Todd Hirsch, Pennsylvania Lodge #42, B.S. Criminal Justice student (expected graduation fall 2013)
Why did you decide to pursue a degree in criminal justice?
I attended another university for two years when I much was younger. I left the university prior to finishing my four-year degree and have regretted my decision ever since. I was lucky enough to eventually work for a police department that recognizes the value of education for their police officers and their community. The department/township I’m employed by pays the tuition for college-level courses for its officers to help them achieve their educational goals, up to a bachelor’s degree. This incentive has made it possible for me to finish my four-year degree in criminal justice.
Why did you choose this program?
I actually did a lot of research when I decided to finish my bachelor’s degree. First and foremost, the college or university I was going to attend had to be nationally accredited. I had heard many of the horror stories involving fraudulent online schools and diploma mills. If I was going back to school, it would be for a real education at a quality college or university. I was not interested in a scam or resume builder. I wanted the diploma which would eventually hang on my wall to actually mean something and to represent my hard work and commitment. I was also looking for a school that offered flexible online classes that were easy to access, mainly due to my hectic work and home schedules. I was eventually able to narrow down my possibilities to a few schools, Upper Iowa University being one of them. I contacted the university, and they spoke with me about my degree options. They also sent me detailed information about the university and made me feel like I was actually going to be a part of the student experience, even though I was going to be an online student. What helped clinch my decision in the end was the easy and affordable credit transfers from my two previous years of schooling and the discount UIU afforded me for being a member of the Fraternal Order of Police. No other school at the time offered such enticing incentives to police officers.
Describe your experience with online learning.
The main benefit for me to taking online courses is the flexibility. With online courses I am able to attend my classes on my schedule, not someone else’s. Since I am a police officer, this can be a real challenge sometimes. I also really like that I don’t have to physically attend a brick-and-mortar classroom. I am able to log into my courses from nearly any place at any time. Some of the challenges with online learning would be the lack of face-to-face interaction that occurs in a physical classroom, which really doesn’t exist in an online classroom. In addition, online courses may be a better fit for mature, self-disciplined students since no consistent set time, date or place exists for the student to attend a physical class.
Of the courses you’ve taken, what are some of your favorites and why?
My favorite courses were mostly courses that were from my major, such as Criminal Investigations, Juvenile Delinquency, Sociology of Policing, and Corrections and Punishment. These courses were not only very interesting and insightful, but they also helped me to expand my knowledge on the subjects. Prior to taking Juvenile Delinquency, for instance, I didn’t really think too much about the importance of rehabilitation for juvenile offenders. Now, I think it’s a very important responsibility of our juvenile justice system. If steps are not taken to rehabilitate juvenile offenders when they are young and pliable, then they are likely to reoffend and end up in the adult criminal justice system.
How do you expect that having this degree will benefit you?
By earning a degree in criminal justice I am proving that I have a strong desire to be a good police officer and also that I am helping to legitimize our profession. Since I am a police chief, earning my own degree will help me to emphasize the importance of educational goals and to encourage the other officers in my department.