Mount Mercy was one of these first programs. Criminal justice at Mount Mercy developed as an academic discipline designed to provide students with a thorough understanding of the criminal justice system, including policing, law, and corrections, and an understanding of how these complex and interrelated systems relate to the total society.
Criminal justice began as an "interdisciplinary" endeavor, drawing upon various academic disciplines (e.g., political science, psychology, law, sociology, etc.) In recent years, however, the study of criminal justice has emerged as a field of its own. In the study of criminal justice, there is a strong emphasis on the relationships between theory, research, and policy. Modern criminal justice programs focus on decision making that is based upon evidence and research--discovering and implementing policies that actually work!
While many two-year junior/community/technical colleges tend to stress the "practical" side of criminal justice, baccalaureate (four-year) programs typically place more emphasis on the liberal arts tradition. While some view the field of criminal justice as "applied," most baccalaureate-granting institutions place more emphasis on critical thinking skills and the ability to "learn how to learn." This is particularly important as criminal justice agencies increasingly seek applicants who can learn new information quickly and process this information in a critical manner.
Finally, unlike many other institutions, the criminal justice major at Mount Mercy leads to a Bachelor of Arts degree. Although there is often no clear distinction between the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science degrees, most institutions view the Bachelor of Science degree as more "applied" or "professional" (e.g., a nursing major typically falls under the Bachelor of Science degree, which is "applied" to a specific field/profession.) The fact that the criminal justice major at Mount Mercy leads to a Bachelor of Arts degree means that it is not considered to be an "applied" major, but rather a broader area of study and preparation for life-long learning.