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Turning It Up a Few Degrees

Eastern University has introduced two new programs to its curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate level. As of this fall, Criminal Justice is available as a major for undergraduates through the Sociology department. The department as a whole will now be known as the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice.

For prospective students, the creation of a criminal justice major has been long hoped for. “Through admissions, we’ve seen that it’s one major that people were asking about the most,” says Joao Monteiro, associate professor and department chair. Current students are also excited about the new program. “There are several students who have changed their major to this,” says sociology professor Michael Roberts.

Some of the classes required for those in the major include introduction to criminal justice, victimology, criminology and “what we like to think of as Eastern’s signature course, restorative justice, in keeping with the intent to make this program one that’s focused on justice,” Monteiro says.

The new program is expected to grow rapidly. “In the current economic climate, parents are inquiring about what the major does in terms of employability. This is one that lends itself to a particular line of work,” Monteiro says. While the department looks to hire new faculty in the future, Debra Heath-Thornton, Dean of CCGPS, has begun teaching the introduction course currently offered.

For Roberts, criminal justice directly relates to Eastern’s mission. “I think that it’s a natural fit because of our Christian mission. Jesus has commanded us to go to various corners of the world and work with those socially on the outskirts of society. We feel like it’s a natural fit. We feel that students would be doing exactly what God would have them to do.”

As for graduate students, beginning next fall, Eastern will introduce a master’s degree in Theology and Cultural Anthropology. The program was funded by the John Templeton Foundation and includes graduate courses like anthropological theory, theology of culture, epistemology and faith-based ethnography. The 11-month program is meant to prepare students for graduate school and teaching.

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Eloise Meneses, professor of cultural anthropology and director of Masters in Theology and Cultural Anthropology, states, “Our mission is to unpack basic concepts in anthropology and repack them with theology incorporated.” For David Bronkema, director and associate professor of International Development and Templeton Chair, combining theology and anthropology has been an interest since grad school. For him, the program works at “getting a seat at the table for those with a religious perspective.”

The John Templeton Foundation also funds a research project presented through the department. The research focuses on the reconstruction of anthropology with Christianity integrated.

In June 2015, a national conference titled “On Knowing Humanity,” with the same name as the team’s colloquia series introduced at Eastern, will be held to reveal the results of the research team’s work. The team will also publish a book comprised of their conversations with one another.

Through this time of transition and development, the anthropology department asks for prayers.

“We feel God’s called us to this,” says Bronkema.

Both new programs are expected to see increased interest with current and incoming students and to be meaningful additions to Eastern’s existing curriculum.

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