By Lexi Oldenburger ’14
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we’re here today to present the overwhelming evidence demonstrating that Northwestern’s Criminal Justice program is guilty of providing a comprehensive, effective and Christ-centered education. We will prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the students, alumni and faculty are making a mark on the criminal justice system and providing a ray of hope in a dark profession.
On the scene with Ghlee Hanson
Passionate about the field and yielding years of experience, Ghlee Hanson, M.S.S.W., instructor and coordinator of the Criminal Justice program, has worked as a probation officer/therapist, national convention workshop leader, consultant and licensed clinical social worker.
With the help of many at Northwestern, including Psychology Chair Melissa Mork, Ph.D., and Director of Alumni & Parent Relations (and former police officer) Jim Bender F’00, Hanson is committed to sending students out into the world and guiding them to become the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.
“We are all full-time Christian ministers,” Hanson asserted. “We all have that responsibility, no matter our job.”
Hanson unrolled the caution tape around a big misconception surrounding criminal justice: equating criminal justice exclusively with law enforcement. She explained that the scope of criminal justice extends far beyond police work, including courts, corrections, advisory roles, agencies, counseling, law practice and much more.
Criminal Justice major Caleb Davis ’13 survived the interrogation room, adding endless amounts of praise for the program. “It’s phenomenal,” Davis said. “From the students to the professors, it is simply a fantastic atmosphere. It has been both challenging and rewarding. I would not trade the experiences of things I learned in this program for anything.”
Faculty experience is offered as irrefutable evidence of program quality. NWC’s Criminal Justice faculty either have been or currently are practitioners in the field.
Hannah Tutt ’11, a corrections officer for the South Dakota Department of Corrections, pointed out, “There is not a member of the department lacking in real world experiences, and they were each more than willing to use those experiences and connections to enhance our education.”
Hanson provided the warrant needed for the background checks of the following faculty members:
- Judge Deborah Hedlund teaches the Criminal Law night class outside her duties on the bench in Hennepin County courts.
- Barry Marchant, a public defender in Hennepin County, teaches the Minnesota Criminal and Traffic Code class.
- Lyle Larson focuses on prison ministry by bringing in former inmates to speak to his classes.
- Ramsey County Sheriff Matt Bostrom F’92 is a law enforcement expert.
- Jim Caauwe ’77 recently retired after 24 years of police work.
- Thom Olson is director of a reentry program for adult males; he teaches the Juvenile Delinquency course.
- Their stories all cleared; no need for further investigation.
Practical application and preparation is where the Criminal Justice program distinguishes itself. “Our professors utilize their previous occupations to bring in great speakers or to bring us into their workplaces for educational field trips,” noted Davis.
Students learn from individuals in child protective services, area sheriff and police departments and local prison inmates. They also have opportunities to tour places like the Hennepin County Jail, Shakopee women’s prison or attend felony and juvenile court sessions.
“It was truly helpful to get to see the insides of those facilities and experience court instead of just discussing them in class,” said Tutt.
“We hold [the students] to high standards,” Hanson explained. “We teach them to be salt and light to whomever they come into contact with, telling them, ‘Judges and attorneys need ministers as well as clients. You are a witness by how you treat people in difficult situations.’”
Davis added, “This field is a dark one, and it needs Christians. It needs light brought into the many dark places, and Northwestern enables all students to do just that.”
Local police departments and other justice communities take in Northwestern interns year after year, knowing that NWC yields qualified individuals. Students representing purple and gold are sprinkled among police departments in Plymouth, Roseville and Maplewood, and throughout probation and consulting offices in Bloomington, Waseca and Houston County. They’ve also put their studies to the test working with federal postal inspectors, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Cornerstone, a local women’s shelter.
An APB for graduates of the program finds them all over the map. One North Dakota highway patrol officer was named Officer of the Year in 2011. In October two recent alums were among 54 selected from 1,500 applicants to serve as state troopers with the Minnesota Highway Patrol. Others have found themselves successful as corrections officers, counselors in group homes, private security officers, probation officers, attorneys and social workers.
Criminal Justice became an official major at Northwestern in 2006. And on April 26, 2012, the program was provisionally certified under the Minnesota Board of Police Officer Standards and Training for one year.
“This certification completely changes the marketing for students and for the program itself,” Hanson shared passionately. “To say that they’ve had PPOE [Professional Police Officer Education] skyrockets credibility, and graduating from a state-certified program gives graduates a standard of integrity that not all can claim.”
The final verdict in the case of excellence in criminal justice education? Guilty as charged. Court is adjourned.
Northwestern’s FOCUS Degree Completion program (nwc.edu/focus) also offers a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a Criminal Justice emphasis.