Program Spotlight: Criminal Justice

In line with the College’s Experiential Learning disposition, the Loras College Criminal Justice program sets up students for success with hands-on experiences that take the education beyond just theory. Students have access to internships with various criminal justice agencies that allow them to experience their chosen field fist-hand.

“Field instruction is an integral part of the criminal justice curriculum at Loras,” Valerie Bell, Ph.D., associate professor of criminal justice, said. “During their internship, students are able to apply the knowledge they gained in the classroom while seeing the connections between what they learned and the “real life” of a criminal justice professional.”

Brendan Nugent (’19), Stephanie Wehr (’19) and Antone Dixon (’19) were sworn in as members of the Dubuque Police Department in December 2019

One of the hallmarks of the program is the criminal justice honor society, Alpha Phi Sigma. Founded in 2011, its focus is on promoting academic excellence, leadership, service and unity among Loras’s criminal justice students. Members of Alpha Phi Sigma receive distinct advantages for their academic career and beyond.

“Alpha Phi Sigma, students gain national recognition for their academic achievements in criminal justice, eligibility for numerous scholarships, opportunities to present at criminal justice conferences, networking opportunities with other APS members around the globe, and an ‘instant pay raise’ for superior academic achievement when applying for certain federal government positions.”

Of course, in-class instruction is a significant aspect of any education, and the criminal justice program strives to challenge students in new and different ways. That includes the forcing to read and react to a situation they may have to face in their careers.

One example is “Law Enforcement Decision Making and the Use of Force: A Virtual Reality Training Ground,” an innovative course that provides students with a truly unique experience compared to other college CJ programs. 

“In the course, students learn to think and make quick decisions just as police officers do through real-time, interactive simulations of well-known use of force scenarios while gaining an appreciation for accountability, ethics, and responsibility in law enforcement,” Bell explained.

Prior to the pandemic, Chad Crabhill (’15) returned each year to speak to criminal justice students.

The success of the students is evident in the results. Loras has seen graduates move onto careers in all areas of the criminal justice system law enforcement, probation and parole, law school, corrections, victim advocacy and many others.

Current criminal justice majors are also excelling before beginning their careers, as 14 of them earned spots on the Fall 2020 Dean’s List. Those students are Bailey Baldauf (’21), Carly Boens (’23), Kiera Cabrera (’21), Keegan Godwin (’23), Audrey Hinz (’21), Taylor Hrabak (’22), Jake Hudson (’21), Andrew Kintzinger (’22), Stephanie Leon (’24), Anna Loes (’21), Bryan Moose (’22), Emily Perhats (’22), Abigail Reding (’22) and McKenzie Rowley (’22).

You can learn more about the Criminal Justice program here.

Want more? Please read about how Jake Hudson (’21) found his passion through the criminal justice program and graduated early to begin a career with the Dubuque Police Department.

About Loras College
Founded in 1839, Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. In 2020, Loras was ranked the 16th Best Regional College in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and one of America’s Top 200 Most Loved Colleges/Universities by Forbes Magazine for the fourth consecutive year. Loras students ranked No. 2 in the world as part of the global Peeptrade Investment Challenge while a second group ranked No. 4. For the 12th consecutive year, Loras Media Studies student-led television station (LCTV) was named the TV Station of the Year by the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA).