Our Criminal Justice Program is one of WCU's largest, with residential or online options. The online Emergency and Disaster Management Program is rated as one of the best online emergency management programs by BestColleges.com. The Emergency and Disaster Management Program is also offered as a residential major and minor. Each program of study brings together theory and hands-on practice through the curriculum, internships, independent studies, and student-faculty interaction, a hallmark of our department.
The goal of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice is to provide students with a strong interdisciplinary foundation. Graduates are prepared to respond appropriately and ethically in challenging “real world” situations as they move on to careers in criminal justice, emergency and disaster management or for further education.
In conjunction with the goals of the University, the College, and the Department, our programs are based on the philosophy of a liberal arts education, grounded in social science methodologies.
Our curriculum emphasizes the interdependence of theory and practice in addressing "real world problems." Our emphasis on application guided by scholarship provides a strong, interdisciplinary foundation for future criminal justice and emergency and disaster management professionals.
The focus for undergraduate students is to achieve mastery of fundamental academic competencies and a basic level of expertise in the fields of criminal justice and emergency and disaster management.
The faculty are committed to provide high-quality education in criminal justice, emergency and disaster management, and criminology to our majors, other students across the University, and to the professional community.
Western Carolina University's Criminology and Criminal Justice Program is ranked among the 40 top criminal justice programs in the country. According to the website, UNIVERSITYHQ, WCU's Criminology and Criminal Justice Program is ranked at #25. The program's many course offerings in residential and online formats and its association with the top-ranked Emergency and Disaster Management Program as a dual major or minor propelled the program to this auspicious ranking.
After graduating with a degree in Criminal Justice, Lara was accepted into the Masters of Social Work program at WCU. She works with the WCU Police Department in the Community Care program as a liasion between officers and students. When officers identify students who they think might benefit from Community Care's services, they make a referral to the liasion, who connects students with services. Lara describes her work saying, "I hope this program will make an impact on the campus community by developing more trust with law enforcement, reduce the risk of trauma, and promote de-escalation and pre-crisis intervention."
Matthew is a current student double majoring in Criminal Justice and Sociology He recently participated in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates, in which he delved deeply into the economic consequences of mass shootings. After working with an interdisciplinary team to complete the project and deliver their findings, Matthew states, "This project and its subsequent presentation gave us the opportunity to perform multiple steps in the research process such as literature reviews, data collection, and analysis. The support of WCU's Criminology and Criminal Justice Department in the application process was invaluable and helped me get the most out of the experience."
Alison Pohlman is a Criminal Justice and Emergency and Disaster Management major at WCU. She completed a summer internship with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department. During this internship, she gained insight into the police academy, participated in ride-alongs with patrol officers, and deepened her knowledge of the criminal justice field. She says, "We were able to learn a lot about community service, police training and positions, and other jobs within the criminal justice field. This experience was so valuable because it really opened my eyes to how big the criminal justice field is and how many great positions are open to help me serve my community."
Matthew is a senior majoring in Emergency and Disaster Management. He completed his summer internship with National Emergency Management and Response in San Antonio, Texas. There he had the rare opportunity to collaborate with dozens of teams within multiple sections of Emergency Management supporting over a dozen active missions worldwide. Matthew rotated through various positions in the Operations, Logistics, Planning, and Finance sections during his three-month internship, even attending frequest meetings with the Incident Commanders.
Adam is a senior studying Criminal Justice and Emergency and Disaster Management at WCU. He received his Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) through the WCU partnership with Southwestern Community College (SCC). Since completing the BLET program, he has begun working part time with the WCU Police Department while he works toward graduation. Of his experience working with the WCU Police Department, "Since my time working with them, I have learned a lot and hope to start full-time after I graduate WCU."
Sarah Tisinger is an Emergency and Disaster Management major. She recently completed a summer internship with The University Of North Carolina System's Marian Drane Graham Scholars Initiative. Following her junior year, she was selected as one of four students to engage in this program. In this internship, she serviced North Carolina's Department of Public Instruction by conducting research on the mental wellness of Special Education students in the K-12 system prior to, during, and following a disaster. She networked extensively, even travelling to Washington D.C. to conduct interviews with a diverse panel of North Carolina representatives. Of her experience, she says, "The most valuable part of this experience was representing WCU and promoting emergency management practices among educational networks."
Our faculty have a wide range of expertise, experience, and interests. Recognized nationally for their research, these faculty members’ practical knowledge has been developed on the front lines of the criminal justice system in courtrooms, prisons, juvenile centers, and on the streets.
Assistant Department Head
Criminology and Criminal Justice, Director of the Administration of Justice Program
Criminology and Criminal Justice, 2020-2021 Visiting Scholar