Two Majors Seeing Major Growth at Scranton

The number of incoming students declaring a major in history and in criminal justice has tripled in the past three years.
Criminal justice and history majors at Scranton have increased in the past three years.
Criminal justice and history majors at Scranton have increased in the past three years.

Two majors at Scranton – criminal justice and history – have seen the number of incoming students triple in the past three years for the same reasons: cogent explanations of career employment opportunities following graduation; having an engaging faculty and providing appealing courses.

“Parents want to see routes to employment and they have heard about new technology-based programs in criminal justice,” said James Roberts, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Sociology, Criminal Justice and Criminology. “We are still just as good as we have always been with the traditional criminal justice career areas of police, courts and corrections. We have been blessed to build off what we already had into new areas of crime analysis. Police departments and private sector firms are recruiting for positions in cyber security and crime analysis and the salaries are quite good – some start in the range of $70,000 or $80,000.”

The number of incoming Scranton students declaring a major in criminal justice increased from 13 in 2017-18 to 39 in 2019-20.

The increase in history majors at Scranton is bucking the national trend. According to surveys by the American Historical Association, overall enrollments in history courses have declined by nearly 8 percent from 2013-14 to 2016-17, before stabilizing. Scranton has seen the number of incoming students declaring history as their first major rise from a low of 5 in 2017-18 to 16 in 2019-20. The total number of history majors, which includes those who have changed their major as well those who declare history as a second major, also increased from 48 to 62 during the same period.

David J. Dzurec III, Ph.D., professor and chair of the History Department at Scranton, said parents often ask what their son and daughter can do with a degree in history and are “dubious” when he tells them “anything they want.” However, he then provides them with examples of recent graduates who have gone onto to medical school, business and consulting firms in addition to all of the graduates who have gone to law school. The concrete examples of success in a wide range of fields win over many of the skeptical parents.

According to Dr. Dzurec, another factor contributing to the increase is the department’s enrollment is the “exceptional faculty” who he noted are accessible and “engaged with our students.” The University’s Jesuit education requires all students to take courses in the humanities, which “allows us access to students, and when we get them in the classroom they really begin to understand how much fun history can be,” said Dr. Dzurec. “So even if a student doesn’t come in as a history major, by the time that class graduates, the number of history majors has grown exponentially.”

Dr. Roberts also credits the faculty for the growth of the major. Their expertise allowed for the development of new content in the areas of cybercrime and crime analysis. The department opened in 2017 the Center for the Analysis and Prevention of Crime, which provides a vehicle for developing partnerships with local and regional criminal justice and social service agencies to use faculty expertise and state-of-the-art technology and techniques for the sophisticated analysis of data to more efficiently utilize resources or to evaluate of the effectiveness of programming. The center also offers a Student Analyst Program, which allows students to work directly with criminal justice agencies and faculty on research, data collection and analysis.

“Our faculty are highly trained, professionally active, publishing and are at the top of their fields. All are doing research and taking students under their wings, giving them practical experience as undergraduates through the center,” said Dr. Roberts.

Dr. Dzurec and Dr. Roberts also credited new courses for an increase in interest in their fields. Criminal justice developed new courses crime analysis and cybercrime. Travel courses to Italy, Germany and England offered in history have been very popular, as has an “Indigenous Peoples of America” course that took students to the Navajo nation in Arizona. Also popular is a “Disney’s American History” course that examines the accuracy of Disney movie portrayals of historical figures and concludes with a trip to Disney World in Florida.

In addition, both say Scranton’s recent 3+3 programs with Boston College, Duquesne, Penn State and Villanova law schools have interested students who wish to pursue law degrees after graduation. They also credit the support their departments have received from the University as a contributing factor as well.

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