The The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College is still home to the largest and fastest-growing criminal justice program in South Texas.
With more than 1,100 students enrolled in criminal justice courses, the program is producing an increasing number of individuals who protect borders, communities and make crime scenes reveal their secrets.
UTB/TSC offers courses, and instructors apply their first-hand experience in the classroom and lab, in one of the nation’s fastest-growing fields, forensic investigations.
“The department has changed immensely in the last 14 years,” said Dr. Susan Ritter, former department chair. “Years ago, we had a little more than 300 majors, and we now sit just under 1,000. We have added graduate courses for the MAIS (Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies) and now opportunities in Forensics Certificate.”
UTB/TSC is one of the few universities that teaches an undergraduate course in medical-legal forensics investigation.
“The program is ideal for science majors who might want to increase their skill set and consider careers working in crime labs or gradate training in forensic science,” said UTB/TSC Assistant Master Technical Instructor Michael Lytle. “Forensic investigation also appeals as a concentration to students in photography, communications, computer science, accounting, social work, psychology and nursing, all fields that have forensic components or sub-disciplines.”
This fall, the Department of Criminal Justice launched an institutional award, or certificate, and an associate degree in forensic investigation. The program is already attracting criminal justice majors also seeking their bachelor’s.
“The classes are very challenging,” said senior criminal justice major Jazmin Rangel. “Not only do you work with some of the newest technology and equipment in the field but also some of the best instructors.”
Although forensics has grown in popularity at universities around the country because of hit television dramas like “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” students say it is more fascinating than the 1 hour glimpse viewers get of the field.
“It is nothing like you see on TV,” junior Daisy Solis said. “It does revolve around that concept, but it is more intense than that. It is more detail and, believe it or not, a lot more interesting.”
In their courses, students learn skills such as fingerprint analysis, photography, crime scene analysis, collection of evidence, documentation and firearms evidence procedures and testing.
“The courses have a lot to offer students and different aspects of the field you could learn,” said senior Elvira Alvarado, a criminal justice major who is also working on her associate in forensics. “The classes are very hands on, and you are getting not only a feel for field experience, but you fully grasp the techniques.”
Since Texas Southmost College created a program in 1971 for students seeking a career in law enforcement, which was then called Law Enforcement Technology, the Department of Criminal Justice has gone from offering an associate degree to offering two bachelor’s degrees in police administration and correctional administration.
The program also links classroom concepts and practical experience through internships with 79 participating local law enforcement agencies, including juvenile and adult probation offices, the Texas Youth Commission and area police departments.
“I believe we have a first-rate faculty that is immensely skilled and educated and cares deeply about what they do,” Ritter said. “I think we offer our students an education comparable to the top schools in criminal justice.”
To learn more about this program, call David Gonzalez, academic adviser at (956) 882-7775 or e-mail email@example.com