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New Criminal Justice Minor

The only program of its kind at a four-year CUNY college in Queens.

Professors Robin Harper, Jake Apkarian, and Michele Gregory, all of whom teach in the Behavioral Science Department, share their perspective on the power of York College’s Criminal Justice Minor.

What inspired adding a criminal justice minor to York’s academic offerings? 

Student demand: Essentially, students asked, and we delivered. Over the years we heard from students and administrators about offering a program in Criminal Justice due to the enormous interest in the field. It’s imperative that York students have the opportunity to study one of the fastest growing areas in the US. According to the American Sociological Association, the areas of expertise most requested in the national job bank for students graduating with sociology degrees include crime/deviance/law.

The field of criminology touches all of us although in different ways: from hearing about crime in the media, understanding the survivors and the perpetrators (some are both) of crime, to the workings of the criminal justice system and how it fosters inequality. Like all institutions, criminal justice is complex and includes political, social, and economic factors, not to mention how the institution is a key site for examining the intersection of race, ethnicity, gender identity, class, age, and sexuality. The criminal justice system, even accounting for reforms, will always be an important institution in the lives of New Yorkers, and for those across the US and the globe. This minor is also about opportunity and staying competitive by providing a program in an important growth area.

The Criminal Justice minor at York is the only program of its kind at a four-year CUNY college in Queens.  Furthermore, the minor is interdisciplinary, bringing together class offerings from all three programs in the Department of Behavioral Sciences: Political Science, Sociology, and Psychology. Levering the strengths of different disciplines offers students a unique opportunity to take part in a multidiscipline approach to the study of criminal justice.

Does this minor provide a complement to all majors? 

The Sociology major is only 30 credits, while the Political Science and Psychology majors are 43 and 46 credits respectively (and all three can be completed in three semesters with planning) leaving many students with the opportunity to declare a minor such as Criminal Justice. Furthermore, students majoring in these programs can add a Criminal Justice minor, offering exposure that they otherwise would not get through the majors alone. This also applies to students majoring in programs outside of these three areas, such as Business, or areas in the professional studies such as Social Work. Combining specialties from different areas can provide students with a unique experience, and one where they stand out as having multiple layers of practical knowledge. For students interested in pursuing careers in law or the public policy of crime control, the Criminal Justice minor will provide an intellectually challenging, vocationally relevant and contextually rich interdisciplinary foundation. This is a great way for students to strengthen their resumes.

What types of career paths are open to criminal justice minors?

This minor is ideal for students interested in careers in corrections, criminology, criminal justice reform, forensic psychology, cybersecurity, emergency services administration, forensic investigations, government, judicial administration, law, policing, program management, public policy, and social services. Right now, there is an effort to improve public safety in cities across the country. This means an expansion of services and interventions, including jobs in community violence prevention, police oversight, and legal advocacy.

It’s important that students experience how academic programs help them master valuable and transferrable job skills: critical analysis, nuanced reasoning, and persuasive written and verbal communication. Helping students acquire these competencies are some of the hallmarks of academic programs.

How does the program prepare students for the workforce?

This program provides a foundational understanding of leading criminal justice theories and research. Students will learn about how the entire criminal-legal system (e.g., policing, the courts, juvenile justice, jails and prisons) is interrelated and how it connects to other social structures including inequality, immigration, education, and politics. Students completing this minor will enter the workforce with a clear picture of how work in one part of the system relates to the whole. They will therefore be equipped with the skills to improve the individual experiences of those in the criminal-legal system and advocate for changes in policy. We’re particularly excited to have a criminal justice minor that’s guided by perspectives from political science, sociology and psychology. These disciplines help students understand the broader social and political dynamics that shape the criminal-legal system and empower them to advocate for reform.