CSI: Teaneck

Discovery Day: the golden opportunity for prospective students to look into a particular major at FDU. Presentations are made and questions are answered about everything from careers to tuition and financial aid. As parents and high school students file out of Dickinson Hall to begin their campus tour, they are met by the flashing lights of police cars on the sidewalk between the Rothman Center and Dickinson Hall. Crime-scene tape closes off the grassy area between the buildings and the river. An officer calls out from the high reeds along the river’s edge. “We’ve got something here!”

This could be the start of a headline-making tragedy, or it could be the scenario that unfolds for high school juniors and seniors as part of Discovery Day in Criminal Justice on Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Metropolitan Campus. Prospective students can imagine themselves as crime-scene investigators as they join faculty experts on a search for evidence in a staged mystery. The event each fall draws hundreds of participants.

“Criminal justice has drawn a lot of people because a lot of things are going on out there,” says James Kenny, associate professor of criminal justice. “There isn’t a day that goes by in which you can't pick up a newspaper and, if crime is not on page 1, it’ll be on page 2 or 3.”

“We are in a very tumultuous time,” says Robert Vodde, director of FDU’s bachelor of arts in criminal justice program, which now boasts 180 undergraduate students.

Hands-on Focus

With its interactive hands-on focus, a faculty consisting of experts in nearly every area of the criminal justice system — from forensics to corrections — and its interdisciplinary course of study, FDU’s criminal justice offering is arguably one of the best.

“The program is designed to be pragmatic,” Kenny explains. Students try out potential career paths through required field visits to various agencies of the criminal justice system during their sophomore and junior years as well as internships in their junior and senior years.

“We bring the field to the classroom and the classroom to the field,” says Vodde.

“We bring the field to the classroom and the classroom to the field,” says Vodde. Frequent guest speakers give criminal justice students unique insights.

Faculty still active in their criminal justice careers enable FDU to integrate theory and reality into the curriculum. “Everyone who teaches in our program has a passion for the discipline,” says Vodde. The faculty’s specialties provide a broad expanse of knowledge. For instance, Kenny is an expert in victimology and in risk assessment.

Small classes allow students to build relationships with these active professionals, to get a glimpse into the “real world” and to develop wide-reaching networks before they graduate. “Not only is there a synergy between our faculty, staff and students,” says Vodde, “but we also keep in touch with our alumni and frequently invite them back to campus.”

Map of England

The Wroxton Experience

Perhaps the most unforgettable field experience is “The Art and Science of Homicide Investigation.” Offered at the University’s Wroxton College in England, the course follows a literary theme of a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle “Sherlock Holmes” novel. Facilitated in collaboration with British police officials, the course features visits to a post-crime scene, a criminal investigation center and the London Metropolitan Police — more commonly known as Scotland Yard. The course offers a combination of academic, cultural and social experiences. For more information, click on the map to the left.

Education, Service, Fun

Students can become further involved in the field through the FDU Criminal Justice Association. Junior Jeffrey Burke, who has served as club president and secretary, says the club’s mission is tri-fold: education, service and fun.

The club hosts speakers and conducts trips to criminal justice agencies. “As a University club, we sometimes have access to places most people would not get to see. For example, one of our professors in homeland security works with the Port Authority Police, so he helped arrange a behind-the-scenes look at the Port Authority Bus Terminal to see what kind of safeguards are in place.”

“We also do community service,” he continues, “We support alternatives to domestic violence such as Shelter Our Sisters [in Hackensack] and have participated in charity drives with the Teaneck Police Department.”

The third component, fun, brings criminal justice faculty and students together for special events. A dinner is held yearly, athletic challenges [students vs. faculty] are always a hit, and students help support the faculty in such events as Discovery Day and a career fair.

“I think the criminal justice program at FDU is really unique.” says junior Jeffrey Burke. “The one-on-ones we get with our professors are the best. It’s very much about networking, and the professors here do everything in their power to foster those relationships.”

Held on campus each spring, the Criminal Justice Career Fair attracts representatives from agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Internal Revenue Service; the Hackensack, Teaneck, Port Authority and New Jersey State Police departments; insurance firms; and private corporations with security concerns including Six Flags Great Adventure and Target Corporation.

Burke believes he will be well prepared for the working world.“As a Criminal Justice Club member, I’ve had great exposure to possible fields of work within criminal justice and I have a greater understanding now of what it means to work in the field.

“I think the criminal justice program at FDU is really unique. The one-on-ones we get with our professors are the best. It’s very much about networking, and the professors here do everything in their power to foster those relationships.”


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For a print copy of FDU Magazine, featuring this and other stories, contact Rebecca Maxon, editor,
201-692-7024 or maxon@fdu.edu.