually already taken some of the required courses, they just didn’t know they were taking them when they took them. So that’s what’s been the nice thing about it is building off of our current strengths. We can use what we’ve already been doing and just build from that,” Wendland said.

Once the major was approved by the university to begin development, the team dedicated to building the major met with a panel of local professionals in the Buffalo surrounding area to discuss what aspects of criminal justice there is a community need for.

The panel, Emer said, expressed a need for professionals with an understanding and background of how the criminal justice system works, how populations interact with the criminal justice system, and how to advocate for policies.

“So I feel I feel like we’re doing an important service in that regard to the community by preparing professionals who could go out and add to the community in a viable way and have the understanding and the requisite skills and abilities and knowledge to do that effectively,” Emer said.

When the program proposal was submitted to the New York State Board of Education, it was accepted upon the first submission with no edits or revisions necessary, something exceedingly rare for new programs in New York.

“So that to me speaks very highly to the quality of the program,” Emer said. “Anyone who’s ever tried to put a program through New York State Ed knows it is not easy, and sometimes you get it back multiple times, multiple times. We had zero revisions.”

Emer believes that the reason for the first-time approval is because of the interdisciplinary approach of the program, as well as the support and endorsement from community partners.

Students interested in the major should reach out to Dr. Wendland or Dr. Emer.

“I think programs like the one we’ve developed,” Wendland said, “can help people kind of better understand the nuances found within the criminal justice system and kind of think more critically about some of the challenges found within it as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *