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October 21, 2014

CJ Students Examine Their Beliefs

The end of the academic year can be stressful for faculty, as well as students. As a graduate student, James Bowers found running to be an effective outlet, and as he concludes his second year on the criminal justice faculty, he spent the weekend before final exams running an ultra-marathon of 50 kilometers. The race is well-timed for him; this summer, he will be among those teaching fully online courses. His juvenile justice class filled quickly.

“I’ve taught it numerous times in the traditional format, and this is the first time it will be fully online,” Bowers said. “We have great enrollment numbers.”

The course dovetails with research Bowers is conducting with Poonam Kumar, SVSU’s new director of online/hybrid learning.

Bowers“Our research question is, ‘Is there a difference between traditional and online teaching presence?’ Each instructor has a presence in the classroom, and so I’m looking at what kind of feedback I get from students in the traditional versus the online.” 

During winter semester, Bowers has been teaching an upper-level course examining issues related to criminology and criminal justice.

“The students get to explore their beliefs,” he said, “and I challenge students to explore their beliefs; for example, the death penalty. I don’t care if they support the death penalty or not, what they look at are experts in the field who provide valid arguments for the death penalty and valid arguments against the death penalty. Far too often students will seek out things that only support their viewpoint, and I want them to see both sides.”

Bowers completed his graduate work at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He finds SVSU students to have a much better grip on the careers available in criminal justice.

“Where I came from, almost every student said they were going to be an FBI agent,” he said. “Here, you poll any given classroom and you get a good number of people with realistic expectations. A certain number will say they want to work with probation or parole.

A certain number will say they want to work with Child Protective Services. Usually two in any given classroom will want to pursue becoming a lawyer. These are all very real jobs, and that’s a good thing.” 

Bowers enjoys life in Michigan—“lots of sunshine here compared to western Pennsylvania.” He settled on SVSU after meeting future colleagues Joe Jaksa and Carol Zimmerman at a job fair. 

“I am very, very thankful that I chose SVSU over all of my job offers,” he said. “I have a great group of co-workers. Our department has grown, and the students are great.”