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Northern gets final OK for criminal justice program

A new program, years in the making, has overcome the last obstacle and will soon be offered at Montana State University-Northern.

Northern announced this week that a new four-year Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice will be offered by the school "on-line or in a hybrid on-line/weekend format so students can continue their employment while pursuing their academic goals. "

The final test to pass was that of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, an accreditation organization.

According to Katherine Williams, associate professor of Community Leadership at Northern, one of their main goals is not only to offer a new program, but to allow two-year students from across the state to enhance their education and turn their associate degree to a bachelor's in just two years.

"(The criminal justice program) enhances our focus here at Northern to really help people prepare for careers, " Williams said. "Criminal justice is something in need around the state and across the country. "

The program has been a long time coming. Williams said she and Curtis Smeby started researching the idea in 2005. The tumultuous recent past of Northern's administration made some steps difficult and the idea went dormant for a while.

Then, according to Williams, about two or three years ago the administration encouraged her and Smeby to continue their work developing the program.

Now that researching and developing the program is over, it's time for Williams and Smeby to shift into teaching mode, as they, with adjunct help, will begin offering their finalized courses next fall.

Williams said their goal is to, eventually, hire a full-time professor for the program to teach courses and help advise students.

That is one concern that Faculty Union President John Snider has had since learning of the program, the necessity of a dedicated faculty member.

Snider, who feels that Northern doesn't place enough concern into actual academics, thinks the new program is a great idea. He just hopes the administration will offer the support the new program needs, by hiring new professors.

"I think it's great we have a program, but the students coming here and paying tuition expect to have a fully-qualified full-time faculty, or two, in charge of any program, " Snider said. "If you're not going to support it with faculty, it's not going to be successful. Students don't pay part-time adjunct tuition. "

For more information about the program, contact Williams at [email protected] or (406) 265-3522.


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