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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Department of Criminal Justice's online masters degree program receives high ranking

GetEducated.com, an organization that evaluates online degree programs offered by universities and colleges, has ranked New Mexico State University's Department of Criminal Justice the fifth-best program for its "Online Master's Degrees for Criminal Justice, Legal Studies."

Cornell, Indiana and Auburn universities are among the other institutions of higher learning that have earned high rankings by the organization.

"This award reflects the excellence of the criminal justice program at NMSU and the university's efforts to extend its service mission to potential students in the form of low tuition," said Peter Gregware, associate dean of academics for the College of Arts and Sciences. He cited the Western Intercollegiate Conference on Higher Education's selection of NMSU's criminal justice program as its designated Graduate Degree Program in Criminal Justice.

"Thus, any student in the 20 western states who are part of this conference can go to our program for in-state tuition," Gregware said. "We have the only CJ program in these states to receive this designation."

The award could help the rapidly growing department in its future development, said James Maupin, academic head of the Department of Criminal Justice.

"The department would like to participate in anticipated growth in the greater Albuquerque area, make more opportunities for reservation and pueblo communities and contemplate the development of a Ph.D. program for the main campus," he said.

All university departments are working on expanding their distance education offerings, but this is especially important for the Department of Criminal Justice because of its overcrowded classrooms. In the 2006 fall semester, 607 undergraduates and 90 graduate students declared criminal justice as their major, Maupin said, attributing the rapidly growing interest in criminal justice studies to several factors.

"The faculty has an inside joke that our best recruiting tool is the ongoing presence of popular television crime dramas, as well as some additional assistance from the film industry," Maupin said. "I'm sure this factor is a significant one, as many student inquiries often refer to the professional status associated with some of these programs and films."

Maupin said two other factors contributing to the growing interest in criminal justice studies are the tragedy of 9/11 that "resulted in the cultivation among many in the population of the social value of service on behalf of others" and the continued expansion of the crime and justice industry.

A fourth factor contributing to the expansion of the program is the department's strong national reputation, he said.

"Much of the department's phenomenal growth is directly linked to the quality of education students experience, a definite recognition of the quality, hard work and dedication of the faculty developing and teaching our curriculum," Maupin said.

He credited Gregware for his "foresight in recognizing the educational value of providing this opportunity to students across the region, country and globe and for playing an instrumental role in building the structural framework necessary to expand our distance education program." He also thanked NMSU's Information and Communication Technologies for its training and support.

Gregware said the department's growth is spurred by the offering of about one-fourth of its classes via the Internet and its mix of academic and applied classes that give the students internship opportunities around the country.

"This not only enhances our land grant mission, but serves as excellent role modeling for our students," Gregware said.

Bob Nosbisch
Dec. 21, 2006