By Hannah Gooch
Students can now complete an Associate of Applied Science degree in Criminology and Justice Studies at Kent State University at Geauga and the Twinsburg Academic Center.
Earning an associate degree in Criminology and Justice Studies allows graduates to pursue a career in jobs like probation work, advocacy and entry level court positions after graduation.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this program transitioned online, but the professors are working to ensure that students’ online experiences are comparable to what it would be inside the classroom. The online program now relies heavily on group discussions and Zoom calls, which allow for both class and small group discussions via breakout rooms.
Kent State Sociology and Justice Studies Assistant Professor Kasey Ray, Ph.D., has made it her mission to prepare students for real-world scenarios in the criminal justice system.
“This kind of content really lends itself well to an online or remote type of atmosphere,” Ray said. “Having the whole degree in-house is kind of new for us, and we are really excited about it.”
Ray holds mock court in her classes where students act as prosecutors, defendants and a jury for a trial. The transition to an online classroom court mirrors how real court proceedings are being held during the pandemic.
“It’s something that I’ve found ways to do remotely because even our courtrooms right now are moving to this remote format,” Ray said. “It is something that they need to get used to in this changing world. Even in real life this is the way things may be headed for a while. We have to adapt.”
Despite the COVID19 pandemic, Ray enjoys the hands-on aspect and involved process of teaching criminal justice studies.
“My favorite part of the program is that I get to see students go from start to finish with things. I have students who are now having careers in the criminal justice system,” Ray said. “I really get to see that, and I love it. They’re finding careers that speak to them by the time that they’re done.”
For additional programs similar to hers, Ray expects students to learn how things actually work versus how they should work in the workforce. Setting students up for success means preparing them for how the real-world job will handle textbook situations, she said.
Ray put emphasis on skill-building for career preparation, and expressed how building confidence in the material can transition students to be experts in the field.
“They should feel confident going out and having those careers that they worked so hard for,” Ray said. “I really want students to know that we now offer this at our campus. It’s a great opportunity for students that are in any way interested in criminal justice.”
The criminal justice system is broad and crosses paths with every major at one point or another. These classes are applicable to all students, not just criminal justice majors.
Born and raised in Twinsburg, Ray initially intended to pursue a degree in secondary education, but when she realized teaching options were available to her without a teaching degree, she began to focus on her true passion.
A political science course on constitutional laws, individual rights and protections sparked an interest in criminal justice for Ray. Eventually, she earned her Ph.D. in Sociology with specialties in inequalities and deviance.
Ray encourages students who are interested in jobs such as law enforcement, victim advocacy, corrections or other criminal justice careers to try the courses and see what they think.
Obtaining an Associate of Applied Science degree in Criminology and Justice Studies can be done at both locations of Kent State Geauga and the Twinsburg Academic Center. Students interested in the bachelor’s degree can continue their studies at the Kent Campus.
To learn more about the major, visit https://www.kent.edu/geauga/criminology-and-justice-studies