Criminology gains popularity

Eighty-four students are criminology majors this year, a big leap since the major started in 2008 with nine students. Criminology is now tied with health promotion as the seventh most popular major on campus.

Dr. Kim McCabe, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, launched the criminology major. She said a variety of factors make it attractive. “I think the fact that so much of the media’s focus is on crime and crime-fighting shows certainly helps,” she said.

Dan Murphy, instructor in sociology and a former police officer, says students are interested because they realize there are a lot of varied job opportunities in the field. Students agree.

“A criminology major can take you anywhere within the criminal justice field,” said Amber Read ’13. “There are so many options for employment that range from being a police officer to a consumer advocate to an attorney. With that comes an overwhelming opportunity for advancement, regardless of which employment path you take.”

Amber said she will be ready to work after college. “The criminology department does a phenomenal job of finding internship and study abroad opportunities for its students,” she said. “This experience will provide me with an insider’s background and something extra to boost my resume when I apply for various positions or graduate schools after completing my undergrad here at LC.

“My ultimate dream job is to become a sex crimes investigator within a police department,” she said. “I am genuinely interested in why people commit the crimes that they do, as well as how those crimes influence society.”

Students get an inside perspective from guest speakers, like Kenneth Morris (left), a criminal profiler for the Virginia State Police, who recently visited Murphy’s class. Morris asked how many students watched Criminal Minds on TV. “That’s what I do for a living,” he said. Morris said his job was to look at behavior at a crime scene to try to understand the type of personality of the perpetrator. Criminals fall on a spectrum from disorganized to organized, which helps define their personality traits. He gave students real-world glimpses into crime scenes he has investigated and clues left behind to help identify the killer.

Patrice Gibson ’14 said TV show like Criminal Minds got her hooked on crime. “During my years in middle school, I began to develop a passion for the world of crime and everything that went a long with it,” she said. “Any television show I watched and any book I read had some sort of crime element to it. … I specifically chose the program at LC because of the variety of classes I would be able to take, the staff of professors that the major offered, and the activities beyond the classroom, such as the comparative criminology study abroad.”

Joshua Sanborn ’15 said his formative years also convinced him to major in criminology. “I have wanted to be in law enforcement since the seventh grade,” he said. “In New York, I would see drugs passed back and forth, vandalism and violence, and theft, and I couldn’t stand to see them get away with it. I want to make a difference in the community.”

Elizabeth Dick’ 12 has the same commitment. She currently works full time as a pharmacy technician at CVS, and her goal is to join the state police and become an investigator of forged prescriptions and rogue doctors. “I am a criminology major because I want to make a difference for my country by enforcing the law and providing justice,” she said.

You might also be interested in this story in The Critograph about a grisly (fake) murder at LC.