Department merger offers benefits and real-life experience for UNA students

Criminal justice students analyze crime scene evidence during a lab exercise. The Departments of Criminal Justice and Political Science merged this semester to create the Department of Politics, Justice and Law.

by News Editor Anna Brown

The Departments of Criminal Justice and Political Science combined this fall, creating the Department of Politics, Justice and Law.

Because political science and criminal justice are so similar, Chair of the Department of Politics, Justice and Law Tim Collins said combining the departments was a logical step.

“In the legal process, you move from the police officers, investigators and first responders to political officials like district attorneys,” Collins said. “The two shade into each other and I think it promises to be a good collaboration.”

Collins said he thinks combining the two departments will benefit students.

“One of the benefits of the department is not only that it helps us prepare students in that overlap between criminal justice and political science, but it helps us to prepare them and develop them for law school,” he said.

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Carmen Burkhalter said the pairing of the criminal justice and political science departments is common in universities across the country.

Exposing students to other areas of study outside of their concentration broadens their knowledge of the justice system and helps them better understand the legal system, Collins said.

“We have a number of areas where we collaborate to make sure we offer as wide an array of courses as we can to make sure students are getting the preparation they need to be competitive in the job market,” he said.

Junior Alec Prince said he is glad the departments combined.

“I know many of my fellow students, as well as myself, are interested in attending law school after graduation,” Prince said. “The new Department of Politics, Justice and Law furthers that end, as well as possessing more resources and better central planning for the department.”

Collins said previously the departments of criminal justice and political science required students under each department to take courses in the other department.

He said taking courses from another area of study enriches the student’s understanding of their major.

“When we looked at the focus between the two areas, we saw some overlap between political science and criminal justice,” Burkhalter said.

Burkhalter said the students’ opinions are important to restructuring the department and its mission. She said the students wanted the name of the department to include “justice.”

“We went to students within the two departments and consulted them on what to name the department,” she said. “The students wanted a title that expressed the complexity of the overlap between the two areas and the concept of how justice bridges the gap between politics and law.”

She said the new name also reflects how the students believe the legal system works within global issues.

“Revisions and updates will be made to the course catalog to reflect the updated vision of the department,” she said. “We want to create a strong link to internships for students in the department.”

“I’m very excited about the combining of departments,” said junior Sarah Green. “I think that it will allow the students and staff to have a better learning environment.”