Criminal justice program revamped

Published: Monday, May 16, 2011
By Dariush Shafa, Messenger-Inquirer

One of Kentucky Wesleyan College’s most successful programs has gone through a tune-up, a move that faculty and administrators believe will provide a more thorough career education and attract even more students.

The bachelor’s degree in criminal justice has been a popular offering at Kentucky Wesleyan College for years, said Dr. Ken Ayers, professor of criminal justice at KWC. But with more institutions offering technical degree programs of a similar name, as well as changes in career paths in the field, Ayers said it was time to re-examine how the degree worked. The result is the new Criminal Justice, Criminology and Law program at KWC.

“We wanted to make it a little more specific, send a stronger message. We wanted to give students a stronger theory and research component,” Ayers said.

This program includes two degrees, the bachelor’s in criminal justice and criminology and the bachelor’s in legal studies. The criminal justice and criminology degree contains two emphasis paths for students to follow, either a criminal justice path or a criminology path. Both are for potential practitioners in the field, but the criminology path is also tailored for those who want to move onto graduate school or pursue a career in behavioral research.

Legal studies, previously under the political science department, is also included in the Criminal Justice, Criminology and Law program because educators felt it was a better fit, Ayers said. This program is aimed at students wanting to move onto graduate or law school, Ayers said. Also, even though a student may choose to pick a certain path, they must still demonstrate a fundamental understanding of all three parts named in the program.

“The legal part of our education is not only understanding what the law is, but why it’s that way,” Ayers said. “Regardless of which track to come into, there’s going to be a core body of knowledge all students take on in this program.”

The program also a service learning module, aimed at teaching students about social justice, Ayers said. That will mean working with the poor and homeless in Owensboro, particularly at homeless shelters where needs are great.

“It became incumbent on us to teach the students through active participation in the community,” Ayers said, referencing Matthew 25:35-36, a Scripture passage about caring for those in need. “That became the core value our service learning is going to be built upon.”

All of these facets now make KWC’s program unique, Ayers said.

“There’s no other program in Kentucky and the region that covers the three (areas) the way that we do. This is a university model,” Ayers said. “By combining these concepts into the Criminal Justice, Criminology and Law program, it makes the students’ experience at Wesleyan deeper, broader and better.”

The first week the program was announced, Ayers said, 10 students signed up, and they hope the growth doesn’t stop there. The result, Ayers said, will benefit the school and the students.

“This is only going to make their education better and more valuable for the future. I think it’s going to attract some students we couldn’t have attracted before,” Ayers said. “This is not a degree to get you a job. This is a degree to prepare you for a career.”

For more information on the Criminal Justice, Criminology and Law program at KWC, visit

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