Alumni Magazine

FAL-WIN 2016

The alumni magazine for Franklin Pierce University.

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Challenging Students to Think Differently About Race Franklin Pierce's Criminal Justice Major Tackles Real-Life Issues W hile events in the country in recent months have prompt- ed serious discussions about race relations, students in Franklin Pierce's Criminal Justice program have been talking about the subject in class for years. Electives such as "Gender, Race and Crime" and courses such as "Race and Ethnic Relations" (which all Pierce students take) make the topic front and center, according to Associate Professor of Criminal Jus- tice Jean Dawson, the division chair of the Department of Sociology and Behavioral Sciences, which houses the Criminal Justice program. "You can't talk about police work and law enforcement without dis- cussing race," says Dawson, who has been teaching in the program since 2008. "We really challenge our stu- dents to think about race, to get them to recognize the social dynamics regarding diverse cultures and societ- ies, and to have a better understand- ing of other people's perceptions." The Criminal Justice concentration, launched by Professor Forbes Farmer, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this fall. It has become the University's third most popular major, trailing business and health-related fields. Over the years, offerings have grown to include minors such as intelligence and security studies that deal with what Dawson calls the underpinnings of terrorism. The earlier classes were comprised of men, but Dawson says about 40 percent of today's students are women, and the school continues to recruit more students of color. Dawson and her colleagues urge students to think about other cultures from a broader perspective. Bringing students to jails to talk with inmates and into the courts to meet judges and experience trials provide real-life examples of what it is like to be a police officer, operate within the judicial system, or work at a prison. "Students generally aren't exposed to issues on race in high school, so we start talking with them when they first arrive on campus and give them the history of race rela- tions," she says, noting that she uses statistics to dispel perceptions that crime is high and that most criminals are black. Dawson says a strong networking connection between students and graduates has been established, often leading to internships and eventually jobs as an inspector general in a foren- sics lab, a Navy Judge Advocate Gener- al (JAG), and with the Secret Service, Homeland Security, and CIA. It's not unusual for an alumnus to speak on campus, like Michael Chatman '79 did this past April, when he discussed his former career as an FBI agent and his current role as director of security for the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder. — John Shaw YOU CAN'T TALK ABOUT POLICE WORK AND LAW ENFORCEMENT WITHOUT DISCUSSING RACE. — JEAN DAWSON 22 PIERCE / FALL 2016

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