January 11, 2016
A good instructor teaches students about their area of study, but a great instructor also shares insights from personal experience in the field. When you enroll in an online criminal justice degree at Southern New Hampshire University, you'll do much more than just follow a syllabus. You'll learn from instructors who have real-world experience that will offer fresh insight into what to do with a criminal justice degree.
Instructor Jeff Czarnec, associate dean of Criminal Justice and Social Sciences at SNHU, spent more than 20 years as an officer with the Manchester Police Department. He also holds a Ph.D. in Leadership with a focus on cultural criminology. Czarnec's experience in the field is an important reason why he was brought on in 2014 to help develop the online criminal justice program at SNHU. This course of study focuses on imparting students with a comprehensive understanding of the criminal justice system in the U.S. and the tools to apply that knowledge in a career after graduation. Students learn real-world skills from experienced instructors, supplementary webinars and even internships in the field.
When you pursue an online degree in criminal justice, you're taking an important step toward a career that can help you make a difference in your community. Students with a background in criminal justice are in a position to improve the lives of their neighbors in practical ways.
Czarnec is a walking example of this concept. In November, he was interviewed by New Hampshire Magazine about his involvement in building the Manchester, N.H. branch of the Police Athletic League (PAL).
"I was working on my master's degree in human services administration... and rather than doing a thesis, they wanted you to do a project that was community-based," he told the magazine. "Although I was born in Manchester, my father's job took us to Long Island and I remembered all of the positive interactions I had with police officers in the PAL program when I was growing up, and I thought, 'Why not here?'"
Despite challenges that included a city dealing with significant economic problems, Czarnec pushed forward with the idea and got others on board.
"The kids were there. The response was there," Czarnec told the magazine. "We had a couple of officers who liked boxing, Brian Santos and Jimmy Tareco, so they took that on with Phil Prince. Then Hugh Mallett, one of the civilian workers at the Police Department, said he wanted to do a tennis program, so we had a story in the Union Leader asking for used tennis rackets, and we got hundreds of them. We couldn't believe the response."
More than 20 years later the program is thriving, with an enrollment of about 200 local youths.
While MPAL, the Manchester branch of the PAL program, initially met in a small gym at the Salvation Army, New Hampshire magazine reported, it now has its own facility where local kids can play sports, hang out and receive mentorship from older members of the community, many of whom have aged out of the program themselves and still want to be involved. On top of the existing opportunities, exciting things are just around the corner. The facility has been selected by the program Building on Hope to receive an extensive remodeling, which will occur in spring of 2016. The makeover is expected to allow the program to offer even more programs to a larger number of kids in the community.
Making a difference in your community can take a number of different forms when you earn a degree in criminal justice. Graduates are well-positioned to begin jobs in law enforcement, juvenile justice, human and family services, security and more. At SNHU, the program exposes students to different areas of the criminal justice field to help guide students into their future career.
"It will help you identify where you belong," Czarnec said. "It also provides strong networking opportunities."
In the online bachelor's degree program, you have the option to concentrate in one of five specialties: criminology, homeland security and counterterrorism, human services, legal studies and advocacy or police administration and operations. The concentrations will assist in readying you for a specific area that has captured your interest within the broad field of criminal justice.
If you already have a bachelor's degree, consider earning an online master's degree in criminal justice at SNHU. This advanced degree provides you with a deeper dive into the criminal justice system and encourages problem-solving skills related to real-world problems. With the option of concentrating in public safety administration or advanced counterterrorism, a master's in criminal justice provides many career opportunities. Graduates may go on to leadership positions in local, state, and federal law enforcement, homeland security and corrections.
Whether you want to work as a police officer, a family advocate or one of the many other available options, what to do with a criminal justice degree is up to you. But any path you choose gives you the opportunity to have a positive impact on your community, just like Jeff Czarnec and the MPAL program.
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Timothy Woodward grew up in a small town in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in film and writing in California and an MFA in Fiction from SNHU.