A Winning Partnership: Maine’s Criminal Justice Academy and Thomas College, Waterville, Maine

In the town of Waterville, Maine, there is a unique partnership between the academic and law enforcement communities. This successful relationship exists in the Criminal Justice Undergraduate Program within Thomas College. Their Criminal Justice Program prepares each student with an understanding of policing topics and a well-rounded liberal arts education. It also offers the opportunity for students to apply to and be trained at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy for an 18 week Basic Law Enforcement Course—the same course that Maine police officer trainees must complete.1

This academic/law enforcement partnership began in 2001 with the help of Steven R. Giorgetti, assistant professor of Criminal Justice. His vision was to bring in tuition-paying students interested in law enforcement careers and offer them the chance to use one of their semesters to complete the 18-week course required of local law enforcement trainees. Prior to becoming a professor at Thomas College, Giorgetti held several positions at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy over a span of 27 years, with his most recent, that of Academy Director, spanning the last 8 years. Using his extensive experience in training and supervising law enforcement, Giorgetti helped develop the Criminal Justice Program curriculum. With his influence the decision was made to integrate not only the academic preparation students needed to be successful, but to also expand their professional skills through experiences gained from the basic training course. Students who meet the following requirements can apply and enter the Academy: pass polygraph, psychological, and physical fitness tests, pass an extensive background investigation, maintain at least a 2.5 GPA, and pass all of their liberal arts courses (e.g., public speaking and psychology).2

Thomas College's "Guaranteed Job Placement" program, for those who qualify, states exactly that: guaranteed job placement within 6 months after their graduation date.

Image: Thomas College Logo

There are many factors that make this partnership so successful for both Thomas College students and the local law enforcement community in general. First, the local police departments have the opportunity to hire new officers right out of school who not only have a 4-year bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, but have already completed the required 18-week Basic Training course at the Academy. Instead of sending a new officer away from their duties at the department for 18 weeks during their first year, and having to find (and pay) a replacement for this individual, they can incorporate the new Thomas graduate immediately. Second, the local departments have a clearer idea of the type of new officers they will be hiring. Departments know that these are quality recruits that have successfully completed the necessary Academy training and thus have some professional experience, something that is highly sought after by the local departments. Lastly, both the Academy and local police benefit due to Thomas College paying the semester tuition costs during students’ attendance at the training. As a result, the Academy receives extra revenue from the college, and in turn, the police department saves money by not having to pay to send new recruits to the Academy.3

Police departments and the Criminal Justice Academy are not the only ones who benefit though. As a result of this partnership, Thomas College has seen a significant increase in their enrollment. Prospective students with interests in law enforcement careers recognize the great benefit of having this professional experience in their last year of school. This, along with a well-rounded liberal arts education, makes for a highly marketable individual, ready and able to enter the law enforcement field directly out of college.4

In these economic times, it is quality partnerships like this that can give someone just entering the workforce a valuable advantage. In this way, Thomas College excels once again. Their “Guaranteed Job Placement” program, for those who qualify, states exactly that: guaranteed job placement within 6 months after their graduation date. If still unemployed after 6 months, the student has the opportunity to come back to Thomas for 2 years, tuition free, and earn a second undergraduate degree, or half of a Master’s degree if they decide that is the best course of action. Or they can choose to go back to school for 1 year, with Thomas paying the monthly cost of the student’s federally subsidized student loans. No other college or university in New England has this type of guarantee.5 Luckily for those in the Criminal Justice track, over 90 percent of all graduates land a job within that 6 month time frame. Thomas College’s success rate is well established, because 95 percent of all graduates—over all degrees—secure employment in their chosen field within 90 days after graduation.6

Furthermore, if students do not wish to attend the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in their final semester, they do have other options. Thomas College partners with The Washington Center, a well known academic internship program, to match students with federal internships in the Washington, D.C., area.7 This institution offers students a chance to spend a semester away from home to experience jobs in various government and law enforcement related fields, including: INTERPOL, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), and several others.8

Thomas College has set a fine example of what it means to have a win-win situation for not only the world of academics, but for job creation in the field of law enforcement. Even in these tough economic times, their Criminal Justice Program gives back to their local communities by giving their students confidence that they can attain a job—even locally—once they graduate with a 4-year degree. Whether it is through acceptance into the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, or entering a federal internship in the Washington, D.C., area, Thomas sets their students up for success by combining the importance of academics with the reality and professionalism of real-world experience.

For further information on the Criminal Justice Program, Maine Criminal Justice Academy, or questions about Thomas College please feel free to contact Dr. Thomas Edwards (edwardst@thomas.edu) or Assistant Professor Steven Giorgetti (giorgettis@thomas.edu).

1 “Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice”. Thomas College. http://www3.thomas.edu/major/Criminal%20Justice/Criminal%20Justice/criminaljustice.asp

2 Edwards, Thomas & Giorgetti, Steven. Telephone Interview. 22 November 2011.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 “Guaranteed Job Placement.” Thomas College. http://www.thomas.edu/content/4041/Guaranteed_Job_Placement/

6 Edwards, Thomas, and Steven Giorgetti. Telephone Interview. 22 November 2011.

7 Ibid.

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