DSU criminal justice department going global

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A group of criminal justice majors may have the opportunity to say “nî hâo” to China in the near future. 

Faculty members in the criminal justice department are pushing for a potential study abroad program in Beijing, China. Although nothing has been established yet, Lish Harris, an assistant professor of criminal justice, visited Beijing University of Technology and is currently working toward marrying its sociology program with Dixie State University’s criminology program. Harris said he imagines the trip coming to fruition within the next few years. 

“I really am a believer in the institution setting up relationships with universities throughout the country and internationally,” Harris said.

Although the Beijing trip is still up in the air, students are participating in a “study away” program this year to New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Harris said the students pay for the trip when they sign up for the three-credit upper division course. This year’s study away program is designed to be cheaper for students who want to have an off-campus learning experience without breaking the bank, he said. 

Kathy Kinney, director of study abroad trips, said finances and planning ahead are the biggest obstacle for students who want to study abroad. 

“If students are going to seriously think they want to go, they need to consider, right this minute, how they will save because, otherwise, they won’t go,” she said. 

There are multiple scholarships available for students looking to fund their trip, but they must apply for the scholarships in advance, Kinney said. 

Rob Morris, an assistant professor of criminal justice, organized and participated in last year’s trip to London. He said these trips give criminal justice students exposure to early systems of criminal justice. 

“We had the opportunity to see the Magna Carta,” Morris said. “We spend time looking at Jack the Ripper and the phenomenon surrounding serial crimes. It’s invaluable.” 

There’s a certain expectation, Morris said, that college classes are all about just reading, going to class, taking a test and getting a grade. Learning opportunities like these study abroad trips prove there’s a lot more to a student’s college experience. 

Similarly, Harris said the trips provide students with a special addendum to their resumes that could set them apart from their counterparts. He said the types of jobs in the government and federal law enforcement are particularly interested in employees who have language skills and can communicate effectively in multiple cultures. 

“At least having some experience in having traveled [internationally] and having seen how [other] federal justice systems work sets them apart from other applicants,” Harris said. 

These trips provide students with soft skills employers seek in new hires, Kinney said. Her job is to help students find study abroad opportunities that meet their needs, and she also assists faculty members who are leading the trips. 

Kinney said students who want to study abroad aren’t limited to DSU-organized trips. She said students can coordinate with other universities in the state as well as third-party companies that plan excursions for students. 

Harris said he hopes the trips and potential student exchange program will become a tradition at DSU, and students who have gone on the trips in the past still talk about how much they enjoyed it.

“Study abroad trips are unique and valuable,” Morris said. “It’s hard to put a price tag on it.”