Andy Wattenbarger crossed the Conn Center stage, making him the first graduate of Lee University’s recently established online criminal justice program.
“We’re excited about the new criminal justice program and thrilled to see our first graduate this summer,” said Dr. Matthew Melton, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The program was one of those things we talked about for years, but it just wasn’t within our reach. Now that we have been able to offer it, we’re hopeful that law enforcement and other interested community members will be eager to take a look.”
Mr. Wattenbarger, a Cleveland native and detective with the Cleveland Police Department, plans to continue his education by pursing a master’s degree from Faulkner University. Eventually, he hopes to return to Lee to teach.
“I am excited to be the first criminal justice graduate and hope there are many more to follow,” said Mr. Wattenbarger. “My time at Lee has been very good and will be a measuring stick for future academic pursuits.”
Lee Online launched its criminal justice program in May of 2017, in cooperation with Lee’s Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences. The program was designed with working adults in mind, specifically those looking to begin, extend, or expand their law enforcement careers or pursue future graduate study. Criminal justice degrees are in high demand across the country and according to a 2010 study of the American Sociological Association that demand is forecast to increase in the coming decades.
“The complexity of our 21st century society presents challenges which require us to develop new programs to meet the needs of our students,” said Dr. Jeff Sargent, chair of the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences. “We are happy to partner with Lee’s Division of Adult Learning to provide a quality criminal justice program that equips our students with the necessary tools to meet the needs of our community.”
The program offers a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science track with a choice of two emphases: corrections or criminology/juvenile justice. The academic degree is an extension of Lee’s sociology program and the dream of Associate Professor of Sociology Dr. Arlie Tagayuna.
“It is my hope that as the program moves forward in the coming years, we will continue to faithfully educate our students in the liberals arts and equip them with the basic skills necessary for social change,” said Dr. Tagayuna. “The behavioral and social sciences department will provide our expertise and services to students out there who are searching for an innovative criminal justice program that incorporates both their faith and evidence-based learning in order to preserve peace and justice in the ever changing world.”
The 120-hour degree consists of the school’s general education core, religion core, specialty area with selected emphasis, and electives selected by the student.
Local partnerships have been established with the Cleveland Police Department and the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office to offer a local, faith-based alternative for many officers looking to complete their undergraduate degree. The program is designed for both the brand new student and the transfer who may be bringing with him/her a completed associate’s degree.
For more information, contact the Division of Adult Learning at 614-8370 or visit https://www.leeuniversity.edu/adult-learning/degrees.aspx.