Archives For College of Criminal Justice

Forensic science is under the popular-culture microscope, thanks to programs such as Law and Order, CSI, and NCIS playing on millions of television screens across the world. But long after the glow of Hollywood’s lights have dimmed and actors have returned to their trailers, an assistant professor in SHSU’s Department of Forensic Science is bringing the reality of forensic science to life in the online platform.

Dr. Jasmine DrakeAssistant Professor Jasmine Drake, Ph.D., a Louisiana native who came to SHSU by way of the Drug Enforcement Administration as a forensic chemist, developed and teaches an online Ethics and Professional Practice course to be used for the Minor in Forensic Science program. She says the concept and capabilities of online learning allow for instructors to impact a larger number of students in a global economy.

“Although an online platform may not be appropriate for particular courses in forensic science, such as those requiring the learning of lab-based concepts, there are many fundamental courses across various forensic science disciplines which can be effectively taught online,” she says. “One thing I enjoy the most about teaching online courses is that it gives me the opportunity to interact with and impact a larger group of students. Many of the students enrolled in my online course are non-traditional students who would not otherwise be able to attend the same courses in a traditional classroom setting.”

Additionally, the Department of Forensic Science offers an online “Introduction to Forensic Science” course, where instructors with experience as practitioners use their experience in the field, along with the technological capabilities of online learning, to deliver a stimulating and flexible learning environment for students.

Drake says when it came to developing the course, she utilized several technological applications with assistance from the CJ Online Instructional Design Team, including lecture materials, video content, web-based links, and audio recordings.

“I believe it is my responsibility as an online instructor to effectively deliver course materials and learning objectives in a fashion that would mirror the face-to-face instruction found in a traditional classroom setting,” she says. “One challenge to online teaching is achieving a sense of community, but I was able to address this challenge by integrating discussion topics and forums to increase the sharing of ideas and communication between individual students.”

​The minor in Forensic Science caters to criminal justice majors who have a general interest in forensics and intend to apply for graduate programs in forensic science or pursue investigative or forensic career paths.

Drake says students interested in pursuing online learning must take the time to understand their courses and plan their time appropriately to succeed.

“I think that technology is rapidly changing the face of education, and I would advise any students interested in pursuing an online education to be sure to keep an open line of communication with their professor to ensure they understand the learning objectives and specific rubrics for course assessment,” she says. “They should also pay very close attention to the course schedule and timelines for mastering concepts, since it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to manage their time in an online course, which is self-paced.”

For more information about SHSU’s Department of Forensic Science  or the Minor in Forensic Science, visit

2015-USNews-Web-Hero(NoSwoosh)-1940x746For the fourth straight year, Sam Houston State University has earned national recognition in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings of online education programs.

2014 was the first year that SHSU was invited to participate in the ranking process for Best Graduate Online Criminal Justice degree programs, and the university came in at #5 in the nation.  In the Student Services and Technology area of the ranking dimensions for this program, SHSU is second nationwide. The Student Engagement and Faculty Credentials and Training dimensions of the rankings also contributed to the program’s overall top-shelf ranking. And the new student retention rate for this program is 85 percent for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Another standout ranking for SHSU was in the Graduate Online Information Technology Program listing. Here the university notched a rank of #7, again with exceptional scores in Student Services and Technology, Student Engagement, and Faculty Credentials and Training. This program has earned similar high rankings in past years in the U.S. News & World Report listings. SHSU’s overall rank of #7 places the school in the top sixth, or top 16 percent, of all schools included in the ranking report for Graduate Online Information Technology Programs nationwide.

In the rankings of Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs, SHSU fell within the top 25 percent of all universities included in the survey. Similarly, in the Best Online MBA Programs rankings, the university’s rank is comfortably in the top third (31 percent) of all schools surveyed.

Bill Angrove, associate vice president for distance learning, says: “The #5 ranking of the Best Graduate Online Criminal Justice degree programs is especially rewarding to me as this is the first program to be put online after my arrival at SHSU Online in 2009. In helping to develop this program, I was honored to work closely with the former Dean of the College of Criminal Justice, Dr. Vincent Webb, and I am sure he is as thrilled as I am to receive this recognition. It’s also an honor to be recognized by U.S. News and World Report with high rankings for so many additional online degree programs.”

SHSU Online’s service plays a key role in the university’s placement regarding U.S. News & World Report’s “Student Services and Technology” indicator by providing student support and highly accessible technologies and services and strong support to its students.

U.S. News & World Report’s “Student Engagement” indicator measures the degree to which programs promote quality participation in courses, allow students opportunities to both readily interact with their instructors and fellow classmates similarly to a campus-based setting, and allow students to complete their degrees in a reasonable amount of time.

SHSU offers more than 35 fully online degree programs, including two doctoral programs, as well as 24 online certificate programs. For more information on any of SHSU’s online programs, visit

A complete listing of the U.S. News and World Report online rankings can be found at

shutterstock_71599324Sam Houston State University’s acclaimed College of Criminal Justice recently expanded their online programs to include a Master of Science in Homeland Security Studies degree and two online certificates, catering to the growing demand for professionals in the field.

The program utilizes a broad educational objective, including national security, cyber security, and emergency management, to develop graduates who can be leaders in the field in theoretical and experiential dimensions of security management.

Following the frenzied events of September 11, 2001, the scope of homeland security was redefined to include both the public and private sector to regulate responses to natural disasters, airborne illnesses, and terrorist attacks. The bridge between the sectors and the united front created a need for professionals prepared to face a multitude of threats.

The degree consists of 36 credit hours, and courses in the Master of Science in Homeland Security Studies include:

  • Intelligence and Counterintelligence in National Security
  • Global Terrorism
  • Security and the Future
  • Digital Forensics Investigation
  • And more

For working professionals seeking to explore online courses for the first time or to add a specialization to their skill set, the College also offers two graduate certificates: Emergency Management and Critical Infrastructure Protection.

Both certificates consist of 18 credit hours, allowing students to complete the program in one calendar year by enrolling in two courses per semester, and places graduates halfway to receiving their MS in Homeland Security Studies.

For more information about the online Master of Science in Homeland Security Studies, or the graduate certificates in Emergency Management and Critical Infrastructure Protection, visit

Life can be complicated. Between professional responsibilities, family commitments, and financial obligations, it can be hard to find time for anyone to chase their dreams. This reasoning was dismissed by Terri Allison, who returned to school to pursue an undergraduate degree through SHSU Online despite an abundance of commitments.

Allison, a mother of three and case manager for the Aggie Honor System Office at Texas A&M University, is pursuing an online B.S. in Criminal Justice to explore her passions and to be an example for her children.

“Part of it is the feeling that you have to finish what you start, and trying to impart to my kids you’re not always going to have a straightforward path; you’re not always going to graduate high school, do four years of college, and begin your career,” she says. “Letting them see that, even at my age, I could go back and I could get my degree is important.”

Allison’s family, daughters Tegan and Kristen, son Charlie, and husband Randal, have been an essential support system for her online education, but a promise made to her stepfather, Don Wood, remains in the forefront of her mind years after his passing.

“My stepfather was dyslexic at a time when no one really knew how to treat the disease, so he dropped out of high school at 17; three days after his 18th birthday, he was at Pearl Harbor when the attack happened,” she says. “He never did any college credit, and that was why it was so important for all of his children to get their degree. I promised him I’d get my bachelor’s completed eventually, and he said ‘Don’t let it get away from you.’”

Allison was pursuing her Associate in Applied Science degree in Paralegal Studies at Blinn College at the time of his passing.

When it came to finding the right fit for her personal life and professional aspirations, she says SHSU was the clear choice for her.

“I looked at a lot of schools, and Sam Houston State University has by far the best reputation for criminal justice. It really dovetails with my paralegal background,” she says. “After taking one of my first classes, Corrections, I definitely knew this was for me. It’s a perfect setup. SHSU has everything I want right there.”

With an expected graduation term of Spring 2016, Allison says the journey that has taken her to this point gives her the conviction to succeed and continue to develop personally and professionally.

“I’ve been at my job for more than 20 years, and I could easily stay with my current job and retire comfortably, but that’s not where my passion lies,” she says. “I want to do more and give back to those who helped me. I want to continue my education for a Masters in Mediation and then work in Restorative Justice, a field I like and a field that’s changing. I want to be part of those changes.”

Sam Houston State University’s College of Criminal Justice has been an innovator in criminal justice education since 1963, and their online BA in Criminal Justice and online BS in Criminal Justice degrees offer students the convenience of an online program with the prestige that accompanies a degree from SHSU’s College of Criminal Justice.

The college takes great strides to ensure the online BA in Criminal Justice and online BS in Criminal Justice degrees provide students with the same quality education and professional benefits students attending class on campus receive.


Kathy Latz, Clinical Assistant Professor

“Our online degree programs provide students with the same quality of instruction as our brick and mortar campuses,” says Dr. Kathy Latz, clinical assistant professor in the Masters of Victim Services Management program. “Distance learning is ideal for non-traditional students, including working professionals interested in pursuing a new career in the comfort of their own homes and at times that accommodate their busy schedules.”

Whereas the online BA in Criminal Justice and online BS in Criminal Justice degrees host the same core curriculum, the difference in degree specific requirements are catered to the student’s interests. The online BA in Criminal Justice degree requires 14 hours of foreign language hours, while the online BS in Criminal Justice degree requires specific tracks in philosophy and psychology.


David C. Pyrooz, Assistant Professor

David C. Pyrooz, Ph.D, assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, says online courses also provide students with the ability to cater to their learning strengths.

“One of the best features of online courses is flexibility—whether I am teaching criminological theory, research methods, or my special topics, gangs, I ensure students can advance at their own pace,” he says. “This is important for students because they learn concepts, read the materials, and take tests at different speeds.”

Pyrooz says his online students are able to receive a quality education within their time constraints and at their own pace, allowing for an enjoyable learning experience.

“Such flexibility is not possible in the classroom, which is the primary difference between the courses I teach in person and the courses I teach online,” he says. “Regardless of the devices students use to complete their assignments, or the location where students complete their assignments, this flexibility is advantageous to students to create a positive learning environment.”

Visit to find out more about their online BA in Criminal Justice and online BS in Criminal Justice degrees offered through SHSU Online, and see how you can get started today!

View a “Profiles Series” television segment about the services and philosophy of SHSU Online. The program, featuring Larry King, recently aired on The Discovery Channel.

Victim-Services-Management-SHSUThe College of Criminal Justice is launching an online Master of Sciences program in Victim Services Management this fall, “the first program of its kind to be offered in the nation,” said Dr. Cortney Franklin, chair of the Victim Services Management program committee.

“We are so excited about the prospect of equipping victim service providers with the scientific tools and practical skills needed to effectively interface with victims of crime,” said Dr. Franklin. “As it currently stands, a limited number of quality graduate programs offer a certificate in victimology, but students are only taking one or two courses that focus on these important issues. Our program provides graduates with necessary criminal justice systems exposure and then focuses extensively on victimology, victim service provision, advocacy and advanced topics in the study of crime victimization. These include elder abuse, child maltreatment, violence against women, and human sex trafficking.

“Master’s courses are taught by a core group of faculty with more than three decades of collective teaching and advocacy experience. As a result, our graduates will complete the program with more advanced knowledge of crime victimization and strategies for effective practical intervention and benefit from the resources our faculty can provide. This ultimately enhances their marketability and benefits crime victims.”

Graduates who complete the Master of Sciences degree in Victim Services Management will be prepared to work with victims through direct services, organizational management and social policy development for such programs as rape crisis centers, child advocacy centers, or other victim service agencies. Additionally, victim advocates in municipal law enforcement agencies or prosecutor’s offices would be appropriate candidates for the degree.

Delivered exclusively online through two 15-week courses per semester, the program can be completed in two years. Courses also prepare graduates for writing state and federal grants, evaluating advocacy program effectiveness, and critical consumption of relevant information including government reports and scientific studies.


Dr. Cortney Franklin

“Because this degree is tailored to victim advocates and the like, candidates are uniquely positioned for financial support,” said Dr. Franklin. “The Women’s Independence Scholarship Program ( offers scholarships for survivors and existing victim advocates. Students can also compete for University scholarships after their first semester.”

The program combines scientific research, theory, and evidence-based practices with practical application in the field. The class sequencing culminates with a capstone course, which examines the coordination of victim services among both government and advocacy organizations, like law enforcement, medical service professionals, mental health service providers, and advocates in rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters.

“First-responders often face significant challenges in providing victim-centered services because each organizational representative has institutional priorities that may be at odds with other key players and not always be focused on the victim,” Dr. Franklin said. “Consequently, advocates become frustrated and victims suffer. This capstone course prepares graduates for dealing with these situations and for effectively managing multiple, often competing interests. Graduates complete the program with versatile skills and victims can benefit from that investment.”

To be considered for admission, applicants must complete the graduate school application and submit their GRE scores, official degree transcripts, personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and most recent resume. “In vetting candidates for admission in this way, we are upholding the academic integrity of a program that is being offered by a department ranked among the top four in the nation,” said Dr. Franklin. “We are eager to harness that scholarly excellence in educating existing and future victim advocacy professionals to enhance victim-centered responses.”

The Department of History at Sam Houston State University offers an online Master of Arts in History degree that connects students’ passion for historical events with the convenience of modern-day technology.

SHSU Online Master of Arts in History

Given the flexibility of pursuing an online degree, the faculty of the Department of History established an online master’s degree with the academic credibility of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the ability to follow a range of interests as it relates to the professional ambitions of an individual student’s interests.

“All of our instructors for the online program are resident faculty at Sam Houston State University and hold a Ph.D. in their respective fields, which we feel is important,” says Dr. Jeffrey Littlejohn, associate professor of history. “We also pride ourselves on the flexibility of our program with thesis-track and non-thesis track degrees; no matter what a student wants, we can fit a program to their needs.”

The online graduate degree is presented to students in three different plans, depending on individual student preference.

  • Plan 1 Designed for students wishing to conduct a thesis.
  • Plan 2  Designed for students preferring all coursework to be in History.
  • Plan 3  Designed for students seeking preparation in history as the major field and in a logically-related minor field.

The department is currently working with approximately 100 online students pursuing their graduate degree in History, and Dr. Littlejohn recently collaborated with students to publish a book entitled Historic Walker County: The Story of Huntsville & Walker County, a comprehensive recount of the development of Walker County dating back to the through the 20th Century.

Dr. Littlejohn says the potential for students enrolled in the online master’s program is limited only by their professional ambitions.

“Our program is one where you can study and succeed in many different professional endeavors, and students benefit greatly from the flexibility of the program as it relates to their area of interest.”

Visit to find out more about the Master of Arts in History offered through SHSU Online, and see what you can do to get started today!

The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice program at SHSU fosters the growth and professional development of students as they develop advanced knowledge in criminal justice and criminology.

The College of Criminal Justice, one of the largest and most prestigious criminal justice programs in the nation, offers a wealth of information from professors who helped shape criminal justice research.

SHSU Online Program Spotlight: Online MS in Criminal Justice

“Now more than ever, the field of criminal justice recognizes the need for a well-educated workforce, and that is exactly the type of high quality education we will provide through our graduate programs here at Sam Houston State University.”

– Dr. Gaylene Armstrong

“We have a top-ranked program nationally and internationally, as the result of an engaged faculty who have a worldwide reputation for excellence in the field of criminal justice,” says Dr. Gaylene Armstrong, Associate Professor and Director of CJ Graduate Programs for the College of Criminal Justice. “We are setting a higher standard for educating the criminal justice workforce in the United States by offering challenging and cutting edge coursework as the field of criminal justice continues to evolve.”

The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice degree consists of 36 credit hours of coursework that prepares students to flourish in a variety of criminal justice administration positions, including organizational management and social policy.

Through the quality programming offered by the college and strong faculty relationships with local, state, and national criminal justice agencies, graduates have secured well-respected positions throughout the country.  SHSU graduates from the College of Criminal Justice have gone on to become judges, chief probation officers, police administrators, victim advocates, federal law enforcement agents, and more.

The college continues to build relationships with law enforcement agencies across the world— providing first-class research and resources to assist in advancing knowledge in the field.

“This is an exciting time for criminal justice students because criminal justice agency officials, legislators, and researchers all recognize the importance of translating evidence-based research into practice to affect positive change in our society,” emphasized Dr. Armstrong. “Now more than ever, the field of criminal justice recognizes the need for a well-educated workforce, and that is exactly the type of high quality education we will provide through our graduate programs here at Sam Houston State University.”

Visit to find out more about the Master of Science in Criminal Justice offered through SHSU Online, and see what you can do to get started today!

Rebecca Cunio (Courtesy of William Betancourt, Tyler, TX)

After talking for two hours about ongoing sexual abuse at the trusted hands of her stepfather, a precious seven-year old girl handed Forensic Interviewer Rebecca Cunio a drawing of a large heart encircled by smaller ones. It read “I love you for what you do.” For Cunio, it was a defining moment in her career.“

Rebecca Cunio, an online Masters student at SHSU, is a forensic interviewer for the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) for Anderson and Cherokee counties. The center is one of 64 CAC’s in the state of Texas, and among 700 others across the country that provide a single place where children alleged to have been abused or neglected are interviewed for criminal cases and civil actions by Child Protective Services. As a forensic interviewer, Cunio conducts forensic interviews with children at the request of law enforcement and/or Child Protective Services.

Read Rebecca’s story at SHSU’s College of Criminal Justice blog!

No matter the time, date, or location, SHSU Online offers students the ability to pursue their educational goals through the College of Criminal Justice.

Tess Johnson, marketing coordinator for the College of Criminal Justice, says the college has put an emphasis on the quality of their online degree programs with the support of their nationally recognized faculty.

“I think our courses are very interactive, and our faculty is comprised of professionals who are experts in their field and bring a great deal of real-world experience,” she says.  “The courses are dynamic, and we have faculty who provide lectures and videos into the online classroom and make the most of technology.” Continue Reading…