Meredith College held a graduation ceremony for the first graduates of its Master of Arts in Criminal Justice program on August 6, 2022.
Four graduates – Johana Calderon Suarez, Danielle Hunt, Juliana Barefoot Bunn King, and Crystal Poole – are part of this first class.
The keynote speaker for the event was Annie Harvey, Commissioner, Maryland Department of Public Safety. Prior to her current role, Harvey held leadership positions in the criminal justice field in North Carolina. She has more than 30 years of experience, working in all aspects of the profession.
In her speech, Harvey congratulated the first graduates and focused on what it means to be the first at something.
“Being first comes from someone having a vision,” Harvey said, before asking the graduates to remember when they decided to “be bold and brave enough” to apply for graduate school.
“It takes responsibility to be first because you are setting an example for those who come after,” Harvey said.
Program Director Bianca Harris expressed her pride in this first graduating class.
“These students came to the program with a mixture of backgrounds and a desire to understand criminal justice or expand their working knowledge within the criminal justice field,” Harris said. “I am most proud to have taken a front row seat in watching them grow and develop as a more knowledgeable practitioner and in some cases, a better-prepared newcomer, to the criminal justice profession.”
Prepared to Meet Challenges in Criminal Justice
Harris emphasized that the program prepares its graduates to meet the challenges faced in the criminal justice profession.
“Our graduates will be ready to face the realities of what is difficult but doable; and what is challenging but deeply satisfying in the profession,” Harris said. “The practitioners who continue to evolve and learn will make a difference and change the landscape. Our program focuses on having those evolving practitioners along with academic experts share their knowledge with our students.”
Launched in 2020, Meredith’s Master of Arts in Criminal Justice is a 36-hour online graduate program. The program is flexible, allowing students to pursue the program at the pace that works best for them.
Many of the courses are taught by practitioners in the field. Harris, the program director, has more than 20 years of experience in criminal justice. She has extensive experience in criminal justice management, having served as warden of North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women and district manager of the Division of Alcohol and Chemical Dependency unit of the state Department of Public Safety.
In addition to Harris, those who this first class learned from included a police chief, retired warden, director of prison social work programs, substance abuse program coordinator, retired director of the N.C. Justice Academy, and U.S. probation officers. Panel discussions with other practitioners from the criminal justice field were also held at least three times a semester.
“The biggest strength of the program is the commitment to recruit practitioners to teach as many courses as possible,” Harris said. “You just cannot replace hearing from the practitioners themselves about what they have experienced.”