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Criminology and Criminal Justice Department

criminal justice students in front of a courthouse


The goal of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice is to provide students with a strong interdisciplinary foundation. Graduates are prepared to respond appropriately and ethically in challenging “real world” situations as they move on to careers in criminal justiceemergency and disaster management or for further education.

Our  Criminal Justice Program is one of WCU's largest, with residential or online options. The online Emergency and Disaster Management Program is rated as one of the best online emergency management programs by  The Emergency and Disaster Management Program is also offered as a residential minor. Each program of study brings together theory and hands-on practice through the curriculum, internships, independent studies, and student-faculty interaction, a hallmark of our department.

In conjunction with the goals of the University, the College, and the Department, our programs are based on the philosophy of a liberal arts education, grounded in social science methodologies.

Our curriculum emphasizes the interdependence of theory and practice in addressing "real world problems." Our emphasis on application guided by scholarship provides a strong, interdisciplinary foundation for future criminal justice and emergency and disaster management professionals.

The focus for undergraduate students is to achieve mastery of fundamental academic competencies and a basic level of expertise in the fields of criminal justice and emergency and disaster management.

The faculty are committed to provide high-quality education in criminal justice, emergency and disaster management, and criminology to our majors, other students across the University, and to the professional community.

Alum Receives Prestigious Award

Detective Adam Wilson is one of two detectives from the Gastonia Police Department who have been selected for recognition in a prestigious national awards program.  The National Association of Police Organizations sponsors the TOP COPS award designed to educate the public about law enforcement heroes.  Detective Wilson and his colleague, Detective Heather Houser, have received the Honorable Mention Award for North Carolina award stemming from their work on a human trafficking case.  The victim in this case credits the detectives with rescuing her and providing an opportunity for her to lead a productive life.

The Twenty-Fifth Annual TOP COPS Awards® Dinner will be held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 14. Many celebrities from NBC’s hit programs Law and Order, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and CBS’s Blue Bloods, Cold Case, NCIS and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation will serve as award presenters. In past years, civic leaders including the president and vice president as well as the attorney general of the United States have helped honor the award winners by attending and speaking at the ceremony.

Detective Wilson participated in the online Criminal Justice program and graduated in 2011.

Faculty and Staff

Our faculty have a wide range of expertise, experience, and interests. Recognized nationally for their research, these faculty members’ practical knowledge has been developed on the front lines of the criminal justice system in courtrooms, prisons, juvenile centers, and on the streets.

Name Contact  
Dr. Karen Mason, Department Head Belk 405D

Dr Karen Mason


Dr. Jamie Vaske, Assistant Department Head; Director of the Administration of Justice Program Belk 410F



Dr. Lisa Briggs; Director, Emergency & Disaster Management Program Belk 405A



Dr. Stephen Brown Belk 410



Ms. Connie Bryson, Administrative Assistant Belk 410



Dr. Cyndy Caravelis Belk 410N



Dr. Julia Crowley Belk 410B



Dr. John “Andy” Hansen Belk 410G



Dr. Thomas Johnson Belk 405C



Dr. Al Kopak Belk 410E



Professor J. Tom Morgan Belk 410D



Dr. Ophir Sefiha Belk 410J



Professor Aaron Vassey, Distance Learning Coordinator Belk 410



Dr. Tasha Youstin Belk 410C



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