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School of Criminal Justice Establishes Offices in Interdisciplinary Resource Center, Classes Move to Central Campus

PhotoShown here are Ferris State University Law Enforcement Academy students from the Criminal Justice program.

A changing campus landscape and operational adjustments, put in place at Ferris State University, find School of Criminal Justice faculty working from offices in the Interdisciplinary Resource Center (IRC), with varied bases of operation, as the program approaches its 50th anniversary.

Criminal Justice Professor and Program Director Joseph Ferrandino said one noticeable change joining the College of Business is the activity level, as they arrived in the central campus region.

“We made a quick adjustment in relocating 10 faculty members and staff into the IRC in July and August,” Ferrandino said. “Being based in Bishop Hall, it was generally our staff, the 500 CJ students on campus, and the Early Education Center’s nearby traffic. Now, we have a more complete collegiate backdrop with football players parking outside our building, hearing their music play as they practice at Top Taggart Field in the late morning. It has brought a great infusion of life, which we very much enjoy.”

Ferrandino said some instruction locales remain the same while others adjust as Bishop Hall nears a future demolition as part of the Campus Master Plan.

“Our Criminal Justice Academy classes continue in the Southwest Commons while all other elements of CJ learning take place elsewhere on campus,” Ferrandino said. “It is a new learning experience for all of us. At this time, the School of Digital Media continues in Bishop Hall awaiting construction of the Center for Virtual Learning. Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) staff are also based in Bishop.”

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Spring 2020 semester found Academy students adjusting to each determination from campus leaders and state education officials to continue coursework.

“We resumed face-to-face instruction at the first possible opportunity,” Ferrandino said. “It was necessary to meet the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) requirements. At this time, all of our instruction has returned to in-person learning, as is applicable.”

The School of Criminal Justice faculty has a unique ability to offer students insight from career experience. Ferrandino said their service as prosecutors, judges, county sheriffs, defense attorneys, police officers, a warden and corrections officers is a significant element of Ferris’ CJ curriculum.

“Their ability to impart what they have experienced in the field, or the courts, along with real-life scenarios is an uncommon level of expertise, in terms of Criminal Justice instruction,” Ferrandino said. “It is a definite point of pride for our school.”

Students can prepare for their careers by pursuing a minor in Criminal Justice, an associate degree in CJ, and Bachelor of Science degrees focused on Law Enforcement, Corrections, or as a Generalist. Ferrandino said the school also features a Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration. Frequently, the master’s degree is pursued by officers and other professionals.

“I understand that people hear Criminal Justice, presuming that our students are seeking roles in law enforcement,” Ferrandino said. “That is how our program began, in the 1970s. Around 25 years ago, to address a broader view of this profession, we began our Generalist track. Soon after that, we established a Corrections curriculum to allow students to train for an area with significant demand for professionals.”

Added Ferrandino, “Students who take up our Master of Science program in Criminal Justice Administration may seek administrative roles with their department, and we have seen great success on the regional, state and national levels. Tim Murphy went into the private sector after serving as deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Kim Koster and Vernon Coakley head up public safety departments in Wyoming and Kalamazoo, respectively. Several Michigan county sheriffs are among our graduates. We also see Criminal Justice Administration alumni teaching in community college CJ programs and serving as leaders in probation departments. There is a significant emphasis on assisting victims of crime, and our alumni have found success there. Enforcement is important, but so are these other aspects of pursuing and assuring justice in our communities.”

Ferrandino said a mid-October fair for Criminal Justice students was a success, as there were more than 50 law enforcement agencies, governmental departments and other job opportunities to consider.

“The marketplace for our students is promising, as there is a significant push at this time for new CJ professionals,” Ferrandino said. “Whether graduates are seasoned alumni or simply wrapping up their studies, I would say they have the best job market before them I have ever seen.”

As the 50th anniversary of Ferris’ CJ program approaches, Ferrandino said plans are in development to make a note of and celebrate the occasion.

“Woodbridge Ferris said, well before our program came to be, that this was a place seeking ‘to make the world better,’” Ferrandino said. “We look forward to considering our school’s contribution to that goal and our future.”