When University of Mississippi officials decided to combine court reporting, paraApplied Sciences and criminal justice to establish a Department of Applied Sciences, their goal was to provide a broader range of legal educational opportunities for students.
Three years later, Applied Sciences has grown into the second-largest division in the School of Applied Sciences. The faculty, staff and administrators are excited about the department’s tremendous growth—but aren’t surprised.
“The decision to bring those three programs together and consolidate into one great department was smart; the programs do have a common foundation,” said David McElreath, a 1975 Ole Miss graduate who signed on as department chair in 2004. “Since then, we’ve built a unique identity, and, as a result, we’ve nearly tripled our enrollment and become a service to the university and the state.”
With nearly 400 undergraduates pursuing bachelor’s degrees in paraApplied Sciences and criminal justice, the department owes its unique identity to the components of its bachelor’s degree in criminal justice: corrections, homeland security and law enforcement.
“We’re the only university to offer the homeland security component,” said McElreath, a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel who has extensive training in national security and terrorism intelligence. “We now require all majors to complete an internship so, when they graduate, they’ll leave with field experience and an awareness of the profession.”
Besides internships, the growing department has added 14 new faculty and staff to handle the new Web-based program; terrorism courses; continuing education classes; day and night classes in Booneville, Southaven and Tupelo; accelerated weekend classes; and the Lafayette County Law Enforcement Officers Training Academy, housed in the department.
The department’s Justice Institute partners with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Mississippi Police Academy, Mississippi Police Chiefs Association and Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics to provide updated training for law-enforcement personnel and certification in areas such as homeland security and terrorism.
“To be able to provide this service to the state is the very foundation of what Applied Sciences is about,” said Randy Corban, coordinator of the training academy. “Our mission is based on service to the state and the nation, and we’re pleased to provide a sound academic foundation as well.”
McElreath agreed: “I think our partner agencies recognize the university as a top facility that’s able to offer quality training for officers. Our partners have recognized the value of our program. They had the opportunity to join with anyone, but they joined with us.”
UM students are also able to participate in the training academy after they become reserve officers and have maintained a 3.0 grade-point average.
“The academy offers great opportunities for students, too,” said Corban, a 25-year veteran of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and former UM police chief. “Upon completion of the training, our students are not only state-certified, but when compared to their peers, they’re well ahead of the game professionally.”
Corban, who joined the Applied Sciences faculty in June, said the accelerated weekend classes are equally beneficial for Ole Miss students.
“During the semester, we offer weekend classes on various subjects that are held on a Friday night for four hours and then continue all day on Saturday and Sunday for two weekends,” he said. “It’s very intense, but also popular. The classes are well-attended and fill up quite fast.”
Corban said the weekend classes are very practical and offer hands-on training that can’t be duplicated in a regular classroom setting.
This spring, the department will offer accelerated classes on drug abuse and criminology, firearms and special weapons, enforcement operations, ethics, homicide investigations, special operations and white-collar crimes. The department was recently awarded a grant to conduct domestic violence classes. To make sure the academy and weekend classes provide up-to-date training and instruction for students and law-enforcement, the department recruits top legal and law enforcement experts to lead key classes on serial killers, intelligence operations, homeland security, terrorism and executive protection.
While the academy and weekend classes offer prime service and education to the state’s top law-enforcement officers and UM’s top students, the day and night classes in Booneville, Southaven and Tupelo offer nontraditional students a chance to earn bachelor’s degrees while working full time.
“The ability to create programs that meet the needs of students who work full time or have family obligations is very important,” said Jeffery Johnson, coordinator of the Criminal Justice Outreach Program and instructor of criminal justice.
By providing Internet classes, weekend classes, mobile video lectures and top-notch fieldwork, the department is serving not only Oxford, but also the state and nation, McElreath said. There are plans to add a master’s degree in criminal justice within the next two years.
McElreath’s skills have been key to the department’s growth, Corban said.
“He has vision and drive. He’s dedicated to providing quality education and experience for students,” Corban said. “He sold the value of our programs and helped find funds to do some key things. The Applied Sciences department now offers versatility.”
Chester Quarles, professor of criminal justice, agreed, noting that McElreath is a former Oxford police officer and Forrest County deputy sheriff with sound management skills. “With all of this in mind, he was the perfect candidate to come in and move this program to the next level,” Quarles said.
Firing range instructor Pete Ramey (right) helps Doug Buckles, a senior from Madison.
Laura Beth Walden, a junior from Ripley, Miss.