In 2014, the Master of Arts in Criminal Investigation was developed by Adam Jack, chairperson for the Criminal Justice and Social Sciences Department, and James Tanda, instructor of Criminal Justice. After countless hours of hard work and commitment, the program was launched in 2015. This program was created by and is “run by law enforcement for law enforcement,” Tanda explained.
The MACI at Waynesburg University is now commonly referred to as “one of the most unique graduate programs for advanced criminal investigation anywhere in the country,” according to Intelligent.com, which has assessed over 100 universities and compared hundreds of educational programs for their effectiveness and worth.
By 2020, “Waynesburg’s MACI program was recognized as the number one program of its kind in the country. Scholarships and partnerships were built between Waynesburg University and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Pennsylvania State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as the program has continued to grow,” Tanda said.
Delivered through mostly evening lectures on campus or branch campuses, the curriculum consists of graduate level courses such as advanced criminal investigation, effective behavioral analysis and other classes to best prepare each student.
Alongside those readiness courses, many MBA courses are also utilized. These include conflict resolution and ethics behavioral interviewing, among other courses that were added throughout the years. Some courses are still in the process of being improved and supplied.
As for the professors and instructors of these various courses, they hold a variety of titles with multi-level experience from their field.
Tanda said the university provides students with the best in order to gain the greatest advice and experience. He added that the teaching staff currently consists of “FBI special agents, ATF agents, chief psychologists, homeland security intelligence officers, district attorneys, police detectives and Pennsylvania state attorney general narcotics agents.”
In its third year, the model for MACI changed to appeal to and accommodate the schedules of individuals interested in continuing their education while progressing within their profession. For approximately two and a half years, staff worked to re-establish the program for online usage. This change not only allowed graduate students to continue their studies, but allowed for law enforcement professionals from state, federal and local agencies to participate as well.
With ample opportunity to jump start earning credits towards their master’s degree during their undergraduate years, students working toward acceptance into MACI must meet academic requirements and other graduate school criteria. As for law enforcement officers and agents already active within the field, they have the ability to obtain academic credit for their expertise and professional experience with specific courses of academic study.
Now that six successful years have passed, the growth and expertise within this program has been noticed and proven to be effective to those involved, Tanda explained.
On top of incredible networking access, Tanda said “students completing this program have the benefit of studying with professional criminal investigators already working for agencies they aspire to join.”
An online program in such a hands-on subject can be challenging to create, but Tanda said they have had much success in overcoming those challenges.
“The most challenging part of this program is undoubtedly the conversion and sustainment of all the courses to the on-line format, while maintaining the same student enjoyment and academic rigor as traditional course delivery.”
Beyond those obstacles comes great growth and impressive results. The most rewarding portion of the creation and progression of this program was seeing the program take off since its birth, Tanda said.
“For six years, we both joked that our fingerprints are all over this course and, with so much at stake, we have to continue to demand excellence as we start the next decade of this MACI program,” Tanda said.