Department of Criminal Justice, Legal Studies & Social Work


How do majors gain practical experience?
A student pursuing a bachelor's degree will be required to complete an upper level practicum or internship consisting of 135 hours with a chosen agency. Students pursuing an associate degree or a certificate have the option to complete a practicum or internship as a restricted elective.

Students in the department gain a lot of experience through their internships. They work in a position within the criminal justice or legal field, where they will both observe and participate in the inner workings of various agencies.

Also, as part of the coursework, all students complete an independent research project under the direction of a faculty member, and students also have the opportunity to present that research at national and regional conferences. Criminal justice students enter several team and individual competitions at conferences.

Our department prides itself on the opportunity for practical experiences offered to our students during their academic career.

Unauthorized Practice Of Law
The Legal Assistant Program is a charter member of the American Association for Paralegal Education. Paralegals cannot practice law. Only attorneys, who are licensed in the state by the Supreme Court, can practice law.
What types of internship opportunities are available?
Every student in the criminal justice and legal studies programs completes an internship, and there are a wide variety of agencies that offer internships, ranging from city and county agencies to organizations at the state and federal levels.

Some of these agencies include: St. Joseph Police Department, Buchanan County Juvenile Office, Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office, City of St. Joseph Prosecutor’s Office, law firms throughout the region; Kansas City International Airport Police, Worlds of Fun, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Legal Aid of Western Missouri, Buchanan County Drug Strike Force, Missouri Department of Corrections, Probation and Parole.

This experience has proven invaluable to students, and many have been offered permanent, full-time positions at their internship agencies after they graduate.

In their last semester before graduation, seniors in the social work program complete a 456-hour internship by spending approximately eight hours a day four days a week at an assigned social service agency under the supervision of a qualified professional social worker.
Do students and faculty work together on research projects?
Faculty members work closely with students on their independent research projects through 450- Independant Research, and in the Summer Research Institute, where college students work with a professor and a high school student.

Recent research projects in the department have included “A Comparative Analysis of Elderly Abuse Between Different Demographical Areas of Missouri,” “The PATRIOT Act in Regards to Privacy as Seen by the Missouri Western State College Community,” and “Racial Profiling: Is There Really a Relationship Between Race and Crime?”

Faculty members have received four research grants in the past two years, and students have assisted faculty on those projects.

In addition, senior social work majors must complete a research project that will benefit the agency where they are completing their internship. They work one-on-one with faculty members on those research projects and others that are part of their coursework.
Do students have the opportunity to attend conferences and present their research?
Yes. Students have presented their research on campus and at regional and national conferences. In fact, one student won first place in the undergraduate division of the student research poster presentation competition at the American Corrections Association 2005 Annual Conference in Phoenix.

Criminal Justice majors often enter regional and national conferences as teams and individuals. Members of Delta Phi Epsilon, MWSU student chapter of the American Criminal Justice Association – Lambda Alpha Epsilon, compete every year at regional and national competitions. They often win awards at these events, which include crime scene investigation, written competitions in administration, corrections, criminal law, juvenile delinquency, and Lambda Alpha Epsilon knowledge as well as other areas.

Last year, Social Work students presented research at the International Business & Economic Research conference in Las Vegas, and at the National Association of Social Workers, Missouri Chapter, annual conference in the Lake of the Ozarks.
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