New majors have surfaced this fall at the University of Iowa, and criminology, law, and justice is one of the most-anticipated new options. The state Board of Regents approved the major last spring for the Sociology Department this semester, said Denise Barnard, a UI senior academic adviser in sociology.
“There’s more interest in the field of criminology, and there are more jobs in the field in different areas,” she said.
Sociology Professor Karen Heimer said the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences asked the Sociology Department to start up the major after hearing about the interest from the students.
Students wanted the credential to be reflected in their degrees, she said.
Students previously could major in sociology and take part in the criminology track, Barnard said. Currently, not all students have switched from the track to the major, but they are in the process of making the transition.
As of last week, the major has 94 students, Barnard said.
“We’re anticipating having 200 majors by the end of the year,” she said.
Some of the new classes in the major, which include both background courses and more specialized ones, she said, include Sociology of White-Collar Crime and Race, Crime, and Justice.
The major can be broken into three different categories, Heimer said, causes of criminal behavior, how the criminal-justice system works, and how the legal system works.
Beyond academic aspects, the major offers students more insight to the criminology job field, including internship programs.
“We have a more organized internship program,” said UI Lecturer Michaela Ruppert, an internship coordinator.
Previously, the Sociology Department had internship opportunities for students, but now they are offered along with a class.
Students are required to perform 50 hours of fieldwork and attend a biweekly class with Ruppert to talk about what was gleaned from their experience. Hearing others talk about their work broadens the horizons of students to different areas in which criminology can be applied, she said.
Since the major was implemented, Heimer said, there has been an increase in interest from recruiting agencies in UI students.
“Now that we have the major, we’re seeing interest in recruiting our students from criminal-justice agencies in the area and in other states,” Heimer said.
One of those departments is the University of Wisconsin-Madison police, which heard about the major and is going to send representatives to the UI to give information to students about jobs in the department. Also, students can take the test the Wisconsin department offers for prospective employees.
A career-exploration event will also take place on Oct. 4 to allow new majors to network and see what the major looks like in practice, Barnard said. Heimer noted that a number of other departments, including the UI and Coralville police, will attend the event to give students an insight into the field of criminology.
“Many kids say, ‘Oh, I want to be a police officer,’ but they don’t really know what other options are out there,” Ruppert said. This event would introduce students to those choices.
The major being an option for students gives them many more opportunities in the field, Heimer said.
“We’re really excited about the new major,” she said. “[We’re] happy to see a lot of student interest already and are expecting it to grow very quickly.”