SPARTANBURG, S.C. (courtesy smcsc.edu) — Opportunities for a four-year bachelor’s degree at Spartanburg Methodist College continue to expand, with SMC faculty voting in February to add a sixth concentration – criminal justice – to the program.
“SMC is committed to expanding the programs we offer to fit students’ needs,” said Mark Gibbs, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. “With robust participation in our associate of criminal justice program, we saw a clear need to add it to our bachelor’s degree concentrations.”
The first class of juniors started their path toward a four-year degree in fall 2019. Bachelor of Arts students choose two concentrations – offerings include business, English, history, religion and, beginning this fall, psychology and criminal justice – and must take a number of professional development courses, called the Camak Core after SMC’s founder.
Camak Core classes teach “soft skills” – such as problem solving, working as part of a team and leadership – that have been identified as critical areas all employers want.
Stacy Parker, Professor of Criminal Justice and Director of the Criminal Justice Program at SMC, said she has always encouraged her students to do something extra to set themselves apart. She said SMC’s approach to have students choose two concentrations, along with the emphasis on professional development skills, does just that.
“Criminal justice is a very popular field, a very popular major. And so what is going to make you stand out from the other 500 people applying for that job?” Parker said. “That’s one of the things that’s neat about this program, because you are going to be standing out from all those other people because you did something different. You have more than just the understanding of the criminal justice classes. You understand psychology, or you understand business, or you have the thinking skills you get from history, or the writing skills you get from English. Then there is the Camak Core that is going to give you the practical experience that will also make you stand out.”
Parker has served as an assistant attorney general in the West Virginia Division of Corrections and as an assistant prosecuting attorney in West Virginia and Ohio. She was an associate professor of criminal justice at Muskingum University in Ohio for 12 years before coming to SMC.
Parker said the opportunity to build a new four-year criminal justice program at Spartanburg Methodist College was a big part of the reason she moved to South Carolina.
In the associate degree program, students take classes geared toward different aspects of the criminal justice system – police and law enforcement, courts, corrections and criminology, or theories of why people commit crimes.
Four-year students will take a research methods class, a criminal justice policy class and their choice of electives. Electives will evolve as the program does, but so far will include investigations and forensics, juvenile justice, criminal law and procedure, and the death penalty. Parker said one day she would like to develop a class on white-collar crime.
Spartanburg Methodist College has offered an associate degree in criminal justice since 1970, and it remains a popular and growing field of study.
Parker said many of her students, particularly freshmen, have expressed interest in the four-year program. In the past, students who earned an associate of criminal justice would then transfer to another school to complete their bachelor’s degree.
“Now being able to continue their criminal justice degree in our unique bachelor’s program is going to give our students an advantage when entering the work force,” she said.