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Interview: Edward J. Latessa, Professor & Division Head, University of Cincinnati Division of Criminal Justice

Edward J. Latessa, Professor and Division Head at University of Cincinnati Divison of Criminal Justice.

Tell us about the distance learning Criminal Justice programs offered at University of Cincinnati.

UC began its online master's program in criminal justice in 2001. This program is designed for working professionals; students take two courses per term, back-to-back so that they can focus on one class at a time, and complete the program in two years.

A new one-year accelerated online program began in Fall 2007. This option enables highly-motivated students to take four courses per term and complete the program in half the time. It is intended for students who do not plan to work full-time while completing the program.

Both programs use the same curriculum: 16 courses covering theory, administration and policy, research, and special topics. Within the curriculum, students select four elective seminars, ranging from White-Collar Crime to Community Corrections. They also complete a demonstration research project, which serves as a capstone experience.

What would you say makes University of Cincinnati Criminal Justice programs different and better than other comparable online programs?

The reputation of the program sets us apart from others. The University of Cincinnati's Division of Criminal Justice is one of the premier criminal justice schools in the world, currently ranked #3 among all Ph.D.-granting criminal justice universities by U.S. News & World Report. No other top-10 criminal justice school has a fully-online program. Additionally, our faculty are #1 among criminal justice faculty in publication of research, according to a study in The Journal of Criminal Justice.

How important would you say accreditation is when choosing an online college?

Accreditation is a critical consideration when researching and selecting any higher education program, whether online or on campus. Regional accreditation is the most widely-accepted form of institutional accreditation, and our admission standards reflect this fact. An applicant to any graduate program at the University of Cincinnati must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally-accredited institution. The key here is that accreditation ensures standards. Universities, employers, and students recognize the value of regional accreditation.

There is some debate as to whether or not online degrees are as worthwhile as traditional degrees. What steps does University of Cincinnati take to ensure that online students are receiving the same education that they'd receive in a classroom?

Most importantly, our on-campus and online programs have the same faculty. Some programs hire adjunct professors to teach online students, while their full-time faculty teach campus students. Because UC's faculty teach in both programs, they ensure that the educational experience is comparable.

UC is committed to ensuring that online and on-campus students experience the same learning outcomes. In fact, the degree earned online is identical to the degree earned on-campus, and every year we welcome online students to our graduation ceremonies. For most distance learning students, graduation is the first time they visit the UC campus. But their connections to their fellow students, facilitators, faculty, and support staff during the program are as substantial as their on-campus counterparts.

What would you say are some of the benefits of earning a degree online rather than in a traditional classroom?

Results from surveys of our students indicate that the three most important benefits of UC's online MCJ program are flexible scheduling, the prestige of the institution, and the length of the program. The Blackboard learning management system enables students to interact with classmates, facilitators, and faculty at any time. We have students in every U.S. time zone, and even some living abroad, and the learning platform ensures that they can balance their studies with their work and personal responsibilities.

Additionally, UC's reputation as a leader in applied research in criminology and corrections helps students and graduates to open doors to new professional opportunities. And the flexibility of one- and two-year options enable students to achieve their educational goals while balancing personal and professional responsibilities.

Does University of Cincinnati offer any job placement services to your students and graduates?

The two-year program is designed for working professionals, most of whom already work in some capacity in criminal justice or protective services fields. UC does not provide formal job placement services for students in their distance learning programs. But it is worth noting that the programs provide opportunities to network with peers, facilitators, and faculty. And the university's reputation in criminal justice is also a strong "door-opener" for graduates seeking to change jobs or enter a new field.

Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

The program is eligible for all forms of Title IV federal financial aid, including the Federal Stafford Loan and Perkins Loan. The program cost is reasonable, so federal loan programs usually cover students' program costs. Many of our students also receive tuition reimbursement from their employers.

Do you have any advice for students enrolling in online classes for the first time?

It is important for students to understand that graduate-level work, in any program, should focus on honing students' critical thinking skills. So it can be very different from undergraduate work. Along with critical thinking skills, students should be prepared to hone their writing skills.

One additional piece of advice for online students is to look for opportunities to apply your newly-acquired knowledge in your workplace. Students note that they often learned a new concept or framework over the weekend and used it to solve problems in their jobs the next week.

What do you enjoy most about your position in the University of Cincinnati?

I enjoy working with students, both in the campus and online programs, and continuing my research. My staff and I have assessed over 450 correctional programs at facilities across the country, which enables me to bridge the gap between theory and practice. We have a robust doctoral program on campus as well, and it is good to watch our graduates earn teaching appointments at other institutions. So I enjoy the variety of my work.

To request more information on this Criminal Justice program at University of Cincinnati, go here to visit them online.

Thank you Edward, for sharing and participating in this piece for Online Degrees 2.0

That concludes our interview!

About Edward J. Latessa
Edward J. Latessa, PhD, is Professor and Division Head for the Division of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Latessa has published over 110 works in the area of criminal justice, corrections, and juvenile justice. He is co-author of seven books, including Corrections in the Community, which is now in its fourth edition, and Corrections in America which is in its 11th edition.. Dr. Latessa teaches the Corrections in the Community course online and on campus.

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