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Throughout the years Millikin University has evolved from much more than a performing arts school. The developments of the nursing program, in particular, have drawn students from all over the midwest to participate in the high-quality program. However, in more recent years a new major, Criminal Justice, has made its way on campus surrounding the emerging discipline of Restorative Justice. The influence behind this major is its program director, Keyria Rodgers, who has made her mark both in the Decatur and Millikin community.
The road to the formulation of the Criminal Justice major actually started in 2010, when Rodgers was still working in government. She worked with the Teen Justice Program (which she is now program director of) and had been working in government for a number of years. It was at this time where she was approached by Dr. Larry Troy and Dr. Kenneth Launda, both professors in the Sociology department at the time, about teaching a night class called Juvenile Delinquency, and at first, she wasn’t sold on the idea, her first reaction? “Nope, no thank you, not for me.”
Despite her initial apprehension both professors were able to convince her to try it out anyway, and after her first class she was hooked and the rest was history.
A little-known fact is that prior to Rodger’s first class, there was actually a Criminal Justice major at Millikin, but was suspended due to lack of demand for the major. However, after she joined the team, she and multiple other professors were determined to bring it back.
Students in the class expressed interest in expanding knowledge, and that is where the process started. In 2012, is when the first pitch was posed to the university for adding a Criminal Justice certificate and was followed by the minor in the year 2014. New electives were added all around various topics of Criminal Justice and soon, the demand increased for a full Criminal Justice major at Millikin University which was eventually added in the year 2017.
The most unique and one of the best things about this major is the professors.
“The professors are actually still working in their field,” Rodgers said. “When I go to the courthouse people see lawyers and their interns, but I see professors and their students.”
The major manages to immerse the students fully into all aspects of the field, from speakers in various branches of government and law enforcement in the class to many internship opportunities to the courses that focus on the critical analysis of the theories over the foundations of what criminal justice actually is.
One of the other aspects that differentiate Millikin’s Criminal Justice major is the focus on the practice of Restorative Justice. As seen on the Criminal Justice major page on Millikin’s official website, there is a large emphasis put on the practice: “Millikin’s vision for a degree in criminal justice is based on the leading-edge theory and practice of Restorative Justice (RJ). RJ refers to a collaborative form of justice involving active participation among victims, offenders, and the community in repairing, reconciling, and restoring relationships among all parties affected by a crime. Restorative justice is more than just a recent trend in criminal justice. It is the wave of the future for criminal justice practitioners, which beckons us to prepare our students for new careers in criminal justice where these principles will be in effect in future criminal justice programs.”
In fact, the class by the same name, which used to be an elective is now one of the final requirements in order to achieve the Criminal Justice degree.
The major is ever-growing, as when the major was first introduced, it went from 0-60 students enrolled in the first two years, and now there are 100 students pursuing their degree in Criminal Justice four years later.
The major has various elective courses, many taught by Roger herself including her favorites such as forensics, Crime, and Public Policy, and of course Juvenile Delinquency which is now a day course.
As time goes by, and the major continues to expand, Millikin University shows they are more than just a performing arts school, and a place where people of all different passions and interests can study towards the career they always wanted.