August 27, 2020 : By Logan Smith - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Liberty University alumna Kenlyn Snow (’14) never wanted to become a police officer, probation officer, or work in security. But earning a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice was still the perfect fit.
As a victim witness advocate for the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, just north of Charlottesville, Va., Snow, 27, helps victims and witnesses navigate the complicated judicial process following an incident.
“You always hear about criminal justice jobs being in security, but you never really hear about the human services side of it,” she said. “There are multiple avenues within criminal justice that students can pursue without actually becoming a law enforcement officer.”
While at Liberty, Snow became aware of the countless administrative job opportunities within the criminal justice field and learned how she could serve her community in unique ways without wearing a badge and patrolling the streets.
Snow’s office handles roughly 400 criminal cases each year, which range from minor offenses to major physical or sexual assault cases. Her primary goal is to restore crime victims and witnesses to regularity following an infringement.
“We definitely stay busy, but it’s a very rewarding job,” Snow said. “It can be stressful and mentally exhausting, because you’re dealing with people in tough circumstances. You just have to know how to take care of yourself. … It’s definitely a job you can get burnt out with if you don’t take care of yourself.”
Liberty’s Department of Criminal Justice, housed in the Helms School of Government, prepares students to assume positions in all aspects of the field. Niche.com, a third-party organization that compares universities nationwide, placed Liberty at No. 2 in best colleges for criminal justice in America.
“My criminal justice professors were right there when I needed them,” Snow said. “They would help me one-on-one whenever I had questions, and they always had my best interests at heart. … Liberty is great. I will never be sorry that I went there. I’m glad that the program is doing well and that the Helms School of Government is thriving.”
The residential B.S. in Criminal Justice, which has different concentrations depending on the students’ job ambitions, has helped students pin careers in crime scene investigation, homeland security, juvenile justice, service coordination, and more. The growing online programs offer degrees from the certificate to doctoral levels, with professional careers in Criminal Psychology, fire administration, strategic intelligence studies, and more.
All of Liberty’s criminal justice programs have grown exponentially. In the 2015-16 academic year, enrollment in the online program has hovered over 3,500 students between undergraduate and graduate. Five years later, the numbers have increased by roughly 30 percent, and an online doctorate program, the Ph.D. in Criminal Justice is now available, with concentrations in homeland security and leadership.
“In today’s tumultuous environment, the Helms School of Government is committed to training future criminal justice professionals who have an appreciation for the U.S. Constitution and bring a refreshingly positive Christian worldview to the profession,” said Dr. Joel Cox, the department chair for criminal justice. “Not only is this important in serving the public, it is important for the well-being of the professional as well.”
For alumnus Noah Blakeslee (’19), Liberty’s criminal justice program helped him fulfill an important dream: return home and make a difference in his Massachusetts community.
Blakeslee works for United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of MetroBoston and is responsible for handling administrative work for a personal care management association.
“I can safely say that without Liberty, my life would be very different,” Blakeslee said. “Liberty really gave me the tools I needed. … I don’t think anyone will find a better criminal justice experience than at Liberty. They’re never going to find professors who are more devoted to their job and really actually care about the students there. I think Liberty has the best program in terms of criminal justice.”
“Liberty was a phenomenal experience,” he added. “And I love what I’m doing. I don’t see a foreseeable end to this career.”
For students pursuing general careers in law enforcement and security, Liberty’s program still equips graduates with the essentials.
“It’s definitely a job with a lot of challenges and difficulties, but it’s very rewarding,” said Avery Rike (’18), an officer of the Fairfax County Police Department. “At Liberty, we did a lot of practical scenarios. I still use a lot of the same skills I learned from Liberty.”
Rike, 23, appreciates how the program prepared him for the challenging and often unexpected scenarios required of police officers.
“Liberty had an overall great program. …I felt like Liberty really set me up, both academically and spiritually. It was great,” he said. “There’s nothing like helping an innocent victim who is calling you for help, whether medically or criminally. It’s just very rewarding.”