New Mexico Highlands University’s brand-new Master of Arts degree in criminology is ready to begin enrolling students for the fall semester. Designed to provide students with a comprehensive academic foundation, the program will help professionals working in criminal justice and social service fields to pursue federal jobs, gain promotions, and increase their salaries.
The criminology program will be offered through Highlands University’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice, and it will be the only one of its kind in New Mexico. Professor Gloria Gadsden said the idea for offering a master’s degree in criminology was born when multiple sheriff’s departments and police departments began approaching the university five years ago with an interest in providing their employees with further education and advancement opportunities.
“They wanted a program that offered a much broader perspective. Criminology comes out of sociology, and so it addresses things like group dynamics, race, social justice issues, and gender issues,” said Gadsden. “Students are going to get a chance to look at issues that they might not get to study in a criminal justice program.”
While many people working law enforcement and related fields have a background in criminal justice, Gadsden reiterated that the field of criminology is distinct and offers a deeper sociological context for students. Criminal justice classes often pertain to trends in policing and incarceration, for example, but the new criminology program will address these topics as well as social justice, social inequality, and other structural issues.
Core classes will include criminology, statistics, research methods, and graduate theory. Electives will include classes such as Sociology of Murder, and Race, Ethnicity and Policing. Students will also have the option to pursue their own tracks to focus on social justice, gender issues, political science, psychology, and social work, among other possibilities.
“After the last two years, people have been rethinking their careers,” said Brandon Kempner, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “I feel good about us giving our students new options and opportunities to earn an education at Highlands.”
That the criminology program will be offered exclusively online is also bringing new opportunities to Highlands University. “You can live in Las Cruces or Albuquerque and earn this degree,” said Dean Kempner. “As the Dean, one of the most exciting things is that we’re expanding our reach.”
Jobs in the criminal justice field are growing across New Mexico, so Gadsden expects to see lots of interest in the new criminology program at Highlands. Conversations about criminal justice, policing, and incarceration have mounted across the country over the past five years, prompting many people with a wide variety of perspectives to pursue programs that will offer historical and sociological contexts. Criminology is just the program to meet those interests.
“You need a broader understanding of how society works in order to better understand how we got here, and how we get to the next step,” said Gadsden.
Gadsden said she cannot contain her excitement about the new program. “We’re just thrilled about the support from Highlands,” Gadsden said. “That we could get it done is really exciting.” For more information about the online master’s program in criminology, see the program’s web page or contact Gloria Gadsden at firstname.lastname@example.org.